February 20, 1998
U.S. Information Agency
Office of Research and Media Reaction
COMPARE: Opinion Analysis of February 11, 1998

Opinion Analysis:
U.S. Public Continues to Support Military Strikes: An Update


Three nationwide polls taken during the past week (see below) show a sizeable majority of Americans continue to support air strikes if Iraq continues to thwart U.N. weapons inspectors. However, many Americans expect military actions to accomplish the removal of Saddem Hussein, as well as Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Air Strikes

Three-fourths of the public (77% -- CBS, 2/17) favor the U.S. "using its Air Force to bomb targets" in Iraq if it continues to restrict U.N. inspections for weapons of mass destruction" -- up slightly from earlier levels. Support declines however, under certain circumstances:

Division among allies -- Three-fifths (62% -- CBS) support air strikes if divisions among former coalition partners are highlighted -- up from 53 percent in early February.

Mass destruction weapons not mentioned -- Three- fifths approve the U.S. bombing Iraq unless it "stops interfering with United Nations weapons inspection teams" in Iraq (63%, including 40% who favor a "major bombing attack" -- ABC/W. Post, 2/17-18). )

Military Action Favored to Remove Saddam

Two polls found a similar majority believe the main goal of military action is to remove Saddam from power.

-- A two-to-one majority believe the goal of U.S. military action should be "to immediately remove Saddam Hussein from power" (64%), rather than to "substantially reduce Iraq's capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and threaten neighboring countries" (31% -- Gallup).

-- A similar majority believe that if the U.S. takes military action against Iraq, it should "continue [military attacks] until Saddam Hussein is removed from power" (62%), rather than "until weapons inspectors are able to do their job" (29% -- CBS).

Economic sanctions -- Americans expect less can be achieved from sanctions than from using military force. A two-to-one majority believe economic sanctions against Iraq should be maintained "until Saddam Hussein complies with all U.N. resolutions" (64%), rather than "as long as Saddam Hussein is in power" (30% -- Gallup, 2/13-15).

Support Diminishes if Costs are High

Support for military action against Iraq drops sharply (from the 70-percent level) if it resulted in ...

"... substantial U.S. military casualties" (38% favor military action vs. 56% oppose),

"... substantial casualties among Iraq's civilians" (47% vs 45%),

"... turning many countries in the Middle East, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, against the United States" (44% vs. 47%).

This report is based on findings from three polls:

ABC/Washington Post (2/17-18)
CBS News (2/17/98)
Gallup/USA Today (2/13-15)