November 24th, 2009
06:00 AM ET
12 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. Carrie Harris

    Bring the troops home!!!!! Eight years is enough. Why are we fighting in Iraq and Americans are banned from taking communion and for having their own views????? (Referring to the awful way Rep. Kennedy is being treated in his own catholic church on the abortion issue). If an American woman can't make her own decision, then why are fighting for women and men elsewhere

    November 24, 2009 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  2. Willy Brown

    Only one aganist it in America seems to Barry

    November 24, 2009 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  3. Mike

    The ONE and ONLY reason for invading Afghanistan was to get Bin Laden and those responsible for 9/11 – and 8 years later what have we acomplished ?

    Time to leave and keep our blood and our money

    November 24, 2009 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    It shouldn't matter.

    Obama should be listening to the experts – namely, the generals who have to execute battle plans.

    I know there's going to be a bunch of you who come out with the typical "why don't YOU volunteer to to there then?" garbage. Well, before you do that, know this. I'm the mother of a soldier deployed in Afghanistan. While you're over here watching your kid play lacrosse or going to Goober's fillin' station with Opie, MY son is dodging IEDs.

    Do what your generals say, Obama, and stop trying to govern by referrendum.

    November 24, 2009 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  5. call me crazy

    It's no wonder people will not be sure if it is a good thing or not if you just look at the record. Eight years with no progress. If we use the Iraq surge as any indication if more troops would help, it did help, but it was the Iraqis themselves that started to fight against the insurgents that had more success than more troops.

    It is up to the Afghans to decide what kind of country they want and fight for it.

    November 24, 2009 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  6. Josh NYC

    It's inconsistent for Obama to send more troops. He should just pull them all out and give up. He has been to Europe and Asia in a submissive stance and it doesn't fit his overall theme to make more war.

    November 24, 2009 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  7. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    End these wasteful wars for profit! Bring our brave Troops Home! End Colonialism! These two wars are unconstitutional!
    Obama has flopped on his campaign promise to end these wars.
    Peace on Earth begins with me, with you we make two, and then three thus the beginning....Peace.

    November 24, 2009 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I appreciate the deliberation and thought process that the Prez is putting into this decision. However, like millions of other Americans, I'd prefer, ideally, to have everybody home for X-mas. See, that's a citizen's thought process on this subject, but there is so much more involved than just "pulling stakes and pulling out". The country is TIRED of war. We can't afford it. I'd rather have that money spent on MY country, schools, jobs, anything but bullets. But I'm no foreign policy expert either. I elected this President to lead and decide on our behalf. I'm totally fine with letting him make the INFORMED decision.
    Lead on Barack!!

    November 24, 2009 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  9. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    Of course we're split; is there an issue that we are not divided over? Really, come on now people; we have to support our president if we ever hope for us to succeed as a nation. Besides, if you support just sending 30,000 troops without any thought at all, are you really regarding their lives that are being sent into harms way? If you send anyone into harms way, you BETTER give it some SERIOUS thought and deliberation. It is called caring for others, something this nation is seriously lacking now. Lets change that.

    November 24, 2009 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  10. Michele

    If Obama increases the troop level without some kind of way to fund it, he is going to lose even more of the base, and even the war-mongering Republicans who realize we cannot afford this. If he increases troop levels at all, he loses the growing part of the Democratic Party who wants to see us DECREASING troops from all fronts. If he decreases troop levels without a plan for the region, he loses another group. This is a lose-lose situation, and I am praying he makes the choice that will cost the fewest lives and the least of our diminished treasury. No one has won in Afghanistan, and we will not be the last admit defeat there. This was not Obama's war, but he has to end it.

    November 24, 2009 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  11. Tom

    Who cares what Americans say. Tell 'em what they want to hear and then do something different. Obama is no different. Is 40K more Americans into the Bush war the change you voted for? Not me. Is many billions in aid to the worthless "mayor of Kabul", Hamid Karzai the change you voted for. Not me. Is giving Pakistan a "pass" as a haven for Bin Laden the change you voted for? Not me. Is the continuing stranglehold K Street maintains on executive, legislative and probably judical branches the change you voted for? Not me.

    Obama is on track to be a one term president based on his deeds not his promises from some distant campaign speeches. I'm not falling for that baloney in 2012. Both parties are untrustworthy.

    November 24, 2009 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  12. Marie Laveaux

    No matter what decision the President makes on this, not everyone's going to be happy with it. One thing is certain, though, and that is he took the utmost time and care to arrive at that decision, weighing the advice and facts carefully, and I applaud him for that. As much as i personally hate to see our troops stay there, I hate the Taliban with all my heart. If our goal is to not allow them to retake the Afghan government, then I wish we would do it, for every woman and girl in that country. Under Taliban rule, women and girls are treated worse than animals.

    November 24, 2009 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  13. No more war

    Here's hoping that the rabid Republicans who are for extending this war will volunteer themselves to go and be cannon fodder in what will become Obama's war if he sends more troops. Oh , and I assume he will be returning his Nobel Peace prize if this is what he decides to do.

    November 24, 2009 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  14. Tony in Maine

    Alexander the Great couldn't do, in more recent centuries, the British couldn't do it, the Soviets failed – why on Earth would anyone not suffering from excessive amounts of testosterone think the US, already overextended and exhausted by Bush's War, can do it.

    I realize it's very Rambo, very John Wayne, very Lone Ranger do take on the impossible task and succeed – but those were movies folks. they had script writers and directors that guided the story to the pot of gold. A million bullets in a six shooter and John Wayne never coughed once as he shielded Maureen O'Hara and picked off a thousand warriors. It was fiction – don't cry in your popcorn – just a story.

    We have the greatest army in the world comprised of good Americans. They have wives and children to come home to. I know the current story that plays out each time an American dies in combat. He's "a hero dying for our freedom." That may make a grieving parent or spouse feel better for a few moments as they hold the flag presented to them instead of the warm flesh they sent to war.

    The chicken hawks, those who would send them, are trying to jam a 12th century society into a 21st century culture. It won't work. Like Alexander, the Brits and the Sovs, we're going to waste our blood and treasure on a fools mission.

    November 24, 2009 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  15. T'SAH from Virginia

    CNN is divided over TAKING POLLS NEWS – REPORTING REAL NEWS and PORTRAYING SARAH PALIN AS WORTHY NEWS!!!

    Haven't CNN learned from the 2008 Campaign that this country is DIVIDED and will always be DIVIDED until everyone is willing to come together as ONE!!!

    November 24, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  16. Mike Syracuse, NY

    This decision needs to be 'all in' or 'all out'. Either give our commanders what they need to win or surrender and wait for them toattack us here again. Obama is trying to vote 'present' and that doesn't work as Commander-in-Chief.

    November 24, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  17. Thomas

    Just three questions Mr. President

    1. What is the objective of the AF Conflict?
    2. How will we measure progress/lack or progress with respect to the objective(s)?
    3. What will be the exit criteria for success/failure?

    November 24, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  18. Greg

    If we implement the troop increase; it has to be paid for by all Americans. The only folks sacrificing for the defense of our country are military personnel and their families.

    We simply can't afford to pay for the war effort without the participation of all Americans. You can't stand on the sidelines and shout about how important the war is to national security without contributing in some way.

    If this war was really all that important to those that purport to be patriots and 'real americans', they and their children would be joining the armed forces in droves.

    They aren't.

    Less than 1% of 1% of the nation's military eligible youth serve in our nation's military.

    Time to ante up chickenhawks. Time to put your money where your mouth is tea party'ers. My guess is that should a bill propsoing a war tax get to the house and senate floors; we'll pull out of Trashghanistan so fast your head will spin.

    November 24, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  19. Motive

    All this troop deployment just says one thing

    DRAFT

    it will happen, and it will be the middle class and the poor who will be dieing in war.

    Bring our troops home, a corrupt goverment doesn't deserve hour help.

    November 24, 2009 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  20. diridi

    pres.obama needs to talk to India at dinner to involve in affairs in Afganistan than sending our troops from here....surrounding nations need to involve....pres. obama, do not send any troops to Afganistan...enough of Iraq war...we need to pull from there...and talk on climate change, nuclear proliferation in pakistan, india a must....Lou Dobb is exited from CNN is a good news for all...this conservative idiot, Lou Dobb, in 21st century, stand no brainer....

    November 24, 2009 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  21. Alex

    I absolutely support and love the brave men and women of our military. Having said that, Afghanistan is nothing short of a huge waste of American lives, money and time. The history of Afghanistan and its tribal BS alone (not to mention their most valued product – DOPE) proves those folks do not want us there nor our help. That is about as corrupt a government as you'll see anywhere in the world and all they seek is American money. This idiotic idea that America can clean up the world and play big brother is a pipe dream and totally unrealistic. Quit wasting our most precious resources and save the money for our ailing economy.

    November 24, 2009 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  22. Bedtime for Obonzo

    45% favor and 52% oppose. Well, there's the answer for the Pollster-in-Chief.

    November 24, 2009 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  23. Susan in NC

    Though I oppose war for the sake of war, as in Bush's personal vendetta in Iraq, I would not oppose additional forces in Afghanistan IF and only IF there's a significant plan to END our occupation there. The folks in Iraq should be able to provide for themselves now - though I suspect they'll go back to a similar regime and there's nothing we can do about that - it's time to get out of Iraq!

    November 24, 2009 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  24. Aspen Professor

    Afghanistan a no-win situation. The Russians couldn't pull it off and they had a very short supply line. We are half way across the world. Nation Building is a Republican idea. We need to let the peoples of the world build their own country.

    Tribal based countries, as are the norm in the middle east, have been at war within themselves for hundreds of years. And, as it would be in the USA, they do not appreciate outsiders coming in and telling them how to live.

    My solution ..... I would tell the leaders in the middle east, and I mean all of them, that the USA is pulling out ALL its troops by the end of 2010 and not another dime will be spent on nation building.

    Let the war enthusiasts in the Republican Party volunteer to join the "tribe" of their choice and pay their own way over to the middle east. I know that is way way off the wall particularly among a Party of War Starters who do not seem to be War Fighters. Example: The draft dodgers: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and friends.

    November 24, 2009 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    This would be further along if Bush hadn't decided to settle a score that his father had. We shouldn't have started anything in Iraq until we were fully on our way to restore a government and its services (ways to provide services and defend the people from the Talaban and Al Qeda) in Afghanistan. That is the war we should have been focusing on and not what Iraq had to do with the September attacks.

    November 24, 2009 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
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