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New Survey Shows Americans Still Divided Over 2003 Iraq War

FILE - The Iraqi Ministry of Planning burns after being hit by a missile in Baghdad in March 20, 2003. U.S. forces launched their long-awaited war against Saddam Hussein, targeting him personally with a barrage of cruise missiles and bombs as a prelude to invasion.

A new survey shows that Americans are still divided about whether the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the correct action.

Fifteen years after the war began, nearly half of Americans — 48 percent — say the decision to use military force was wrong, while slightly fewer — 43 percent — say the decision was the correct course of action, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

There is a wide gap in views between Republicans and Democrats, with 61 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying the decision to use force was correct, while only 27 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believing that.

The Pew Research Center has tracked the views of Americans about the Iraq war over time and has found that people’s opinions have fluctuated greatly during the past 15 years.

A few days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Americans overwhelmingly supported the war, with 71 percent agreeing with the decision to use military force. Only 22 percent of the public at that time said it was the wrong decision.

Just a year later, public support for the war had fallen to 55 percent, and by early 2005, American opinion on the war was equally divided, with 47 percent in favor, and 47 percent against. The popularity of the war hit a low in early 2014, when only 38 percent of Americans said it was the right decision, while 50 percent said it was the wrong one.

The Pew Research Center also tracked Americans' opinions on whether the United States achieved its goals in Iraq, and found a similar downward trend. Today, the majority of Americans — 53 percent — say the United States “mostly failed” in achieving its goals in Iraq, while 39 percent say the United States succeeded. These views are largely unchanged from early 2014, according to the survey.

Partisan differences about whether or not the United States succeeded in its goals is less stark than the partisan divide over the decision to go to war. Forty-eight percent of Republicans, and 30 percent of Democrats say the United States mostly succeeded in achieving its goals in Iraq.

The Pew Research Center conducted its survey from March 7-14, questioning 1,466 adults.