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Divided Opinion on Handling of Afghanistan Withdrawal

Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021

Public split on Biden job performance

West Long Branch, NJ – Most Americans agree with the U.S. leaving Afghanistan, even if many think the actual withdrawal was seriously mishandled. Still, few believe that postponing the pullout would have improved the situation, according to the latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. The poll also finds a dip in public sentiment that the country is heading in the right direction and evenly divided opinion on President Joe Biden’s job performance.

Biden currently holds a job rating of 46% approve and 46% disapprove. His approval number has declined since April (54%). This drop has happened among all partisan groups. The president gets a positive rating from 86% of Democrats (95% in April), 40% of independents (47% in April), and 5% of Republicans (11% in April).

The percentage of Americans who say the country is headed in the right direction (29%) versus the wrong track (65%) has become more negative since July (38% right direction to 56% wrong track). The right direction rating hit an eight-year high in April (46%), but has declined since then. The current reading is similar to the results for this metric just after the November election (26% right direction and 68% wrong track).

“Most Americans approve of ending the war in Afghanistan, but the images of a disorderly withdrawal did not help Biden at a time when the rise in Covid cases is already unsettling the public,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Americans are divided over whether Biden seriously mishandled the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan (48%) or if he did the best he could in a bad situation (49%). At the same time, only 29% believe the current Afghan situation would have been better if the U.S. had postponed the withdrawal deadline until later in the year. Most Americans (62%) say the situation there would be the same no matter when we withdrew. Among those who feel Biden mishandled the situation, 47% say it would have been better if the U.S. pushed back its deadline while 42% say the situation would have been the same regardless.

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) approve of the decision to withdraw the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Just 27% disapprove. Approval for this policy decision, regardless of how the actual pullout was handled, comes from about 3 in 4 Democrats (76%) and independents (72%) but just under half of Republicans (47%).

“Donald Trump actually teed up the decision to withdraw, but Republicans are divided about the policy. It’s not a stretch to imagine this partisan split on making the call to leave Afghanistan would have been flipped if the move happened under the former president’s watch,” said Murray.

About one-third of the public (32%) says it is very likely that the Afghanistan withdrawal will lead to a foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the next few years, and another third (32%) say this is somewhat likely. More Republicans (59%) than independents (31%) and Democrats (10%) feel that a terrorist attack arising from the U.S. leaving Afghanistan is very likely.

The poll also finds the public’s job rating for Congress stands at 22% approve and 65% disapprove. Congressional approval had been hovering between 30% and 35% at the beginning of the year, but dropped in June (to 21%). The current reading is in line with Monmouth polls through most of the Trump years, when approval ranged between 16% and 25% except for two 32% marks in the early months of the pandemic last year.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 9 to 13, 2021 with 802 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.Do you approve or disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing as president?

  TREND:Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Approve46%48%48%54%51%54%
Disapprove46%44%43%41%42%30%
(VOL) No opinion8%8%9%5%8%16%
 (n)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)

2.Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

  TREND:Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Approve22%23%21%35%30%35%
Disapprove65%62%65%56%59%51%
(VOL) No opinion13%15%15%9%11%14%
 (n)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)
  TREND: Continued
Nov.
2020
Early June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020

Dec.
2019

Nov.
2019

Sept.
2019

Aug.
2019

June
2019

May
2019

April
2019

March
2019

Jan.
2019
Approve23%22%32%32%20%24%22%23%21%17%19%20%24%23%18%
Disapprove64%69%55%55%69%62%65%64%68%71%69%71%62%68%72%
(VOL) No opinion13%9%13%13%11%14%13%13%11%13%12%9%14%9%10%
 (n)(810)(807)(808)(857)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Approve23%17%19%17%18%21%16%17%18%19%19%25%23%
Disapprove63%69%67%71%72%68%65%69%69%70%68%59%66%
(VOL) No opinion14%14%14%12%11%11%19%15%13%11%13%16%11%
 (n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedSept.
2016*
Aug.
2016*
June
2016*
March
2016
Jan.
2016
Dec.
2015
Oct.
2015
Sept.
2015
Aug.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Jan.
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Approve15%14%17%22%17%16%17%19%18%18%19%21%18%17%14%
Disapprove77%78%76%68%73%73%71%71%72%69%71%67%70%73%76%
(VOL) No opinion8%9%7%10%10%10%12%11%11%12%10%12%11%11%10%
 (n)(802)(803)(803)(1,008)(1,003)(1,006)(1,012)(1,009)(1,203)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,003)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

3.Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

  TREND:Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Right direction29%38%37%46%34%42%
Wrong track65%56%57%50%61%51%
(VOL) Depends4%3%3%2%4%3%
(VOL) Don’t know2%4%3%2%2%4%
(n)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)
  TREND: Continued
Nov.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020

Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

March
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020
Right direction26%27%22%18%21%33%30%39%37%37%
Wrong track68%66%72%74%74%60%61%54%57%56%
(VOL) Depends4%4%4%5%4%4%5%4%6%6%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%3%1%3%5%3%1%1%
(n)(810)(867)(868)(867)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Right direction32%30%30%28%31%29%28%29%35%35%40%33%31%37%
Wrong track56%61%61%62%62%63%62%63%55%57%53%58%61%57%
(VOL) Depends8%7%6%8%6%4%7%6%7%6%3%5%6%3%
(VOL) Don’t know4%2%2%2%2%3%3%2%3%3%3%4%1%3%
(n)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Aug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction24%32%31%35%29%30%24%28%23%27%23%28%
Wrong track66%58%61%56%65%65%66%63%68%66%69%63%
(VOL) Depends7%4%5%4%4%2%6%5%5%5%5%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%3%5%2%3%4%3%3%2%3%4%
(n)(806)(805)(1,002)(801)(801)(803)(1,012)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

4.Which of the following comes closer to your view of how President Biden handled the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan – he did the best he could in a bad situation or he seriously mishandled the withdrawal? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]


Sept.
2021
Did best he could49%
Mishandled the withdrawal48%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(802)

5.Regardless of how it was handled, do you approve or disapprove of the decision to withdraw the U.S. presence in Afghanistan?


Sept.
2021
Approve66%
Disapprove27%
(VOL) Don’t know7%
(n)(802)

6.Do you think the current situation in Afghanistan would have been better if the U.S. had postponed the deadline for withdrawal until later in the year, or do you think that the situation in Afghanistan would be the same no matter when we withdrew?

 
Sept.
2021
Better if postponed29%
Same no matter when62%
(VOL) Don’t know9%
(n)(802)

7.How likely is it that the withdrawal from Afghanistan will lead to a foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the next few years – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

 Sept.
2021
Very likely32%
Somewhat likely32%
Not too likely20%
Not at all likely11%
(VOL) Don’t know6%
(n)(802)

[Q8-25 held for future release.]

[Q26-39 previously released.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 9 to 13, 2021 with a national random sample of 802 adults age 18 and older. This includes 281 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 521 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field), Dynata (RDD sample), and Aristotle (list sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
26% Republican
41% Independent
33% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
30% 18-34
32% 35-54
38% 55+
 
63% White
12% Black
17% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
70% No degree
30% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs