Marylanders say Iraq war not worth deaths, dollars

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A majority of Maryland voters do not think the war in Iraq is worth the number of U.S. military casualties and the billions of dollars being spent, according to a Sun Poll released this week.

The poll showed that 35 percent of those likely voters surveyed thought the war was worth it, while 56 percent did not - an outcome more negative than a recent national sampling.

A poll conducted last month by NBC and The Wall Street Journal showed 43 percent of those surveyed thought the war was worth it to remove Saddam Hussein from power, with 48 percent saying it was not.

"There's not an area of the state where Iraq is supported," said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Inc., which conducted the poll for The Sun.

"The longer we are mired in Iraq, with every day increased casualties and the cost seemingly out of control, Marylanders are becoming trepidatious about our long-term commitment there," Haller said.

Responses to The Sun's poll question fell along party lines. Three-quarters of Democratic voters polled think the war is not worth the costs; 70 percent of Republicans surveyed said it is.

Sheridan Schultz, a homemaker from the Eastern Shore town of Neavitt, said she didn't vote in November - but wouldn't have cast her ballot for President Bush if she had.

She said mistakes on the part of military planners and politicians have prolonged efforts in the Persian Gulf, allowing suicide bombers and insurgents to thrive and wreak havoc there, making things worse for American troops with each passing day.

"I hate to see so many boys being killed," said Schultz, 60. "I really think it was probably wrong to go over there in the first place."

The telephone survey of 800 registered voters was conducted Jan. 4 and Jan. 5. It has a margin of error of 3 1/2 percentage points.

Concerns about terrorism among Maryland voters mirror their concerns about Iraq.

A year ago, voters said they felt Bush was making strides toward winning the war on terror. Forty percent said he was winning while 46 percent said he was not - numbers that had improved over 2003.

This year, those concerns have escalated drastically - 55 percent said Bush is not winning the war on terror, with just 36 percent saying he is.

"All this attention on Iraq has taken away from the real threats at home," said Joshua Hertel, a poll respondent from Frederick. "Instead of beefing up local police departments, we're cutting them. We're losing our eyes and ears on the ground here. That's my frustration."

Hertel, 38, is a history and government teacher at Linganore High School in Frederick. He starts his freshman government classes with a current events question each day - and they talk about everything from politics to the Asian tsunami to the war.

Hertel said he is worried about what is going to happen in Iraq once elections are held there later this month. Even though he didn't support going to war in the first place, "I'm terrified that what he [Bush] is going to do ... is have the election and say, 'OK, now it's on you.'

"Boy did we make a mess."

Beth Hamm sees something different. "I just think we need to keep terror out of this country," said the 48-year-old poll respondent from Lusby. That's why the nation went to war in Iraq, she said, and that's why she supports what is going on over there.

Her son-in-law just re-enlisted in the Army and might be sent to Iraq, said Hamm, a two-time Bush voter.

Most voters don't feel any more or less safe when it comes to terrorism compared with a year ago, the poll shows. While six in 10 said they feel no different than they did the year before, 26 percent feel more safe and 13 percent feel less safe - a similar result to a 2004 poll.

Overall, the president's approval rating in Maryland continued its steady decline from the January 2002 poll - just months after the Sept. 11 attacks when more than eight out of 10 state voters said they approved of his job performance.

Just 47 percent of Maryland voters approve of the job he is doing now, while 48 percent disapprove. In 2002, 83 percent of Maryland voters polled approved of the job Bush was doing, while just 9 percent disapproved.

Despite that fleeting popularity, the Republican president hasn't been able to sustain it. Democrats in the state hold a 2-to-1 advantage in voter registrations over Republicans and in the 2004 election, Democratic Sen. John Kerry got 56 percent of the vote to Bush's 43 percent - a few points closer than then-Vice President Al Gore's 17-point thumping of Bush in Maryland in the 2000 election.

"His overall performance is being dragged down by how severely people are looking at our involvement [in Iraq]," Haller said.

Hamm, whose late father worked as an electrician in the White House when Bush's father was in the Oval Office, feels an affinity for the president.

"I just think he's honest," she said. "He sticks by what he says he's going to do, even if he gets flak for it. He's a family man."

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