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52% – 35% Majority Believes U.S. Should Leave Afghanistan Faster Now That Bin Laden Is Dead

June 8, 2011

NEW YORK, June 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — A new BBC World News America/Harris Poll finds that a majority of Americans (52%) believe that the United States should move to get its troops out of Afghanistan now that Osama bin Laden is dead. However, 35% believe that U.S. troops should stay according to the existing plans. Reasons why most people favor withdrawing U.S. troops may be that a 51% to 14% majority of adults are not confident that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be successful, and only 19% see the Afghan government as either an ally or a friend to the U.S. and 36% see it as unfriendly and an enemy.

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These are some of the findings of a new BBC World News America/Harris Poll of 2,027 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 31 and June 2, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Other interesting findings in the poll include:

  • A large 66% to 20% majority of adults believes that it was better to have killed Osama bin Laden than to have captured him;
  • An even larger 66% to 18% majority believe that “if the United States has very reliable information that a nationally wanted terrorist or criminal like Osama bin Laden is located in a foreign country…. that we have the right to perform a military operation within that country without notifying the government”;
  • The public is split on the impact of the killing of bin Laden on world opinion, with 41% thinking that it has made the United States more respected and 41% thinking has made no difference. Only 7% believe that it has made the U.S. less respected;
  • Israel continues to enjoy very strong support among Americans, with 41% of adults seeing it as a close ally and a further 30% as a friend;
  • The fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt have done nothing to improve U.S. attitudes to its government. In fact those who see the government of Egypt as a close ally or friend (43%) are somewhat lower now than when this question was asked in 2009 (52%) and 2010 (49%);
  • More people see Pakistan as unfriendly and an enemy (29%) than as a friend or ally (20%); and,
  • Many more people see the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan as unfriendly and enemies (38% and 36% respectively) than as friends or allies (22% and 19%). Attitudes to these two countries are only marginally less negative than they are to the government of Syria (16% friend or ally and 38% unfriendly and an enemy).

So What?

The killing of Osama bin Laden has done little to change the generally negative attitudes of Americans to the role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Only 14% of adults are confident that U.S. policies there will be successful, virtually unchanged since two Harris polls in June and October last year.

Perhaps the most surprising findings in this poll are that many more people regard the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq as unfriendly and an enemy than as friends or allies, even though they were brought to power as a result of the U.S. invasions and have been kept in power by the presence of US troops.

                                  TABLE 1
                    PREFER BIN LADEN CAPTURED OR KILLED
       "President Obama recently announced that in a secret military
      operation, following a fire-fight, Osama bin Laden was shot and
    killed by U.S. Navy SEALs.  Do you think that the Navy SEALs should
     have captured bin Laden alive, or was it better that they killed
                                   him?"
    Base: All U.S. adults
                                 Total               Age
                                 -----
                                        18-34  35-44    45-54     55+
                                    %     %      %        %     %
                                   ---   ---    ---      ---   ---
    Better to have killed him
     (NET)                           66     54     64       63    79
    -------------------------       ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
       Definitely better to have
        killed him                   41     27     39       45    53
       -------------------------    ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
       Probably better to have
        killed him                   25     28     26       18    26
       -----------------------      ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    Better to have captured him
     (NET)                           20     28     21       19    11
    ---------------------------     ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
       Probably better to have
        captured him                 11     16      8       11     7
       -----------------------      ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
       Definitely better to have
        captured him                  9     13     14        8     4
       -------------------------    ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    Not sure                         14     17     14       18     9
    --------                        ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                    TABLE 2
         AGREEMENT ABOUT THE UNITED STATES' RIGHT TO PERFORM MILITARY
                         OPERATIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
    "If the United States has very reliable information that a nationally
      wanted terrorist or criminal like Osama bin Laden is located in a
     foreign country, do you agree or disagree that we have the right to
     perform a military operation within that country, without notifying
                               its government?"
    Base: All U.S. adults
                            Total                    Age
                            -----
                                     18-34     35-44    45-54        55+
                               %       %         %        %        %
                              ---     ---       ---      ---      ---
    Agree (NET)                 66       58        67       65       75
    -----------                ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Strongly agree         41       30        41       40       51
         --------------        ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Somewhat agree         26       28        26       25       24
         --------------        ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Disagree (NET)              18       24        17       16       14
    --------------             ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Somewhat disagree      12       14        11       13        9
         -----------------     ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Strongly disagree       6       10         7        4        5
         -----------------     ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Not sure                    15       18        16       18       11
    --------                   ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                    TABLE 3
                        IMPACT ON TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
       "Given the fact that Osama bin Laden has now been killed, do you
         think that the United States should move to get U.S. military
      personnel out of Afghanistan faster than has been planned, or not?"

