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Poll: Most Americans oppose immediate Iraq exit
Updated: 2005-12-18 09:19

WASHINGTON (AP) A solid majority of Americans oppose immediately pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, citing as a main reason the desire to finish the job of stabilizing the country, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

Some 57% of those surveyed said the U.S. military should stay until Iraq is stabilized, while 36% favor an immediate troop withdrawal. A year ago, 71% of respondents favored keeping troops in Iraq until it was stabilized.

In an effort to build public support for his Iraq policy, President Bush planned an Oval Office address for Sunday night to discuss the U.S. mission and what lies ahead in 2006.

The speech will be his first from the Oval Office since March 2003 when he announced the invasion of Iraq. In the past two weeks, the president has given four speeches on Iraq.

In the poll, when people were asked in an open-ended question the main reason the U.S. should keep troops in Iraq, 32% said to stabilize the country and 26% said to finish the rebuilding job underway.

Only one in 10 said they wanted to stay in Iraq to fight terrorism; just 3% said to protect U.S. national security.

"You've got to finish the job," said Terry Waterman, a store manager from Superior, Wis. "The whole world is looking to us for leadership. We can't have another Vietnam."

Other recent polling has found that when given additional options, many people favor a step somewhere in between having troops leave immediately and staying until the country is stabilized.

After months of unrelenting violence, millions of Iraqis turned out this past week to choose a parliament. Early estimates placed the voter turnout close to 70% of 15 million Iraqis voting.

Some 49% of Americans now say the war with Iraq was a mistake, according to the poll of 1,006 adults conducted Tuesday through Thursday. That compares with 53% in August. Two years ago, only 34% of those surveyed said the war was a mistake.

Two years ago, after ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured, 64% of respondents said the war was the right thing to do. Now, 42% say it was the right decision.

Over the past two years, some of the biggest shifts on whether the war was a good decision or a mistake have come among married people with children, those with low incomes and those with a high school education or less.

"Whether the war is a mistake is less relevant than what we should do now," said John McAdams, a political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "A fair number of people may think it's a mistake, but still don't want to lose."

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