Large Jump Seen In Those Who Rate President Obama Positively In His Handling of Afghanistan

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – November 2, 2011 – President Obama has had some accomplishments in foreign affairs recently, including his October announcement that all U.S. military personnel would leave Iraq before the year’s end. However, before that announcement was made The Harris Poll surveyed American adults about their feelings on Afghanistan and the data shows a jump in attitudes on how the President is handling things there over the past year.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,463 adults surveyed online between October 10 and 17, 2011.

    When asked to rate the job President Obama has done in handling Afghanistan over the last several months two in five U.S. adults give him positive marks (42%) while half give him negative ratings (49%) and one in ten are not at all sure (9%). This shows a marked improvement over last october when less than a third of U.S. adults gave him positive marks (31%) and is his highest rating on his handling of Afghanistan since April 2009, when half of Americans gave him positive marks (51%).

    Not only have Americans improved their opinion of how the President is handling Afghanistan, more Americans are also saying the situation there is getting better. This month 16% say the situation in Afghanistan is getting better, compared to between 6% and 11% who said so every time this question has been asked since September 2009. In fact, the current 16% is the highest number saying things are improving since 17% said so six years ago, in July 2005. The number of people saying the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse has dropped this year, to the lowest ever, at 18%. Over a quarter said that the situation in Afghanistan was getting worse last year (27%) and that number has been as high as 47% in 2009. Currently half of Americans say there is no real change in the situation in Afghanistan (51%) which has stayed constant since June 2010.

    Despite improvements in how people think the President is handling things in Afghanistan and the situation there, most Americans still say they are not confident that U.S. policies will be successful there (55%). Just 13% are confident in the U.S. policies and a third are not sure (32%). These numbers are not drastically different from the 53-60% who said they are not confident in U.S. policies in Afghanistan over the last two years.

    When Americans were asked what they would like to see the U.S. government do with regard to Afghanistan many are not sure (17%) while 31% say they should withdraw all troops now and 38% say they should set a timetable for withdrawal. Just 13% say the U.S. should send more troops to Afghanistan for a few months to stabilize the situation.

    So What?

    It is hard to believe that the U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for ten years. However, from this poll it seems that opinions are improving – both on how the President is handling the war and on the actual situation there – for the first time in years. If the U.S. government does not take action and set a definite timeline for troop withdrawal and start bringing personnel home now (which a combined 69% of Americans say they would like to see) these improved ratings may not hold. With the upcoming full withdrawal in Iraq, maybe the administration will next turn their attention to Afghanistan.

     

    TABLE 1

    PRESIDENT OBAMA AND AFGHANISTAN

    How would you rate the job President Obama has done in handling Afghanistan over the last several months?

    Base: All Adults

     

    April 2009

    Sept 2009

    Nov 2009

    Jan 2010

    June 2010

    Oct 2010

    Oct 2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Positive (NET)

    51

    36

    31

    38

    29

    31

    42

    23

    62

    39

    Excellent

    10

    5

    4

    7

    3

    6

    8

    2

    16

    7

    Pretty Good

    41

    32

    26

    30

    26

    25

    34

    22

    46

    32

    Negative (NET)

    36

    54

    60

    53

    59

    58

    49

    72

    27

    52

    Only fair

    26

    35

    33

    31

    33

    33

    30

    38

    20

    32

    Poor

    10

    19

    27

    22

    26

    26

    19

    34

    7

    20

    Not sure

    13

    10

    9

    9

    12

    11

    9

    5

    11

    8

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 2

    SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

    Do you think that the situation in Afghanistan is…?

    Base: All Adults

    July 2005

    May 2007

    August 2008

    April 2009

    Sept 2009

    Nov 2009

    Jan 2010

    June 2010

    Oct 2010

    Oct 2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Getting better

    17

    12

    11

    12

    8

    6

    11

    10

    11

    16

    12

    23

    15

    Getting worse

    30

    26

    37

    28

    42

    47

    32

    29

    27

    18

    23

    15

    17

    No real change

    37

    36

    35

    45

    41

    39

    46

    49

    49

    51

    55

    44

    59

    Not sure

    16

    26

    18

    16

    9

    8

    11

    12

    13

    15

    10

    17

    9

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 3

    CONFIDENCE IN POLICIES IN AFGHANISTAN

    How confident are you that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be successful?

    Base: All Adults

    July 2005

    May 2007

    August 2008

    April 2009

    Sept 2009

    Nov 2009

    Jan 2010

    June 2010

    Oct 2010

    Oct 2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Confident

    25

    22

    17

    27

    14

    12

    15

    12

    12

    13

    8

    19

    13

    Not confident

    45

    41

    54

    40

    55

    61

    53

    55

    60

    55

    64

    46

    60

    Not sure

    30

    37

    29

    33

    31

    28

    32

    34

    28

    32

    28

    35

    26

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 4

    ACTIONS US SHOULD TAKE CONCERNING TROOPS

    Which of the following possible scenarios would you like to see the US government undertake with regard to Afghanistan?

    Base: All Adults

    Nov 2009

    Oct 2010

    Oct 2011

    %

    %

    %

    Withdraw all troops now

    20

    26

    31

    Set a timetable for withdrawal

    33

    34

    38

    Send more troops to Afghanistan for a few months to stabilize the situation

    36

    22

    13

    Not sure

    11

    19

    17

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 10 and 17, 2011 among 2,463 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% 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.

    J40806

    Q855, 857, 860, 865

    The Harris Poll® #114, November 2, 2011

    By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher