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Support for Bush high

President Bush has strong public support for waging war with Iraq, polls show — so strong that a local pollster says it could prove a double-edged sword.

According to a CNN/Gallup national poll and a Dan Jones & Associates state poll conducted the past two days, Bush enjoys overwhelming support — with Utah approval numbers higher in every category than the national numbers.

Deseret News graphicDNews graphicIraq war pollRequires Adobe Acrobat.

But Bush now has to produce — immediately — Jones said, or that glow of approval will evaporate quickly.

"He's really taking a risk with that high level of trust people have," Jones said. "He's got to go in and get it done rapidly and with the least amount of casualties. Otherwise, public opinion, I predict, will turn against him and the war."

The state of the economy, affected by war, will also be a factor in public opinion, Jones said.

Bush's efforts over the past several months to convince the country that war is necessary have been successful, as poll approval numbers have steadily risen since October of last year. What's more, a large majority of poll respondents who approve of war say they approve because it's the best thing for the country, not just because they want to support the president.

"They are internalizing Bush's arguments," Jones said. "They really trust George Bush and have a lot of respect for Dick Cheney and Colin Powell."

Eighty-two percent of Utahns and 79 percent of Americans believe the United States will be successful in removing Saddam Hussein from power, according to the polls. But the link between Saddam and terrorism has become ever more tenuous — only slightly more than half of poll respondents believe the war will make the country safer from terrorism.

Bush has indefatigably pushed for war in the face of stiff international and, to a lesser extent, domestic opposition — the opposite tactic of his father, who did not act until the United Nations was solidly on board. A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press of adults in nine countries found increasing resentment and hostility toward the United States and Bush in particular, which contrasts to the worldwide support and sympathy the United States enjoyed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Bush's tactics do have their advantages, however. Worldwide opinion kept Bush senior from, in the minds of many Americans, finishing the job by removing Saddam from power.

"There is the feeling that the current president is making up for what wasn't done," Jones said.

Two primary reasons for Utah's strong support of the war, according to Jones, are that the state's voters gave Bush his highest election margin of victory of any state, and that more Utahns are headed to war in the Middle East than have volunteered for battle at any other time in the state's history, including during the Vietnam War.

In general, communities that have the most invested in war support it the most, at the same time hoping for hostilities' short duration and safe return of its sons and daughters. In its Wednesday's editions, the Wall Street Journal reported on the attitude of Beallsville, Ohio, which suffered the highest per capita casuality rate in the Vietnam War than any other American city (six of its residents died, of a population of 475).

Not only does Beallsville continue to support the Vietnam War in the face of massive second-guessing, it is solidly behind the president in the current conflict.


E-mail: aedwards@desnews.com