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Conflict With Iraq

Congressional Authorization

An overwhelming majority says the President should get Congressional authorization before taking military action against Iraq and a very strong majority says it is necessary. A majority opposes Congress granting the President's request to give him the power to decide whether to go to war with Iraq, but a majority would support Congress doing so on the condition that the UN first approves the military action.

In several recent polls, majorities of about 8 in 10 say the President should get authorization from Congress before taking military action against Iraq, while strong majorities feel such approval is necessary. In an August 2002 ABC poll, 80% said the President "should get authorization from Congress before launching an attack." In a September 2002 Newsweek poll, 85% felt it is important (60% very important) that "Bush first get approval of Congress before taking military action against Iraq." [1]

On the question of whether it is necessary for Congress approve action against Iraq - that is, whether it is a requirement - strong majorities continue to support Congressional assent. In a September 2002 CNN/USA Today poll, 69% said they "think it is necessary for the Bush Administration to get a resolution of support from the Congress before it attacks Iraq." Twenty-nine percent did not think so. CBS News/New York Times polls have asked whether "the President should have to get the approval of Congress before taking military action against Iraq to try and remove Saddam Hussein from power, or should he be able to make that decision himself." Support for Congressional approval was 62% in early September, down from 71% in an early August poll. In the latest survey, 35% felt it should be his decision alone, up from 27% in August. In mid-August, a Pew poll asked "how large a role should Congress play in deciding whether the US should use force to end the rule of Saddam Hussein." A solid 56% majority felt Bush should "only use force if Congress favors it," while 34% thought he should "be able to use force, even if Congress opposes it."[2] In the August 2002 ABC poll the 80% who felt the President should seek authorization from Congress before moving against Iraq were asked who "should have the final decision" if there is a disagreement, and about two-thirds chose Congress.[3]

President's Request for a Resolution

Despite the President's popularity, Americans show a reluctance for Congress to pass a resolution, as requested by the President, that would give him the power to decide whether to go to war with Iraq.

Respondents were told in a September 2002 PIPA/Knowledge Networks poll, "Currently there is a debate in Congress about whether to grant the President's request to let him decide whether the US should go to war with Iraq" and then asked to choose between two positions. Only 38% chose the option that "Congress should give the President the power to decide whether the US should go to war with Iraq," while a majority of 60% chose the option that "Congress should retain the right to vote on whether the US should go to war with Iraq." [4]

However, in the same poll when respondents were presented the additional option of giving the President the power to take action against Iraq in the event that the UN first approved of doing so, a plurality of 43% chose this option. Combined with the 37% that would support giving the President the power to make decisions "to use military force in all ways he determines appropriate," an overwhelming 80%, under these limited conditions, would then support giving the President the power to decide.[5] This is consistent with the widespread feeling that the US should get UN approval before invading Iraq (see "Importance of Multilateral Support").

Gallup also asked on September 20-22 whether Congress should "vote to give President Bush unlimited authority to use military action against Iraq whenever he feels it is necessary." In this case a bare majority of 51% were opposed, while 47% were in favor.[6] Support for granting the President this authority was likely higher than in the PIPA/Knowledge Networks question above (in which 61% preferred for Congress to "retain the right" to vote later) because the Gallup question only presented the choice of either giving the President authority or not doing so.

Both PIPA/Knowledge Networks and ABC/Washington Post asked respondents how their Congressional representative's vote on this resolution would affect their vote for the representative. About half said it would have no effect (PIPA/Knowledge Networks, 54%; ABC/Washington Post, 49%). Among those said it would have an effect, a slightly larger percentage said that a vote against granting the President authority would make them less likely to vote for him or her (PIPA/Knowledge Networks, 26%; ABC/Washington Post, 30%), as compared to those who said it would make them more likely (PIPA/Knowledge Networks, 19%%; ABC/Washington Post, 18%).[7]



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