WASHINGTON - On the heels of President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan last week, in which he pledged to "finish the job we started" and "end this war responsibly," the American public's support for the 11-year conflict has reached a new low, according to a poll.
Just 27 percent of respondents said they back the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, the new Associated Press-Gfk poll found. Of the 66 percent who said they oppose the war, about half said they believe the presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good.
But among all respondents, nearly half - 48 percent - said they think the continued U.S. military presence is doing more to help Afghanistan become a stable democracy.
The poll also indicated a steep decline in support for the war among Republicans. Just 37 percent of Republican respondents said they back the war, down from 58 percent last year. Support among Democrats also dropped, from 30 percent to 19 percent, while it remained at 27 percent for independents.
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Obama has pledged to keep American troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, though a small counterterrorism force may remain after the drawdown. There are currently about 88,000 U.S. troops there, plus forces from other NATO allies.
"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war," Obama told the troops during his visit to Afghanistan last week, in which he signed a 10-year security pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly."
The poll contained one bit of good news for the president: A huge decrease in the portion of respondents who said they believe that the killing of Osama bin Laden increased the threat of terrorism against Americans.
Just 27 percent said the killing has increased the terror threat, 31 percent said it has decreased the threat and 38 percent said it has had no effect. Last year, 50 percent said it had increased the threat, 17 percent said it had decreased the threat and 31 percent said it had no effect.
The poll of 1,004 adults nationwide was conducted May 3-7 by Gfk Roper Public Relations Affairs & Corporate Communications. Respondents were reached on land lines and cellphones.
US Toll in Afghanistan
• Sgt. Jacob M. Schwallie, 22, of Clarksville, Tenn.
• Spc. Chase S. Marta, 24, of Chico, Calif.
• Pfc. Dustin D. Gross, 19, of Jeffersonville, Ky.
All three were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Source: Department of Defense