NEWS: New poll shows public unwilling to pay more for war in Iraq

Last Friday, I hinted that the Institute was about to unveil the results of a months-long research project, focused on how the public feels about the Iraq war and the direction of U.S. foreign policy. The results are coming back -- and they are eye-opening.

A little background on the project: working with the excellent School of Public and International Affairs at NC State University, the Institute has been designing and carrying out one of the biggest polls ever about how the U.S. public views Iraq, especially the rising costs of the war in terms of money and soldiers' lives.

Using the polling firm Knowledge Networks, in late September we polled over 1,300 respondents nationally. Here are some of the key findings (you can read the full press release here):

* Only 25 percent of respondents view Iraq as "the central front in the war against terrorism." In other words, they're not buying the current administration's line that Iraq is closely connected to the "war on terror."

* Even more shocking, 30 percent (a plurality) of respondents indicated that the United States is in Iraq to "ensure access to oil" -- and another 15% offered their own explanation, usually tied to administration "incompetence" or "greed."

* The public does not want more soldier's lives lost in Iraq. When asked to provide "an acceptable number of U.S. military deaths" in Iraq, 61 percent of respondents said zero -- the highest ever recorded in a poll about Iraq.

* When asked later in the survey how much more money the United States should "spend in order to complete the mission in Iraq," 55 percent of respondents said no additional dollars should be spent.

* 57 percent of respondents felt that the United States "should have stayed out" of Iraq and respondents were split 50-50 on whether U.S. efforts in Iraq would succeed or fail.

Front-page blogger DemFromCT got a good discussion going about the poll's results over at DailyKos. As he says, it's "dynamite stuff." I agree -- the findings are huge, on several levels.

First, it shows that the U.S. public doesn't believe the current administration's rationale for the Iraq war -- indeed, the greatest share of those polled believe that the motives for invading Iraq had little to do with democracy and fighting terrorism.

Second -- and most resoundingly -- it shows that Americans have clearly reached their "tolerance level" for the costs of war, both in dollars and lives. They've had enough.

And lastly, disillusionment with the war is at an all-time high -- and faith that it will end well is at an all-time low.

Those opposed to U.S. policy in Iraq -- and supportive of a more constructive foreign policy -- are on stronger footing with the American public than many politicians and media outlets would have us believe.

There are more findings from the poll, which we'll be sharing over the course of the next few weeks. Stay tuned.