As Americans continue to watch the evacuation and the distressing images from Afghanistan, they decry the poor execution of the withdrawal. Two-thirds (68%) in the latest Economist/YouGov poll believe it has been handled badly and most of them (69%) blame President Joe Biden for it. As for the war itself, more think it was a mistake in the first place than do not.
A majority of Democrats (55%) – and even more Independents (76%) and Republicans (84%) – describe the evacuation as having been handled badly.
Few people who think the evacuation has been handled badly blame others besides Biden: About half hold responsible Biden advisers (48%), one in three blame the Afghan former government (37%) and army (35%), and one in four blame the U.S. military (23%).
Democrats are more likely to lay blame at the feet of both the US and Afghan militaries, and the former Afghan government, while being less likely to hold Joe Biden responsible (42%). Republicans, by contrast, overwhelmingly blame Biden (87%), and few consider the US military or the Afghan army or former government to be responsible.
Blaming the president for the poor execution of the evacuation has affected American opinion of Biden’s management of the (now ending) war in Afghanistan in the last week. Half the country now disapproves of how he is handling Afghanistan, up nearly 10 points in the last week.
The President’s overall approval rating remains fairly stable (46% approve, 44% disapprove), with no decline in this poll. It has barely budged since two weeks ago (46% vs 43%).
Some of that stability may be due to the public’s continuing approval of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic (47% approve, 41% do not), and some may be due to the perception that involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake from the beginning.
Four in ten (42%) now call the war in Afghanistan a mistake, while 32% disagree. Democrats see it as a mistake by more than two to one (56% to 22%). Republicans still tend to think the war was not a mistake, by 43% to 32%, while Independents are closely divided. As for whether withdrawing troops now is a mistake, there is an even split overall: 39% say it is a mistake and 38% say it is not.
Does the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan put the U.S. in danger? Most see the Taliban resurgence as a threat to the U.S., and many want the U.S. to have nothing to do with them. Less than one in four support negotiations with members of the Taliban; only 7% want to engage in trade with them. Some see real danger. Just under a quarter (23%) now see the chances of a major terrorist attack on the U.S. in the next year as “very likely,” up four points in the last week. Republicans are especially concerned.
But nearly one in four this week (and last week) aren’t sure. In addition, the level of concern about a terrorist attack remains lower today (23%) than it was in January 2020 (29%).
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between August 21 - 24, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample.