(WASHINGTON) — With fewer than 4 in 10 Americans approving of President Joe Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, there is overwhelming bipartisan support for keeping U.S. troops in the country until all Americans and Afghans who aided the United States during the 20-year war have been evacuated, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds.
Although President Joe Biden has held firm that all U.S. troops must be out of the country by Tuesday, regardless of whether the evacuation mission at hand is complete, Americans broadly disagree, according to the poll.
The poll was conducted using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel and all interviews were completed after the terrorist attack at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport that left at least 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghans dead. Hundreds more were wounded in the attack, which an affiliate of the Islamic State, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for.
More than 8 in 10 (84%) Americans think U.S. troops should remain in the country until all Americans are evacuated, and just over 7 in 10 (71%) think they should stay until all Afghans who helped the United States are evacuated as well.
Breaking from the typical polarization that characterizes public attitudes, support for U.S. troops staying is strikingly consistent across party lines. Among Republicans, Democrats and independents, overwhelming majorities — 87%, 86% and 86%, respectively — believe U.S. troops should not leave until all Americans are out of Afghanistan. The partisan gap is also negligible for keeping troops in Afghanistan until all Afghans who aided the United States are evacuated, with 77% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats and 70% of independents saying troops should stay until that happens.
Speaking about the attack Thursday, Biden said the mission’s danger is why he’s “been so determined to limit the duration” of it.
“The sooner we can finish the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops,” the president said Tuesday, two days before the suicide bombing. “Every day we’re on the ground, is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.”
In a statement Saturday afternoon following a meeting with his national security team, Biden said U.S. troops are continuing to evacuate civilians amid “extremely dangerous conditions,” warning that another attack is “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.” Earlier Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued an alert similar to the one issued roughly 14 hours before Thursday’s terrorist attack warning of security threats at the airport, telling all U.S. citizens to avoid the area or “leave immediately” if at the gates. In the evening, the U.S. embassy issued an updated warning of a “specific, credible threat” at the airport.
Fewer than 4 in 10 (38%) Americans approve of the president’s handling of Afghanistan — 17 points lower than the share who said they approved of Biden’s handling of the U.S. troop withdrawal in a July 23-24 ABC News/Ipsos poll.
While Sunday’s ABC News/Ipsos did not measure Biden’s overall approval, FiveThirtyEight’s tracker averaging presidential approval polls showed his approve-disapprove ratings were even for the first time during his term, converging at 47%-47% as of Friday.
But the public’s disapproval of his handling of Afghanistan has not influenced their views on other issues, according to the new ABC News/Ipsos poll. A strong majority (64%) approve of how Biden is responding to the coronavirus pandemic, which is virtually identical to the findings in July’s ABC News/Ipsos poll. Biden also enjoys high approval (62%) for his handling of rebuilding U.S. infrastructure.
A majority (55%) of the American public also approves of his handling of the economic recovery; 53% approved in July’s poll. About 4 in 10 (41%) approve of his handling of immigration and the situation at the southern border, compared to 37% last month.
On his handling of gun violence and crime, issues that track closely with one another, about half of Americans disapprove — 52% and 50%, respectively. But this actually represents an improvement since July, when 61% of Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of gun violence and 58% disapproved of his handling of crime, according to the July ABC News/Ipsos poll.
For each issue, at least two-thirds of Democrats approve of how Biden is handling them. His highest approval ratings among his own party are for his handling of COVID-19 (91%), infrastructure (91%) and the economic recovery (89%), and his lowest approval ratings — each at 67% — are for his handling of the border, gun violence and Afghanistan.
Among the key group of independents, approval ratings track closely with the results among the public overall for each issue.
Fewer than a third of Republicans approve of Biden’s handling of each issue, but he gets the highest marks for his handling of the pandemic response (32%). On his handling of Afghanistan, only 1 in 10 (11%) Republicans approve, his lowest mark of the issues polled.
While two-thirds (67%) of Americans are at least somewhat worried about a major terrorist attack in the United States, Republicans are more likely to be concerned than Democrats and independents, 80% compared to 59% and 65%, respectively.
But even after the deadly terrorist attack in Kabul, the public has a lower level of concern for a major terrorist attack at home than during other times in recent years when it was measured by ABC News/Washington Post polls. In October 2014, about 7 in 10 (71%) of Americans were worried about an attack in the United States; in January 2015, about three-quarters were worried; and in September 2016, the last time this question was asked in ABC News polling, nearly 8 in 10 (78%) were worried.
A majority (56%) of Americans also feel that the end of the United States’ military presence in Afghanistan makes no difference in how safe the nation is from terrorism. Over a third (36%) feel this makes the United States less safe from terrorism, but again, Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to think it makes America less safe, 59% compared to 21% and 36%.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs’ KnowledgePanel® Aug. 27-28, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 513 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.9 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31%-24%-36%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.
ABC News’ Dan Merkle and Ken Goldstein contributed to this report.
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