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Poll results on surge differ sharply from general's view

Data suggest most view war as failing

WASHINGTON - The public sees the Iraq war as a failure and thinks the US troop buildup there has not worked, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll indicated, suggesting the tough sell President Bush faces in asking Congress and voters for more time.

The pessimism expressed in the poll, taken in the days before General David Petraeus's long-awaited appearance before Congress, contrasted with the brighter picture Petraeus offered.

The chief US commander in Iraq told Congress this week that the added 30,000 troops have largely achieved their military goals and could probably leave by next summer, though he said there has been scant political progress.

By 59 percent to 34 percent, more people said they believe history will judge the Iraq war a complete or partial failure than a success. Those calling it a failure included eight in 10 Democrats, three in 10 Republicans, and about six in 10 independents, the poll indicated - ominous numbers for a president who hopes to use a nationally televised address later this week to keep GOP lawmakers from joining Democratic calls for a withdrawal.

"It's time to turn the corner in my view, gentlemen," Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and a Democratic presidential candidate, told Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, US ambassador to Iraq, as they testified before his panel yesterday. "We should stop the surge and start bringing our troops home."

Underscoring the public's negativity, four times as many predicted the war in Iraq would be judged as a complete US failure as the number who saw a complete success, 28 percent to 7 percent.

When the Gallup Poll asked the same question in September 2006, 52 percent said the war will be judged as a partial or complete failure, seven points fewer than the AP-Ipsos survey.

"The enemy was in Afghanistan, and I believe going into Iraq we took our eye off the ball," said Ann Bock, 66, a retired teacher and Democratic-leaning voter from Edmond, Okla., who participated in the survey.

In the poll, more people rated the troop increase a flop than a success by 58 percent to 36 percent, with three in 10 Republicans joining majorities of Democrats and independents in foreseeing failure.

Positive reviews of the troop increase were at about the same level as they were in mid-January, just after Bush announced the buildup.

In the new survey, people calling it a mistake to go to war in March 2003 outnumbered those calling it the right decision by 57 percent to 37 percent, numbers that have stayed about level for more than a year.

About a quarter of Republicans, along with most Democrats and independents, labeled the war an error.

Among those in the poll supporting the conflict was Ronald Shaul, 62, a Republican and retired military intelligence officer.

"It was a logical outgrowth of the war on terror, started long ago by Islamic extremists," said Shaul, who lives in Hopkinsville, Ky.

Overall, those viewing the war and the troop buildup most negatively tended to be groups that often lean Democratic: females, members of minority groups, those with lower incomes, and those with less education.

For example, about two-thirds of women and half of men said the troop increase had not worked, while more minorities than whites said going to war was a mistake by about a seven-to-five margin.

But the war remains unpopular with another group crucial to both political parties: moderates. Nearly two-thirds of them said that the war and troop increase were failing and that the conflict was a mistake from the start.

Two groups that normally support the Bush administration - white evangelical voters and conservatives - remained largely behind its war strategy.

Just over half of the white evangelicals who attend church at least weekly said the war was the right decision and the extra troops were helping, while about four in 10 said the war is a success - well more than Catholics and Protestants measured in the survey.

Slight majorities of conservatives saw success in Iraq, a troop increase that is working, and a war that was the right choice, though a third or more answered each question negatively.

The poll was conducted Sept. 6-9 and involved telephone interviews with 1,000 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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