Americans Say 2-to-1 That We Never Should Have Invaded Iraq

Fewer than a quarter think history will judge the Iraq War as even a partial success.
President George W. Bush speaks to U.S. troops and their families after having lunch with them Jan. 11, 2007, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
President George W. Bush speaks to U.S. troops and their families after having lunch with them Jan. 11, 2007, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Jason Reed / Reuters

Fifteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Americans now say, by a margin of about 2 to 1, that the decision was a mistake, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.

Knowing what they do now, half of the public says they don’t believe the U.S. should have sent troops to fight in Iraq back in 2003, according to the poll. Just 24 percent say it should have. (A Pew Research survey released Monday found opinions much closer to evenly split: 48 percent of Americans in that poll said that the U.S. made the wrong decision by using military force in Iraq, but 43 percent responded that the country made the right decision.)

Just 4 percent of those in the HuffPost/YouGov survey say they believe history will judge the war as a complete success, with 19 percent saying it will be seen as more of a success than a failure, 36 percent that it will be seen as more of a failure than a success, and 19 percent that it will go down as a complete failure. Slightly over a 10th say they believe the war in Iraq reduced the threat of terrorism, while 37 percent say it increased it.

Opinions of the war remain starkly partisan. Two-thirds of Democrats but just 35 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should not have sent troops into Iraq. Although relatively few in either party believe the war will go down as a success, Democrats say by a 51-percentage-point margin that the war will be judged as more of a failure, while Republicans agree by a much narrower 6-point margin.

Twenty-two percent of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, still say that, to the best of their knowledge, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003, while 44 percent say Iraq didn’t have any WMDs. An additional 34 percent aren’t sure. By a 7-point margin, 37 percent to 30 percent, Americans say that former president George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in order to get the U.S. into the Iraq War.

Americans’ memories of the invasion may be fading. Just over a third say they have a very clear recollection of what led the United States to send troops to Iraq, and only about two-thirds say that they remember even somewhat well.

Many people are also now misremembering ― or unwilling to admit ― that they ever supported the war. As YouGov’s Kathy Frankovic has noted, support for going into Iraq topped 60 percent at the time of the invasion. But just a third of Americans now claim that, back in 2003, they favored sending troops to Iraq, while 39 percent say they opposed it, and the rest that they don’t remember. Gallup polling 15 years ago found that about half of Democrats supported the war, a level that’s more than twice as high as the share of Democrats in the HuffPost/YouGov survey who now claim they supported the war at its outset.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 15-16 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.


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