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. PK

    The media tried its hardest to convince us that it was pro-war McCain vs. Anti-war Obama. After nearly a year of stay-the-course in Iraq, tens of thousands of troops surging into Afghanistan, murder-by-Drone in Pakistan, and even military operations in Somalia... the people may finally realize the dirty little secret CNN didn't want you to know: Obama is 4 more years of failed Bush foreign policy.

    November 24, 2009 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  2. buckwheat

    With a wishy washy leader we now have bring the troops home.I don't trust him and I wonder whose side he is on..He has bowed to too many Muslims already.Seems he favors them over the rest of us.

    November 24, 2009 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  3. I don't feel divided at all

    I speak for all Americans when I say bomb the bejesus out of easten Afganistan and Western Pakistan

    November 24, 2009 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  4. once upon a horse

    so it appears that Republicans favor sending MORE troops over in possible harm's way than less. Good way to support our troops. At least President Obama has taken his time to weigh the options, not jumping into this like it appears many on the right would want him to do. He may also be listening to the American people most who oppose not only this war but war all together, this is a war weary public, unless of course you're a far right conservative.

    November 24, 2009 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  5. smokey

    All I can say, it is really to bad we didnt have all of this congressional oversight with the prev WH when it came to their war decisions..Maybe if that had happenned,we would not be in the situation we are in now...If they had even questioned the prev WH even 1% of what they are doing now, these 2 senseless war could have been avoided as well as the loss of so many innocent people on both sides..That to me is the real tragedy in all of this..But I must say, that I have full confidence in Pres Obama and am positive he will make the right decision, unlike his predessesors....

    November 24, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  6. ran

    The war is becoming unpopular because of all the time that was wasted during Bush 8 yrs of neglect. Now the GOP wants to criticize President Obama for doing what Bush should have done in the first place. Going into Iraq was the stupidest thing any President has ever done seeing the real treat was in Afghanistan.

    So like with our economy,energy,health care, President Obama has to clean up the war mess that Bush got us into. And this unfortunately for us will take time to get it right.

    I only hope people will see the GOP for what they truly are: power hungry and could care less about the people. So do not reward their obstructionism in 2010/2012. Instead vote more Democrats/Independents in 2010/2012 not any Republican then maybe they will get it but I have my doubts.

    November 24, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. PJ

    If commanders on the ground say they need more troops to accomplish the mission, then give them the troops now. If Obama is unwilling or unable to give them the additional troops that they require, then bring EVERYBODY back home. Don't just leave our soldiers over there and say "Make do with what you have."

    November 24, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  8. Duck Fallas

    Affie has been neglected for too long. When Obama started the war in March 2009, Michelle Bachmann told him he didn't have enough boots on the ground. He didn't listen.

    I support the troop increase, but I also support a war tax to pay for it, and I support sending YOUR kids to fight. (MY kid is already there.)

    November 24, 2009 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  9. Richp

    Until you win the tribes over it's a loosing situation, the govt is corrupt just like south vietnam, the power of Afghanistan lays with the tribes, we need to stick special forces people in there for longer than 6 months to a year, it takes that long for them get to trust you then you rotate out and they have to start all over. It will take a very special commitment from those soldiers, 3 years maybe. Every valley has it's own tribe, figure it out for yourself.

    November 24, 2009 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  10. All the news that's fit to omit

    Obama will have 5 more meetings until they tell him to run a away like the coward that he is, so that way he can blame someone else's advice and the media will shout it from the rooftops and others wil be thrown under the bus.

    CNN how about showing the poll that has Obambicare losing 56 to 38 with the REAL PEOPLE?

    Nah, that would stop the bleating Obamabots who keep lying that everyone wants this bill, sorry sheep, this bill NO 56 to 38 and that is a fact.

    One and done.

    November 24, 2009 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  11. Nathan,

    Sending 34,000 more troops to Afganistan won't make a difference. It amazes me how men keep making the same mistake despite centuries of history that tell you what the outcome will be. When has anyone from the outside ever conquered that area? This will be a castrpophic error on Obama if he goes thru with this.

    November 24, 2009 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  12. Glenda

    We don't have to send troops. Burn the poppy fields.

