November 24th, 2009
06:00 AM ET
5 years ago

CNN Poll: Americans divided over troop buildup in Afghanistan


Washington (CNN) – If President Barack Obama decides to send 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, a new national poll indicates Americans would be split over whether to support such a move.

Half of the people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say they'd support such a decision, with 49 percent opposed.

But support for a troop buildup of that size is greater than the 45 percent of the public who support the war in Afghanistan. The survey indicates that 52 percent oppose the war.

"The war is unpopular and previous polls have shown that Americans oppose sending more troops in the abstract," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But it may be a different story when Americans are confronted with an actual decision, by the Commander-in-chief, on a military matter. Previous presidents have seen a 'rally effect' - at least temporarily - when they have made command decisions like this one."

The poll's Tuesday morning release comes just hours after Obama met Monday night with his national security team on Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. This was the ninth meeting of the president's war council to consider whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, as requested by the U.S. commander on the ground there.


White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama won't announce his decision on a troop deployment this week, saying that the "first possible time would be sometime next week."

Sources told CNN that one option presented to Obama calls for sending about 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in addition to the 68,000 already committed to the country, with other options involving variations of that plan.

According to the poll, if the president decides to send a smaller number of troops than 34,000, 56 percent would oppose the move, with just over four in 10 backing the decision.

"Support for a smaller troop buildup drops most among Republicans," Holland notes. "They appear most wary of doing things by half-measures in Afghanistan."

The survey also indicates that two-thirds of Americans say things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan. That's up 11 points from March, when 55 percent said things were going bad.

People questioned in the poll were also asked about the war in Iraq. Opposition to that conflict remains high, with 62 percent saying they oppose the war. But 57 percent say sending more troops into Iraq in 2007, known as the "surge," was a success.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted November 13-15, with 1,014 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Full results (pdf)

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: Afghanistan • CNN Polls • Iraq • President Obama
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Lucullus

    We never fight these wars to win them, we fight them to pour money into the defense industry. If we still had a draft, which we should have, the American people would never stand for this. We have always fought our wars as citizen soldiers. Not anymore. We now have a professional army, a military class, so the politicians, at the behest of their corporate owners can now fight wars with no end and huge profits. Get out of Afganistan now.

    November 24, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Mark

    If you want the job done properly, send the amount of troops that the military commanders are requesting. Don't give in to polls and public opinion. Good thing we didn't drag our feet like this in WW!!!!

    November 24, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  3. southerncousin

    I am anxiously awaiting his decision and the explanation. Will he for the first time make a decision based on what is right for the country and the men and women we have put in harms way or will he make an ideological decison based on the wants of his dope smoking constituency? It will be telling, he has failed in every other area, lets see how he does in this one.

    November 24, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  4. K

    It's mind boggling that Republicans are Anit-Abortion, but at the sametime Pro-War.....!

    I hope the President decides to find a way to END THIS WAR, and at the sametime, still help and support the troops that are currently in theatre......

    Talk about a very complicated issue in terms of what to do and how to do it........

    November 24, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. Tom C

    Can anyone tell me what the mission is in Afgan? Is it to defeat the taliban? Is it to build a nation? To capture Osama Bin Laden? Before we send in more troops, let's get the mission straight. I know our troops are short over there, but this is a huge decision on whether to retreat or attack and defend.

    November 24, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. KC

    I know President Obama will send more troops... Let's hope for victory at the end... The folks that are accusing the President for not sending troops earlier can then rest and wait for casualties as a result of escalating the war. These same folks are busy enjoying there lives and going about there business while there fellow citizitens are been killed in Afghanistan.... If you folks like war that much, what are you then waiting for? join the military and get deployed to Afghanistan.

    November 24, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Ben in Texas

    President Obama is still cleaning up from Bush regime mistakes. This should have been dealt with years ago. The extent of our wars in the middle east should have been tracking down and killing Bin Laden and coming back home. No Afghan war, no Iraq war. The decisions are much harder now, due to Bush/Cheney screw ups.

    Why are Bush and Cheney still not in jail?

    November 24, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Davenport

    Our President should listen to people who know better – like Russia's Gorbachev. They pulled out. It is unwinable. George McGovern advises not to escalate. It's not worth one more American life. All the General wants to do is win no matter how many lives it takes. It's like Westmoreland all over again. We've done enough. Karzai had 8 years to make an improvement. What has he done? GET OUT NOW!

    November 24, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  9. jeff jackson, alabama

    We want do what it takes to win the war.
    Why put troops in harms way to fight a war
    run by congressmen and senators who aren't
    willing to hurt some people's feelings.
    If we fight to win O.K.....but that is not the
    plan.

    November 24, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
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