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Poll: Petraeus recommendations tough sell to Americans

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN/Opinion Research poll finds nearly half of public doubts general's testimony
  • Over half of Americans doubt troop "surge" in Iraq is working
  • Public views Iraq war as a political failure, not a military failure
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By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Do Americans trust the top U.S. military commander in Iraq to report what's really going on without making the situation sound better than it is?

Gen. Petraeus testifies Monday at a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees.

In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll last month, Americans were asked that very question. Fifty-three percent said they did not trust Gen. David Petraeus' report.

A USA Today-Gallup poll asked the public again this month whether they thought Petraeus' report would be independent and objective. Again, 53 percent did not.

Petraeus sought Monday to convince Congress the situation in Iraq is improving. He has some well-known supporters of this year's troop increase echoing his sentiments.

"In a short period of time, we have seen significant success," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who's also a Republican candidate for president.

The public is skeptical of that, too.

Asked whether the troop increase is succeeding in improving conditions and ending violence in Iraq, 54 percent of those polled said it's not, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday.

At the joint House Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees hearing, Petraeus reported some military progress. "To summarize, the security situation in Iraq is improving," Petraeus testified.

But few see much political progress by the Iraqi government.

"To us, it just hinges on the government doing what the government is supposed to do and that is finding a way to get a sense of an agreement that they will stop the killing and stop the ethnic violence," retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, chairman of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, said Sunday.

Last month, according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, respondents were divided over whether the U.S. military is making progress in improving conditions and ending violence in Iraq -- 47 percent said yes, 49 percent said no.

But their judgment of the Iraqi government was much harsher -- 69 percent saw no progress on the part of the Iraqis.

The current USA Today-Gallup poll finds the same thing: People feel the U.S. is not putting enough emphasis on finding a political solution in Iraq.

"The reason for the surge was promoted by the president and by Gen. Petraeus as creating the space for political settlements in Iraq, which have not only not happened, but we've even seen steps backward," said Rep. Janice Schakowky, D-Illinois.

Americans see the situation in Iraq as a political failure much more than a military failure. The U.S. military is doing its job, they feel. The Iraqi government is not.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday questioned 1,017 adult Americans and was taken between September 7-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The August poll questioned 1,029 adult Americans and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Iraq WarDavid PetraeusAnti-War Protests and ActivismIraq

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