By Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — American support for a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan continues to erode rapidly and has now hit a new low, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center in Washington.
The poll, taken from April 4 to 15, found a decline of support among independents, Republicans and Democrats.
Notably for the U.S. political parties, it shows nearly as much erosion among voters who say their presidential choice is still undecided as among those who are committed to voting for President Obama.
The survey, of 1,494 adults, showed that 59 percent of swing voters now support a rapid troop pullout, compared with the 65 percent among committed Obama voters.
American support for withdrawal has grown because of a sense that after 10 years, the multibillion-dollar effort is failing to stabilize Afghanistan, several polls have shown. There has also been growing dismay among Americans with the Afghan government, which is seen as corrupt and anti-American despite its heavy reliance on U.S. tax dollars.
Thirty-two percent of Americans now say the United States should keep troops in the country until the situation stabilizes, while 60 percent favor withdrawing them as soon as possible. In May 2011, Americans were evenly divided.
While Mitt Romney, the leading Republican presidential candidate, has criticized Obama for setting a timetable for troop withdrawal, the poll shows a rapid decline in GOP support for keeping the troops there much longer.
For the first time in a Pew survey, the results showed that as many Republicans favor removing the troops as soon as possible (48 percent) as support keeping them there until the situation is stabilized (45 percent). As recently as a month ago, 53 percent of Republicans favored keeping the troops there longer, while 41 percent wanted a quick withdrawal.
Thirty-eight percent say the effort is going very well or fairly well, while almost half (49 percent) say it is going not too well or not at all well.
While the Obama administration has committed itself to pulling all combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, some senior administration officials have been signaling that U.S. disengagement may accelerate.