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New Poll Highlights: The War on the War

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests that even with broad public doubts about the nation's success so far in Iraq and Afghanistan, managing the nation's military could be one of Barack Obama's main hurdles in the race for the White House.

Two groups stand out in the crosstabs from the new poll: independents and veterans. Independents are one of the main groups needed to win the White House, while the views of veterans reflect a group uniquely suited to assess the candidates on military affairs.

Q: Obama has proposed a timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from iraq within 16 months of his taking office. McCain has opposed a specific timetable and said events should dictate when troops are withdrawn. Which approach do you prefer - a timetable or no timetable?


Support timetable

By party:


By party & gender:


Party identification is a bright dividing line in views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the candidates' proposals, and independents are the battleground. Among this key group, the poll finds some easing of views on the war, and a slight tilt toward McCain on related issues:

  • A slim majority of independents, 53 percent, opposes Obama's timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq and 49 percent say they trust McCain to handle the issue. But as the chart above shows, independent women are far more favorable towards a timeline than independent men.
  • Rating the candidates as commanders in chief, McCain comes out ahead. More than four in 10 said McCain would be a good commander in chief but Obama would not, and just 16 percent feel that only Obama has the chops to lead the military. About three in 10 said both would be good, 6 percent think neither is a good option.
  • In the new poll, nearly half of independents, 47 percent, said the U.S. is making significant progress in Iraq, the highest level since 2005. About the same proportion said the military efforts in Afghanistan are succeeding.
  • Majorities of independents said both candidates have made their views on withdrawing troops from Iraq clear.

Veterans are one group well positioned to assess the two major candidates' positions on military affairs. For the most part, they favor McCain:

"He would be a good commander in chief" (among veterans)

Barack Obama


John McCain


  • Overall, 84 percent of veterans say McCain would be a good commander in chief, just 38 percent said the same of Obama.
  • And veterans give McCain a more than 20-point lead on handling the war in Iraq, and they broadly favor his view of troop withdrawal in Iraq. Nearly two-thirds said there should be no timetable for troop withdrawal.
  • But support for McCain does not translate into support for the Iraq war. Nearly six in 10 veterans said the war there was not worth fighting, while 65 percent said the war in Afghanistan was worthwhile.

All available data from the new poll are here.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  July 14, 2008; 5:48 PM ET
Categories:  Post Polls  
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Next: Feeling Their Finances


I am not surprised about the poll results. ABC and the Washington Post have been one of the biggest 527 groups against Senator Obama.

Posted by: Jill | July 14, 2008 10:54 PM | Report abuse

The last few questions on the poll should have been the following:

1. Are you a racist?

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the KKK?

3. Do you hate all minorities, or just Black people?

4. If Senator Obama was all white, being white mother and father, with the same stance on the issues, would you vote for him?

In order to be fair, the next poll questions should include the aformentioned questions.

Posted by: Jane | July 14, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

You are not seriously saying that anyone that disagrees with you has to be a racist.

Unbelievably Ignorant

Posted by: saw1 | July 14, 2008 11:14 PM | Report abuse

They might have mentioned that Americans still think the war in Iraq is not worth fighting by a 2 to 1 margin according to their own numbers.

Posted by: karela | July 14, 2008 11:37 PM | Report abuse

How much will the McCain family make out of the sell of Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc's, i understand they owned alot of stock and Cindy McCain played a roll in facilitating the see of that company, how true is this and if it is true how come nobody is talking about it? While thousands of American might loose there jobs McCain goes home with a big check laughing, not fight for an American great company instead using his influence to facilitate the sell of that company through her wife the former lobbyist, how come no news channel is talking about this, not even in my home state of Missouri?

Posted by: ?? | July 14, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: ?? | July 14, 2008 11:44 PM: What exactly are you babbling on about?

So your argument is McCain can't be trusted because he is succesful?

That bastard. How dare he be good at something or related to someone who is good at something.

Being proficient totally goes against what the bush administration stands for.

Down with that succesful McCain. How can he possibly know what is good for the country if he does something right.

Posted by: Inverse137 | July 15, 2008 3:26 AM | Report abuse

OK, so the post by "??" got me off track. Stupidity annoys me...

Posted by: Inverse137 | July 15, 2008 3:28 AM | Report abuse

September 29, 2002: "I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time."
McCain in an interview on CNN.

September 24, 2002: "I believe that success will be fairly easy."
McCain in a statement to CNN.

August 22, 2006: "It grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this could be. It has contributed enormously to the frustration that Americans feel today because they were led to believe this could be some kind of day at the beach."
McCain at press conference in Columbus, Ohio.

For many, many more brilliant quotes by McCain, visit the Quotes page at :

Posted by: DMW, Tallahassee | July 15, 2008 6:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Jill. WP has to fairly evaluate Senator Obama.

WP and the media should be tougher on Senator Obama.

Why do you give him a free pass? President of the United States is that easy job?

Posted by: Daniel | July 15, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse


I have a question about methodology and polling items that I hope you can answer.

