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Polls Reveal Public Concerned About Iraq

Four new studies show Americans are uneasy about whether we can fix the situation in Iraq. Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, discusses the poll results and what they mean about public attitudes on the war with Iraq.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    One week after the Iraq Study Group released its bleak assessment of the state of the war in Iraq, four new surveys show that the public remains pessimistic, as well.

    ABC News and the Washington Post report 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the war. USA Today and the Gallup organization report 76 percent say Iraq is now a civil war.

    CBS News finds 70 percent are uneasy about the president's ability to make the right decisions on Iraq. And the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds 58 percent believe a timetable should be set for withdrawing U.S. troops.

    Joining us to look more deeply into public attitudes on the war, Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

    Welcome back, Andy. This pessimism that we see in these polls, was it related in any way to what we saw in the Iraq Study Group report?

    ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Center for the People and the Press: I don't think so. I mean, I think it's just a matter of the public continuing to track what's going on in Iraq.

    We find that Iraq is at the top of the public's news diet every month. We asked people this month, "How many Americans have been killed there?" And Americans are not famous for knowing facts about the news, and they gave us a spot-on number. I mean, they know what's going on.

    I don't think — the interesting thing about the Iraq Study Group is Washington was pre-occupied by it, but only half the American public in our poll said that they had even heard of it. And only 18 percent in the Gallup survey said they had followed it very closely. So I don't think that's the mover.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Is it possible because people had already reached some of the same conclusions that we've been reporting on from that report?

  • ANDREW KOHUT:

    I don't think it's indifference; I think it's cynicism. The poll also found most people thinking that President Bush — only 28 percent think that President Bush is going to follow the recommendations of that poll.

    Plus, I don't think that commissions of Washington people have a lot of credibility or evoke a lot of interest among the public, given how despondent it is about Iraq.

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