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Voters Not Sold on Stepped-Up War Effort

By Sean Olson
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Nearly half of New Mexico voters oppose the stepped-up U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, a sharp contrast to what they said about the war a year ago, a new Journal Poll found.
        Forty-seven percent of likely New Mexico voters in the Aug. 23-27 survey opposed the current war strategy, and 40 percent favored it. Nine percent had mixed feelings, and 4 percent didn't know or wouldn't say.
        President Barack Obama in December unveiled the new strategy, which included adding about 30,000 troops and changing tactics for soldiers on the ground. The troop surge marked the largest escalation of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan since it began more than eight years ago.
        A Journal Poll conducted in September 2009 found that 48 percent of the state's voters approved of how Obama was handling the war and only 34 percent disapproved.
        Pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., which conducted the survey, said a steady stream of bad news coming from Afghanistan is souring more people on the war effort.
        "I think what's happening is we're seeing increased casualties, we're now in a prolonged war that has lasted eight years, and we're seeing in the news every day that there is corruption in the Afghani government," Sanderoff said. "Support is dropping."
        New Mexico's U.S. senators, both Democrats, are also having some doubts about the war effort, and their thinking seemed close to Sanderoff's analysis of voter sentiments.
        "I have continued to express my concerns surrounding the strategy in Afghanistan, and I do not believe our commitment there should be open-ended," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. "The reality on the ground is that building Afghanistan is a monumental effort. I remain concerned about the reliability of our partners in the region and the widespread corruption."
        Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said it's still unclear whether the strategy will work.
        "When the president announced the troop surge in Afghanistan, it was unclear to me whether it would be enough to stabilize the country," Bingaman said. "We still don't know. As General (David) Petraeus points out, the full number of troops have only recently arrived, so it is too soon to judge the effectiveness of the surge. I hope it works and we are able to bring our troops home next year."
        Republicans in the latest Journal Poll were more likely to favor the U.S. war strategy. Fifty-eight percent of the Republicans approved, while 61 percent of Democrats disapproved.
        "This is perhaps the only issue where Republicans, as opposed to Democrats, are more likely to support one of the president's initiatives," Sanderoff said.
        Hispanics were more likely than Anglos to oppose the war strategy with 57 percent against it and 29 percent for it. Anglos were more closely split, with 46 percent favoring it and 40 percent opposing it.
        Education was also a factor. Voters with a high school education or less were far more likely to oppose the war effort than voters with more eduction.
        Voters were asked: "Do you favor or oppose the United States' stepped-up war effort in Afghanistan by adding more troops, resources and, change of tactics?"
    How the poll was done
    The Journal Poll is based on telephone interviews with proven New Mexico voters who said they are likely to vote in the Nov. 2 general election. The interviews were conducted Aug. 23-27 by Research and Polling Inc.
    The scientific sample size for the health care and Afghanistan war questions was 403 voters statewide. The margin of error for the statewide voter sample for both questions is plus or minus 5 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.

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