    November 24, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  13. quarterback

    Didn't the Soviets learn this lesson?

    Didn't their war sink their country?

    Pull out. It is a no win situation.

    November 24, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  14. Bill from GA

    While polls only accept simple answers, the Afghanistan problem has none; the options are many.By not rushing more troops in, we now have European countries doing more, Afgan militias are more involved in destroying Al Quiada and the Taliban, and the actions in Pakistan seriously upset our enemies in Afghanistan..

    This war is not America's alone.

    If the previous administration had focused on those who attacked us, and their supporters, instead of invading Iraq, the problem may have been solved by now.

    November 24, 2009 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  15. Jeff from Chicago

    no wonder obama is having such a hard time making a decision. the pools are split. (let alone he hasn't made any decisions yet, making one when he can't rely on a poll telling him what to do must make it even more of a challenge for him).

    November 24, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  16. Patrick

    Give our solders what they need and untie there hands.. Or bring them home. That simple... Vietnam any one?

    November 24, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  17. Retired US Army Officer-Kansas

    It is not that Americans do not support the war in Afganistan, it is that they are no longer certain as to why we still are in Afganistan. Give the American people the reason with an achiveable goal and they will be behind the war. But the reason can not be nation building or bring democracy to the Afgan people.

    November 24, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  18. Robin

    I support our troops and they need backup.

    If we are going to have them there doing the job, at least give them what they need to be successful.

    November 24, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Steve in Denver

    I don't know whether or not more troops is the right answer. However, I do know that if Obama sends more troops, the neocons who got us into this war and bungled it for 7+ years will say Obama is wrong and he is the reason bin laden is still free. If, on the other hand, he does not send more troops, the same neocons will say he is wrong.

    I'm so glad we went with the smart one this time, and I'll be glad in another year or two when Obama gets us out of both wars, returns us to prosperity, and starts addressing the massive debt (as Clinton did). It is not like more proof of the neocons failure is needed, but that should be the final nail in the coffin of this perverse movement from 1994 – 2006.

    November 24, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  20. what is so valuable about Afganistan

    don't do this half way, there is nothing there, bomb it into a parking lot

    November 24, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  21. sandy

    Lets bring the troops home. It is ridiculous that we keep spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives for a country that is corrupt, full of religious fanatics etc. We will never be rid of the Taliban or AlQuida. They will just keep coming and coming, just like in Viet Nam and it is not worth more lives and money. We need to put our money into our own country and we need to stop thinking we are the world's polilce force.

    November 24, 2009 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. Beyond absurd

    Even if this was a justifiable war, where will we get the troops? Our military has been ground down by constant redeployment. If we decide to go to war, the entire country has to be at war and not just its' army. When the chicken hawks send their kids, that when we will know that we have a war, and we know that that will never happen.

    November 24, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  23. strong

    When will people get it?

    Our votes and voices mean nothing. We have been against this war from the get-go and have said so repeatedly. Now, they will add more troops. Apathy abounds!

    November 24, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. Terry from West Texas

    I'll support Obama's decision because I voted for him. We elected the guy to make these decisions and he has access to much more information than I do.

    My instinct, however, is to withdraw completely from both Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. I was a supporter of the invasion of both countries, but that was because the Bush Administration made a fool of me with their lies. Then, after we were there, I figured we had to stay and help put those two nations back together.

    Now, however, I have come to see the terrorism problem as more of a criminal problem, not a war. Since 2002, many more Americans have been killed by aspirin than by terrorists. More Americans have been killed by other Americans than by terrorists. We have much more important problems to deal with: global warming, health care, the economy, outsourcing of jobs, deterioration of job benefits, and the growing power of global corporations. We don't really have the luxury of wasting so much energy on small problems.

    And to all of you who voted for George W. Bush, thanks for the mess you created for us. I hope you feel very guilty.

    November 24, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  25. Johnny DC

    As always, Obama is just looking to build up the most dramatic and heroic time to make his announcement. He probably wants to time it appropriately such that it doesn't obscure the momentum of the the health care ramming.

    Nice of him to play with political momentum while the Generals tell him they need more troops to keep the current ones safe.

    November 24, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
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