The "Do you prefer Obama's timeline approach or McCain's approach" is the last question of the poll. How much bias towards a response comde from the questions that preceded question 26 which are being "held for later release".

It looks pretty clear to me that the 50/50 split is really a poll on Obama and McCain rather than on Iraq.

Also, what is the public's perception of McCain's policy towards leaving Iraq? Is it informed. I ask because McCain is all over the map on when troops are to be withdrawn. He has said "it's okay if they are there for a hundred years" and he has also forecast huge budget savings from their withdrawal (before 2013).

Hoping you can give some insight.

Posted by: grooft | July 15, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

This is the dumbest poll of all time.

The questions contain the answers.

WaPo is almost as dumb as the stupid war they helped inaugurate.

Posted by: Sid | July 15, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Stupid is as stupid does America. Who voted against Powell on Somalia, against Shinseki on Iraq, touted the Iran threat getting Fallon canned, wants to keep Iraq troop levels against Mellon. The guy they say is the better commander in chief. A guy on military committees should know Al Qaeda is not in Iran. I do not think anyone that does not listen to our joint chiefs and military command will make a good CIC. Obama has realized men like Petreaus know better than him and has embraced their recommendations.

Posted by: Jimbo | July 15, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse


Can you please tell me what McCain has accomplished? That is besides leaving his first wife after she was in a major car accident. Then cheating on her with the current Mrs. McCain. Now trying to pull the wool over the Americans eyes once again.

He is wealthy, yes, but he has done nothing to earn it besides marry into it.

I am more than willing to listen, if there is something factual that says what he did. POW okay, I respect that, I myself am a veteran. He found himself a sugar momma and has been

Posted by: Christa | July 16, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand why they coninue to do these Polls, few people will tell a Pollster their true position on an individual or an issue. This situation is starting to playout the same way as the New Hampshire Primary where Obama was leading by as many as 20%, but ended up loosing the election. In that case people lied to pollsters.

Keep one thing in mind, when you see a large number of Independent being designated in a voter poll, and there is no major Independent Candidate running, most of these Independents will vote for one of the two Major Party's Candidate. Historically it has mostly been the Republican Candidate.

Ultra-conservative Republicans and Democratics will try and hide their position by identifying themselves as Independents. But almost never is there an Indemendent Candidate running for a Major Office in the same Election. There is the Green, The Libertarian, the Constitutional, etc., but no such thing as an Independent running for President as a Member of a Registered Independent Party.

I don't think there is' any real Registered Independent Party anywhere, that I know of. But the Media allows itself to be played like dummies and don't point that out, The Pollsters would be better off identifing these "so call" independents as "others", or "who knows what", but the Media don't point this out because many of these Media Types identify with this same group of people. However failing to say what they are independent of, or from, other than non dues paying members of the two major parties, doesn't reall identify who they are.


Posted by: leart2 | July 16, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Pre-surge troop levels in Iraq were 132,000. At it's peak, we had 160,000. Now we have 150,000 and the Bush administration says now surge is offically over? Now they say three additional brigades can be withdrawn. Additional? Let me get this right, we had 132,000 pre surge, now we have 150,000 but withdrawing three brigades is "additional" withdraw. Hhhmmm. Let's do the math. 150,000 minus 132,000 = 18,000 = approxiamately 3 brigades. Bushed!

Posted by: Tacking | July 16, 2008 10:25 PM | Report abuse

-- (CBS) Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama leads Republican counterpart John McCain 45 percent to 39 percent in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll of registered voters nationwide. The six percentage point spread is unchanged since June, when Obama led McCain 48 percent to 42 percent. --

And us Clintonities, now begin the "I told you so"

Only up 6, is weak with the GOP in historical disfavor.
Everyone knows by now they are corrupt and
incompetent. Bush is at 28% approval - lower than

You blow that out, you don't barely lead it.

Conversely, down only 6 is an excellent position
for a GOP, that has made an art form of turning
summer deficits into fall leads on the back of
smear campaigns (Dukakis, Gore, Kerry - all
led big early, all lost).

(Actually, to digress, Gore won... ;-)

Point holds. 6% deficit / childsplay for falsehood
mongers like Rove and Mehlman. Oh btw, by NOT
going with Hillary, the nearly-as-ignorant DNC just
handed them a motherlode of untapped smear

Smart Mr. Dean! Brace yourselves, for the return
of Rev. Wright. "GD America", Barack. You were
there, you knew, you lied about knowing.

And that is only the true portion, of the coming personal
attacks on him. It will get much uglier still. They will be
repeated so often and loudly by the Limbaugh's and
Hannity's and O'Reilly's, some of it will stick. Ask
McSame what Rove did to him in the SC 2000 primary.
Ask the late Ann Richards, what he did to her in the '95
TX govenor race. Bankrupt of legitimate solutions, it's
how they win in the modern era. Here it comes.

Both parties are dominated now by total ignorants.
Nader anyone?


Posted by: RG | July 16, 2008 10:49 PM | Report abuse

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