WaPo/ABC poll shows public “souring” on Afghanistan war

A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC shows support for the war in Afghanistan hitting its lowest level yet, with 60% of respondents deciding that it wasn’t worth fighting. Barack Obama hit his own low for support on the war at 45%. With a new review of the effort ready for release and key decision points upcoming this spring on Obama’s commitment to draw down at least some of the escalation troops he authorized in 2009, this is a bad time for the ground to be cut under the effort:

A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a grim assessment — and a politically hazardous one — in advance of the Obama administration’s one-year review of its revised strategy.

Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation’s longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war’s been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin.

Negative views of the war for the first time are at the level of those recorded for the war in Iraq, whose unpopularity dragged George W. Bush to historic lows in approval across his second term. On average from 2005 through 2009, 60 percent called that war not worth fighting, the same number who say so about Afghanistan now. (It peaked at 66 percent in April 2007.) …

While opposition to the war has grown, Obama himself gets more mixed reviews for handling it. This survey, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that 45 percent approve of Obama’s work on Afghanistan, matching his low, while 46 percent disapprove, a scant 2 points from the high. Still, that’s considerably better than Bush’s ratings for handling Iraq in his second term — on average, 63 percent disapproved of how he did.

Oddly, neither ABC nor the Post have released their sample data on this poll — even after several days of news reports from it. How many Democrats and Republicans did the sample find?  If the track record of this poll is any indication, it probably has somewhere between a seven- to ten-point advantage for Democrats in the poll, perhaps one reason why ABC and the Post have suddenly grown shy about disclosing that data at the same time they use it as fodder for news reports.

They did release the data from almost all of the rest of the questions in the poll, however, including the numbers that supposedly show Obama rebounding after the midterm debacle.  McClatchy’s Marist poll debunks that, even with a seven-point advantage in the sample for Democrats.  However, in the WaPo/ABC poll, even Republican support for the war has declined dramatically, from 85% almost four years ago to 50% now.  A year ago, 69% of Republicans thought the war worth fighting.

Can this war continue if Republicans give up on it as well as Democrats?  If the GOP abandons the fight, Obama will have no choice but to pull out — and hand Afghanistan back to the radicals.  The only suspense will be who will take the photograph of the last helicopter flight out of Kabul.