President Bush maintains a high level of support for his actions in the gulf war, and he has succeeded in pinning blame on Saddam Hussein for the American bombings that killed women and children in Baghdad, polls show.
In explaining why he was rejecting Saddam's peace offer Friday, Bush could preach to a choir of about four out of five Americans who support the war, according to Washington Post-ABC News and USA Today polls taken Thursday night.A similar 79 percent of the random sample of 772 Americans in the ABC-Post poll released Saturday held Saddam or Iraq responsible for the civilian bombing deaths. Two-thirds said the United States was doing enough to avoid civilian deaths, and 81 percent believed the site was a legitimate military target.
In a Newsweek poll released Saturday, 83 percent of 515 people interviewed Friday said they believed the Iraqi peace initiative was a deception. Eighty-four percent said they want the war to continue until Saddam falls from power. Bush's approval rating was at 84 percent.
Public opinion analysts generally agree the major threat to Bush's approval rating in the war would be the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers in a ground war if Americans don't see it as effective.
"What he has is a very high level of very thin support," said Northwestern University Professor Benjamin Page, who studies public opinion and American politics.
John Mueller, author of the book "War, Presidents and Public Opinion," compared the public's attitude to that of a car buyer willing to throw money into fixing a lemon.
"They would still support the war in the sense that they feel we need to finish it," said Mueller.