With the recent change in military leadership for Afghanistan there is a hope by the White House and others that this will help to change the direction of the war as well as attitudes toward it. President Obama probably also hopes this helps change opinions on his handling of the situation in Afghanistan, as just three in ten (29%) have a positive opinion of how he is handling it, while six in ten (59%) have a negative opinion. In January, almost four in ten Americans (38%) had a positive opinion of President Obama’s handling of the war while 53% had a negative opinion.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,227 adults surveyed online between June 14 and 21, 2010 by Harris Interactive.
The general sense toward the situation in Afghanistan is also negative. Just one in ten Americans (10%) think the situation in Afghanistan is getting better, almost the same as in January (11%). Three in ten (29%) believe the situation is getting worse while half of Americans (49%) say there is no real change. And President Obama cannot count on people within his own party to support him on this issue. Half of both Republicans (51%) and Democrats (50%) say there is no real change in Afghanistan.
There is also a lack of confidence in long term success. Over half of Americans (55%) are not confident that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be successful. One-third (34%) are not sure if these policies will be successful and only 12% are confident in the success in Afghanistan. Democrats are slightly more confident than both Republicans and Independents (17% vs. 10% and 8%).
Bringing troops home from Afghanistan
The timeframe for when U.S. troops should come home has been debated since American forces were first sent to Afghanistan. After the surge of troops was implemented, President Obama announced that some of those troops would begin coming home in the summer of 2011. American opinion is divided on this timetable. One-quarter of U.S. adults (25%) say all U.S. troops should come home now while 22% believe there should be no timetable for troops to come home. One in five Americans (19%) believe this is a good timetable for U.S. troops to come home, while 17% say some troops should come home before 2011 and 14% are not sure.
There is a slight shift of opinion in this since the beginning of the year. In January, over one-quarter of Americans (27%) believed there should be no timetable for U.S. troops to come home, while less than one-in five (18%) believed all U.S. troops should come home now.
There is also a large difference of opinion by political party. More than two in five Republicans (43%) believe there should be no timetable for troops to come home while 17% believe all troops should come home now and 9% believe summer of 2011 is a good timetable. One-third of Democrats (33%) believe summer of 2011 is a good timetable for troops to come home while one-quarter (26%) say all U.S. troops should come home now and 7% say there should not be a timetable.
Osama bin Laden
One view that hasn’t changed so far this year is the belief that Osama bin Laden is still alive. Almost four in five Americans (78%) believe he is still alive with almost one-quarter (23%) saying he is definitely alive and 55% saying his is probably alive. The same number of Americans believed this in January of this year. Just one in ten U.S. adults (9%) say he is not alive while 13% are not at all sure.
The situation in Afghanistan is one other issue the Obama White House has on its plate for the unforeseeable future. When the focus shifted to Iraq, a lot of attention slipped away from Afghanistan and it became the “forgotten” war. With the situation in Afghanistan becoming more unstable, attention is now refocused there and Americans are going to expect something to change. If not, the same negative feelings they once felt towards Iraq will continue to emerge, and deepen, towards Afghanistan.