Americans support the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan

A majority say that the costs of the war were not worth it

The author(s)
  • Christopher Moessner Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, September 3, 2021– Just one in three Americans say the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, and a majority support the decision to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan. At the same time, a majority disapprove of the Biden Administration’s handling of the withdrawal and believe the administration was unprepared for the events that transpired along with the withdrawal, such as the collapse of the Afghan army and the Taliban’s quick takeover.

Detailed findings:

Overall, 64% of Americans support the decision to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan. However, this masks deeper divisions across partisan lines – 81% of Democrats support the decision to leave, compared to 43% of Republicans.

  • Republicans opposed to the withdrawal are more open to extending the conflict, with 55% saying that they would be willing to have U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan for “as long as it takes,” in contrast with the 32% of Democrats who say the same.

Yet just 43% of Americans approve of how Biden handled the withdrawal of U.S combat forces. At the same time, a majority agree that the administration was unprepared for the fallout of the withdrawal, such as the rapid encroachment of the Taliban.

  • Again, partisans are split around the administration’s handling of the withdrawal – 70% of Democrats approve, compared to 11% of Republicans.

There is strong bipartisan support for evacuating some Afghans, with the highest level of support for those who aided the U.S. and allied forces (81% of Republicans and 86% of Democrats support this).

  • However, there is slightly less support for evacuating those who are in imminent danger from the Taliban (73% support) and even less for those who are not in imminent danger but hope to seek asylum in the U.S. (47% support).

Overall, 63% of Americans say that the benefits of fighting the war in Afghanistan were not worth the costs to the U.S.

  • Americans are split on the merits of the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan, with 26% saying that the U.S. should never have gotten involved in the first place.

Veterans and active duty military members’ views on the withdrawal vary somewhat.  While a majority of veterans and active duty military members support the decision to withdraw, active duty personnel are slightly more in favor than veterans (65% of active duty service members support withdrawal versus 56% of veterans).

  • 42% of veterans say that the war in Afghanistan was “worth it”, versus 34% of active duty personnel.

For full results, please see the attached annotated questionnaire

About the Study                                                      

This Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Ipsos poll was conducted August 23 to August 26, 2021 by Ipsos using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,924 general population adults age 18 or older with oversamples of Vetererans, active duty military, and young adults age 18 to 24.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and party identification. The demographic benchmarks came from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) from the US Census Bureau, except for metropolitan status which came from the 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS). The weighting variables and categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–24, 25-29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (Less than High School grad, High School grad, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Language proficiency (English proficient, Bilingual, Spanish proficient, Non-Hispanic, not asked)
  • Veteran/Active duty military status (Yes, No)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.29. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP

The author(s)
  • Christopher Moessner Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs