By Bill Nichols, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — In the wake of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, President Bush is seeing improvement in public confidence that the Iraq war is winnable, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.
The new poll found that 48% believe the United States probably or definitely will win the war, up from 39% in April. It also found that 47% believe things are going well in Iraq, up from 38% in March.
The survey, taken Friday to Sunday and released Monday, also showed Bush's approval rating going up to 38% from 36% earlier this month and an all-time low of 31% in May. The poll news came as Bush and members of his Cabinet met at Camp David to discuss ways to help the recently formed government in Iraq.
POLL RESULTS: President Bush, War in Iraq, terrorism, religion
"Good news makes people feel better," says political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "This is the first break the president has gotten in about 18 months."
Still, 51% say the war was a mistake. Rothenberg and other analysts cautioned that long-term public confidence will grow only if the death of Zarqawi is followed up by increasing Iraq's stability.
"Unless there is clear, sustainable progress in Iraq, these numbers will be just a brief blip," says Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute think tank.
Rothenberg said that even minor improvements in Bush's poll numbers create an "openness" that may allow the White House to press its message more successfully. "It's hard to deliver good news with the public in a foul mood," he said.
At the presidential retreat in Maryland, Bush and his aides discussed redeveloping Iraq's oil industry, tracking down the remnants of Zarqawi's network and pressuring nations to follow through on $13 billion in aid. Bush declined to make predictions about U.S. troop withdrawals. "Whatever we do will be based on the conditions on the ground," he said
Also this week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to hold its first full-scale debate about the war since it began in 2003. The debate, scheduled to begin Thursday, will center on a Republican resolution stating that the United States must prevail in Iraq and in the global war on terrorism.
Other poll highlights:
• Fifty-three percent said the killing of Zarqawi was a "major achievement."
• Twenty percent said Zarqawi's death will reduce insurgent attacks in Iraq; 30% said insurgent attacks will increase.
Contributing: Richard Benedetto at Camp David.
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