                       U.S. military personnel should...
    Base: All U.S. adults
                                    Total   Gender        Education
                                    -----   ------        ---------
                                                     H.S. or  Some  College
                                         Male  Female less  college grad +
                                       %   %      %    %       %      %
                                      --- ---    ---  ---     ---    ---
    Should get out faster (NET)         52  49     55     52      52     52
    ---------------------------        --- ---    ---    ---     ---    ---
         Should get out immediately     18  16     21     19      20     15
         --------------------------    --- ---    ---    ---     ---    ---
         Should get out somewhat
          faster                        34  32     35     32      32     37
         -----------------------       --- ---    ---    ---     ---    ---
    Should stay according to
     plans                              35  43     27     33      35     36
    ------------------------           --- ---    ---    ---     ---    ---
    Not sure                            13   8     18     15      13     11
    --------                           --- ---    ---    ---     ---    ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                  TABLE 4
                   U.S. RESPONSE WITH REGARD TO PAKISTAN
    "Given that Osama bin Laden had been living in Pakistan for several
       years, which of the following, if any, do you think the United
               States should do now that he has been killed?"
    Base: All U.S. adults
                                 Total                Age
                                 -----                ---
                                        18-34  35-44    45-54     55+
                                    %     %      %        %     %
                                   ---   ---    ---      ---   ---
    Make aid to Pakistan
     conditional on Pakistan's
     cooperation in pursuing Al
     Qaeda and Taliban within
     their country                   56     51     51       53    65
    ---------------------------     ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    Cut off all aid to Pakistan      22     19     26       24    22
    ---------------------------     ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    Cut off some aid to Pakistan      9     12     10        8     7
    ----------------------------    ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    None of these                    12     18     13       15     5
    -------------                   ---    ---    ---      ---   ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                  TABLE 5
                   RESPECT FOR THE U.S. AROUND THE WORLD
    "After Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs, do you think
         the U.S. is now more or less respected around the world?"
    Base: All U.S. adults
                                  Total                    Age
                                  -----
                                           18-34     35-44    45-54        55+
                                     %       %         %        %        %
                                    ---     ---       ---      ---      ---
    More respected (NET)              41       38        39       40       47
    --------------------             ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Much more respected          16       12        13       18       20
         -------------------         ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Somewhat more respected      25       26        26       22       27
         -----------------------     ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    No change                         41       40        44       39       42
    ---------                        ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Less respected (NET)               7        8         7        8        6
    --------------------             ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Somewhat less respected       5        7         4        4        3
         -----------------------     ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
         Much less respected           2        2         3        3        2
         -------------------         ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Not sure                          11       14        10       14        6
    --------                         ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                   TABLE 6A
               ATTITUDES OF U.S. ADULTS TOWARD VARIOUS COUNTRIES
    "Thinking of the governments of these countries - do you believe each
      government is a close ally of the United States, a friend but not a
      close ally, is not friendly but not an enemy, or is unfriendly and
                        an enemy of the United States?"
    Base: U.S. Adults
                    A close                       Not
                        ally/ A close    A friend   friendly  Unfriendly
                A friend but  ally but not a   but not an    and
                not a close
                         ally           close ally     enemy    an enemy
                   (NET)
    Israel      %        71     41       30           22         7
    Egypt       %        43      6       38           45        12
    Iraq        %        22      2       20           39        38
    Pakistan    %        20      2       18           51        29
    Afghanistan %        19      2       17           45        36
    Syria       %        16      2       14           46        38
    -----       ---     ---    ---      ---          ---       ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

                                   TABLE 6B
          COUNTRIES THAT ARE CLOSE ALLIES OR FRIENDS OF U.S. - TREND
    "Thinking of the governments of these countries - do you believe each
     government is a close ally of the United States, a friend but not a
      close ally, is not friendly but not an enemy, or is unfriendly and
                       an enemy of the United States?"
     Summary of those saying "a close ally" or "a friend but not a close
                                    ally"
    Base: U.S. Adults
                         August   December   November    October      May
                            2006      2007        2009       2010       2011
                           %          %          %          %          %
    Israel                    75        67          74         69         71
    Egypt                     45        46          52         49         43
    Iraq                      18        19          23         23         22
    Pakistan              n/a           26          27         21         20
    Afghanistan               23        23          21         18         19
    Syria                      8        14          15         14         16
    n/a = Not asked

                                 TABLE 7A
                  CONFIDENCE IN POLICIES IN AFGHANISTAN
    "How confident are you that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be
                               successful?"
    Base: All U.S. adults
                      Total                    Age
                      -----
                               18-34     35-44    45-54        55+
                         %       %         %        %        %
                        ---     ---       ---      ---      ---
    Confident             14       16        17       15       11
    ---------            ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Not confident         51       48        46       46       58
    -------------        ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Not sure              35       36        37       39       32
    --------             ---      ---       ---      ---      ---
    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                TABLE 7B
              CONFIDENCE IN POLICIES IN AFGHANISTAN - TREND
    "How confident are you that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be
                              successful?"
    Base: All Adults
               July May  August April Sept Nov  Jan  June  Oct  June
               2005 2007   2008  2009 2009 2009 2010  2010 2010  2011
                 %    %     %     %     %    %   %     %    %     %
    Confident    25   22     17    27   14   12   15    12   12    14
    Not
     confident   45   41     54    40   55   61   53    55   60    51
    Not sure     30   37     29    33   31   28   32    34   28    35
    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

Methodology

This BBC World News America/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 31 and June 2, 2011 among 2,027 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #69, June 8, 2011

By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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SOURCE Harris Interactive


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