Arlington, VA, Jan. 10, 2019 – A new YouGov poll commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute indicates Americans are open to withdrawing American troops from conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. This survey comes after President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Defense signaled the administration was ready to make major moves to bring U.S. troops home from both war zones in 2019.
“Our survey clearly shows that President Trump would have the public’s backing for the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan,” explained Will Ruger, vice president of research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute. “A majority of Americans would support a presidential decision to pull troops out within a year while very few say they would oppose it. Given that 27 percent are on the fence, a strong effort by the administration to explain why ending the longest war in American history is in our national interest could only increase already strong support for the idea.”
When asked if the president were to announce removal of all troops from Afghanistan within the year, 51 percent of Americans said they would support that decision. Less than one quarter of respondents, 22 percent, said they would oppose such a decision while the remaining 27 percent were unsure how they would feel. Additionally, no matter how survey questioners framed the U.S. mission in Syria, a plurality of respondents said the U.S. military should leave the country.
The survey also indicates Americans remain unconvinced that the United States has a clear purpose in Afghanistan. Almost half of respondents, 45 percent, said the United States has no strategic objective, while only 21 percent said it does. About one-third (34 percent) said they did not know.
Americans are also skeptical that continued engagement in Afghanistan is necessary to enhance national security. The largest percentage of respondents, 40 percent, did not think it was vital for the United States to continue to fight the war for the sake of the safety of the country, while only 24 percent said it was. More than one-third of respondents, 36 percent, said they didn’t know how they felt.
Regarding U.S. military intervention in Syria, a plurality of Americans favored withdrawal whether the conflict was framed around the Syrian civil war or to counter-ISIS. When asked if they agreed with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the Syrian civil war, 41 percent of respondents supported withdrawal and 32 percent opposed it. When asked if they agreed with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the fight with ISIS, 38 percent of respondents still supported withdrawal and 35 percent opposed it. In both instances, 27 percent of respondents said they did not know how they would feel.
“Our findings on Syria show that Americans, no matter how you cut it, are unconvinced that it makes sense to continue keeping our troops in harm’s way there,” said Ruger. “The president should insist that our troops be pulled out of Syria with all due speed since there is no compelling strategic reason to stay. He can be confident that there is little support for dragging our feet or a reversal of his prudent decision to withdraw.”
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For more than five decades, Charles Koch’s philanthropy has inspired bold new ideas to improve American lives. Inspired by a recognition that free people are capable of extraordinary things, the Charles Koch Institute supports education and dialogue to advance these principles and challenge convention. We work to remove barriers to opportunity for all Americans, helping individuals transform their lives. To learn more visit charleskochinstitute.org.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. and was commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute. Total sample size was 1,263 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th December 2018 – 1st January 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).
Note: Numbers below may not add up to 100 percent or figures cited above due to rounding.
Q1: How successful or unsuccessful do you think America’s military involvement in Afghanistan has been?
Very unsuccessful: 11%
Neither successful or unsuccessful: 27%
Very successful: 6%
Don’t know: 14%
Q2: Do you think the U.S. has had a clear strategic objective in Afghanistan?
Don’t know: 34%
Q3: Do you think the U.S. should remove all troops from Afghanistan over the next year (i.e., from now to December 2019)?
Yes, the U.S. should remove all troops: 36%
No, the U.S. should not remove all troops: 31%
Don’t know: 33%
The survey asked a follow-up question to those who said that the U.S. should not remove all troops from Afghanistan over the next year. (Weighted sample size: 391)
Q3a: You previously said that you think that the U.S. should not remove all troops in Afghanistan over the next year… How much longer do you think American troops should remain in Afghanistan?
Six months: 2%
One year: 11%
Two to Three years: 24%
Four to five years: 7%
Longer than five years: 11%
Don’t know: 45%
Q4: Do you think it’s necessary for the safety of the United States to continue to fight the war in Afghanistan?
Yes, it is necessary: 24%
No, it is not necessary: 40%
Don’t know: 36%
When asked about Afghanistan withdrawal in in the context of a presidential decision, most respondents said they would support a decision by the president to remove all troops from Afghanistan within one year.
Q5: If the president authorized all U.S. troops to be removed from Afghanistan within one year (i.e., by December 2019), would you support or oppose that decision?
Strongly support: 26%
Somewhat support: 25%
Somewhat oppose: 13%
Strongly oppose: 9%
Don’t know: 27%
The last question of the survey was about America’s involvement in Syria. The respondent sample was split in half and asked two different versions of a question to ascertain whether different framing deeply affected people’s opinions on America’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.
Q6a: Do you agree or disagree with the decision to withdraw American troops from Syria to fight ISIS? (Sample size: 631)
Strongly agree: 18%
Somewhat agree: 20%
Somewhat disagree: 16%
Strongly disagree: 18%
Don’t know: 27%
Q6b: Do you agree or disagree with the decision to withdraw American troops from Syria to fight the civil war? (Sample size: 631)
Strongly agree: 20%
Somewhat agree: 21%
Somewhat disagree: 17%
Strongly disagree: 15%
Don’t know: 27%