Poll: 66 percent think American power has declined since 9/11

Laura Rozen
The Upshot

A large majority of Americans--more than 7 in 10--believes the United States has spent too much in troops and treasure in the last decade responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and that as a result, American economic strength and power abroad have declined, according to a new poll by the University of Maryland and the Program on International Public Attitudes.

"Overall, two in three (66 percent) believe U.S. influence has diminished in the world over the last decade, and this view is highly correlated with the belief that the U.S. over-invested in responses to 9/11," wrote Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull, the poll's key architects, in a summary of the key findings released on Thursday.

The American public is showing "a little tiredness of the military option," Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Envoy Thursday. That's reflected he said, "in the degree to which they support the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."

"And when asked about the war on terrorism...by a ratio of two out of three, they...want the US to work with other nations and look at root causes," Telhami continued. "They are kind of tired of militarism."

A majority of those polled--57 percent--said they still support the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, but half of the respondents--50 percent--say they now believe the United States has invested too much in troops and treasure there.

"At this point a large majority--73 percent--wants the U.S. to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan, but less than half want them to be withdrawn completely," Telhami and Kull wrote.

President Obama's strategy on Afghanistan wins wide support from Democrats as well as Republicans, the poll found. "When asked what they think of the Obama administration's strategic choice to try to strengthen the Afghan army while reducing U.S. forces and attempting negotiations with the Taliban, a very large majority--69 percent--approves," Telhami and Kull wrote. Sixty percent of Republicans approve, along with 62 percent of independents, and 83 percent of Democrats.

On the issue of the war in Iraq, however, the American public remains far more divided.

A slight majority--55 percent--said too many resources have been spent in the Iraq war, but 45 percent said the decision to invade Iraq was the right decision, while slightly more--49 percent--said the Iraq war was a mistake.

"While 66 percent of Republicans thought the war was the right decision, only 31 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of independents agreed," Telhami and Kull wrote. "Similarly, 69 percent of Republicans thought going to war in Iraq helped the American effort against international terrorism, while 35 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents agreed."

The poll was conducted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 25 with a sample of 957 adult Americans. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.