Support for the decision to go to war in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since the campaign began in March 2003, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll released Tuesday.
The findings, made public on the same day that Iraq's first democratically elected government in 50 years was sworn in, show that 41% say the war was worth it; 57% say it wasn't.
“The patience of the American public is beginning to get worn down a little bit by how long this is taking,” said Charles Pena, a military affairs analyst at the Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington. “While we have made progress … I think people are just tired of this and want it to be over.”
The poll conducted Friday through Sunday asked 514 adults the question. The margin of error was +/-5 percentage points.
Public support peaked as Saddam Hussein's regime fell in 2003 when 76% of those polled said the war was worth it.
The latest poll shows a drop in positive feelings sparked by Iraqi elections in January. In a similar poll taken Feb. 7-10, 48% said the war had been worth waging, while 50% said it had not been. Violence declined in the weeks after the election, but insurgents launched a wave of suicide bombings and attacks in recent weeks, raising concerns that violence will continue.
Among 492 adults asked whether the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq in view of developments since the war began, 49% say it was a mistake, while 48% say it was not. In a poll taken Feb. 4-6, 45% said sending troops was a mistake; 55% said it was not.
U.S. officials continue to cite steady progress in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday that a captured letter to insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shows “that his influence and effectiveness is deteriorating.”
In Baghdad, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari pledged to unite Iraq's ethnic and religious factions as the new government he will lead was sworn in.
“You all know the heavy legacy inherited by this government. We are afflicted by corruption, lack of services, unemployment and mass graves,” al-Jaafari told lawmakers after taking the oath of office. “I would like to tell the widows and orphans … your sacrifices have not gone in vain.”
Five ministries — including defense and oil — and two deputy prime minister slots remained unfilled as al-Jaafari continues efforts to bring Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority into the new regime while juggling demands of other groups.