POLITICS

Poll: Obama Has Little Wiggle Room With Dems On Afghan Strategy

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As the White House begins to chart the future of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, new polling data shows how little wiggle room the president has with his own political party.

Only 38 percent of Democrats said that they believed the U.S. was "doing the right thing" by fighting the war in Afghanistan now. Forty-nine percent of Democrats said America "should not be involved."

Nearly two out of every three Democrats said they thought "increasing American troops in Afghanistan" would "not" make the United States safer from terrorism. Only 26 percent thought it would make the country safer.

Just under 30 percent of Democrats (29 percent) thought that a troop increase in Afghanistan was necessary to win the war. Fifty-seven percent thought it was unnecessary. And, in a related question, only 24 percent of Democrats thought that "the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be increased" while 37 percent of Democrats thought the number should be decreased (26 percent where content with current troop levels).

The numbers reflect an increasingly skeptical disposition among Democratic voters when it comes to the Afghan war. What was categorized during the presidential campaign as the forgotten front in the war on terror is now considered a dangerous foreign entanglement. And yet, the souring popularity doesn't seem likely to leave the president all that boxed in when it comes to his Afghan strategy. Congress, for starters, doesn't seem to have the numbers or will to oppose a potential increase of 40,000 troops.

Moreover, when sampling public opinion from across the ideological spectrum, the notion of escalating U.S. military presence in Afghanistan receives much wider support.

Thirty-eight percent of all respondents supported a troop increase while 28 percent wanted the number decreased. Twenty-one said, keep the number of troops at its current level. A slight majority (44 percent to 43 percent) of all respondents said a troop increase in Afghanistan was necessary to win the war.

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Finally, if the president sells a continued or even enhanced military presence in Afghanistan as a means of "eliminating the threat from terrorists operating" from within that country, he will have wide-ranging support. Sixty-five percent of all respondents supported an Afghan strategy based on eliminating an in-country terrorist threat, including 80 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Democrats.

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