WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans think the Bush administration exaggerated the threat of lethal weapons in Iraq to justify the war, according to a poll released yesterday.
But one-third disagree, saying government officials were "being fully truthful" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and only 1 in 10 said the administration lied about the evidence, according to the survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.
The nationwide poll of 1,054 adults, conducted June 18-25, showed that 52 percent agreed that the administration was "stretching the truth, but not making false statements" about the weapons threat. So far, the search for such weapons has come up empty.
The poll has a margin of error of 3 percent to 3.5 percent.
The poll found a public conflicted about the rationale for war and growing more pessimistic about reconstruction efforts, but still supportive of the decision to invade Iraq and about a long-term U.S. role there.
A large majority, 71 percent, agreed that Bush officials "implied that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks" on New York and Washington. And 25 percent said incorrectly that they thought Iraq was "directly involved in carrying out" those attacks. There is no evidence of such a role.
The survey found that 65 percent support the decision to invade Iraq, down just 3 percentage points from May. About 40 percent described postwar efforts as going "not very well" and 13 percent chose the phrase "not at all well." In May, a majority was more positive.
"The poll shows the public is in some turmoil about Iraq, and uneasy about some of the administration claims," said Steven Kull, the director of the Maryland program. "But for most people, the pluses of going to war still outweigh the minuses."
Similar unease about the situation in Iraq, where more than 60 U.S. troops have died since May 1, was reflected in a Gallup-USA Today poll released yesterday. According to that survey, 56 percent said the situation was worth going to war over, while 42 percent disagreed.