A new Harris Poll finds that a 2-to-1 majority now gives President Obama negative ratings on his handling of Afghanistan, a six-point increase in his critics over the last two months. It also finds that the plurality of the public who believe the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse has increased to its highest level since the president was inaugurated.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,303 adults surveyed online between Nov. 2 and 11, 2009 by Harris Interactive.
In April this year, a slender 51 percent to 36 percent of adults rated the president's handling of Afghanistan positively. In September, a 54 percent to 36 percent majority gave him negative ratings. Now, a 60 percent to 31 percent majority rate his handling of Afghanistan negatively.
Other findings in this Harris Poll include:
• Only 6 percent of adults now think the situation in Afghanistan is getting better, the lowest number recorded in any Harris Poll asking this question. Those who believe the situation is getting worse have increased to 47 percent, compared to only 28 percent in April.
• Only 12 percent are now confident that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be successful, also the lowest number we have recorded. Fully 61 percent are not confident, compared to 40 percent in April.
This Harris Poll also asked the public to choose between three options for troop levels in Afghanistan. There is absolutely no consensus. The largest number of adults, 36 percent, supports sending more troops there "for a few months to stabilize the situation." Almost as many (33 percent) want to "set a timetable for withdrawal." A smaller number (20 percent) favor "withdrawing all troops now."
Differences by party
Unsurprisingly, there are big differences between how Democrats and Republicans rate the president's handling of Afghanistan. However, fully 65 percent of Independents join the great majority of Republicans in giving him negative rating. And more than a third (38 percent) of Democrats also do so.
Half of all Democrats (51 percent) join most Republicans (66 percent) and Independents (67 percent) in saying they are not confident that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be successful.
These findings are consistent with our other polls showing a continuing decline in public confidence in the president generally and his policies on the economy and health care. He badly needs some "wins" to stop, let alone reverse, this downward trend.
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States Nov. 2 and 11, among 2,303 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. 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 percent 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.
Full data available here: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/pubs/Harris_Poll_2009_11_19.pdf