Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans support President Barack Obama's timetable that calls for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan to begin in July of next year, according to a new national poll.
A USA Today/Gallup survey indicates that 58 percent of the public favors the troop timetable, with 38 percent opposed. Around three-quarters of the 38 percent who oppose the timetable say they don't think the U.S. should set any deadline in Afghanistan.
The poll's Tuesday release comes as the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2011, along with concerns over the progress of the counterinsurgency plan in a country described as a place "where empires go to die," were front and center at Gen. David Petraeus' confirmation hearing in Congress.
Petraeus was named by the president to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was relieved of his duties last week after the general and his staff were quoted in a Rolling Stone magazine article criticizing and mocking key administration officials.
Petraeus said Tuesday that it "is important to note the president's reminder in recent days that July 2011 will mark the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits and turns out the lights."
"We'll need to provide assistance to Afghanistan for a long time to come," he said, quoting Obama.
The poll suggests a partisan divide, with eight in ten Democrats favoring the timetable and nearly two-thirds of Republicans opposed. According to the survey, 57 percent of Independents support the timetable, with 36 percent opposed.
In the hearing, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Petraeus the July 2011 deadline is "harmful," and said that the president needs to say that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will be determined solely by conditions on the ground.
The poll indicates that 50 percent say the president's doing a very good or good job handling the conflict in Afghanistan, with 44 percent saying he's doing a poor or very poor job. According to the survey, 76 percent of Democrats say he's doing a very good or good job, with an equal amount of Republicans saying Obama's doing a poor or very poor job. Independents are divided.
The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted June 25-26, with 1,044 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.