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US public's support of Iraq war sliding faster now

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On the eve of the conflict, Gier had reservations about the reasons for going to war. "I supported the president's decision because I kept thinking that he must know more than we do."

Democrats and independents with similar doubts before the war trusted President Bush far less, making support from both groups softer. But the partisan divide in public opinion – evident almost from the war's onset – has also helped Mr. Bush carry those who trust his leadership through evolving justifications for the war, says Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego.

"There's a huge partisan division on the war, and it's far larger for this war than for any previous military engagement going back to World War II," says Dr. Jacobson.

Republicans form a large majority of the 40 percent of Americans who stand by the decision to go to war, versus the 54 percent who do not, according to the Pew Research Center in Washington. Until recently, GOP support has held fairly steady in the face of the long exodus of independents and the early departure of Democrats.

In an address Monday, Bush urged Americans to be patient. The mission to help the Iraqi government secure its capital will take months, and fewer than half the troop reinforcements being sent have arrived in Baghdad, he said.

The presidential plea isn't likely to carry much weight with Keith Fraser, a Demo- crat whose support for the war faded long ago. "I wasn't a strong believer for very long, probably that first year," says Mr. Fraser, a retired naval officer in Swanzey, N.H. "I really look back upon it as being a very naive time for me."

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