WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For the first time since the start of the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to that country, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday.
Fifty-four percent of those polled said it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq, compared with 41 percent who expressed that sentiment in early June.
Most poll respondents, 55 percent, also said they don't believe the war has made the United States safer from terrorism -- rejecting an argument that President Bush has repeatedly advanced in his rationale for the war.
Yet the poll also found that Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has made little headway on the issue of Iraq, which has figured prominently on the campaign trail.
Kerry, a four-term U.S. senator from Massachusetts, and Bush are essentially tied when Americans are asked who would better handle the situation in Iraq. Forty-seven percent said Bush would do a better job on Iraq, compared with 46 percent who picked Kerry.
And while six in 10 of those polled said they believe Kerry could handle the job of commander-in-chief, most Americans indicated that they trust Bush more in that role, 51 percent to 43 percent.
The poll, based on interviews with 1,005 Americans -- including 521 likely voters -- was conducted by telephone June 21-23. The margin of error varied by question, from a low of 3 percentage points to 4.5 percentage points.
The poll comes on the same day that a wave of attacks on Iraqis and coalition forces left more than 90 dead. The impact of those attacks was not a factor in the poll, as it was conducted earlier.
Looking at the presidential race, the poll found a tie among likely voters: 49 percent for Bush and 48 percent for Kerry. When poll respondents were asked to consider independent Ralph Nader, the breakdown was: 48 percent for Bush, 47 percent for Kerry and 3 percent for Nader.
The poll found some advantages for Kerry. His favorable rating is higher than Bush's, 58 percent to 53 percent, and it has grown over the past few months as Bush's has fallen.
Kerry also gets higher ratings on who would better handle the economy -- 53 percent picked the Democrat, while 40 percent selected Bush. And the economy was identified by more voters, 41 percent, as the most important role for the president -- ahead of both managing the government or acting as commander-in-chief.
CNN Polling Director Keating Holland contributed to this report.
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