Two-thirds of Britons back Blair action

War on Terrorism: Public Opinion
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The Independent Online

Almost two-thirds of Britons want"surgical" air strikes against countries harbouring terrorists, although there is less support from women than men, according to a poll published yesterday.

The survey showed that voters have been impressed with the Prime Minister's reaction to the crisis but have far less confidence in the American President. Britons remain cautious about George Bush's role in managing the crisis. In contrast to the 65 per cent approval rating for Tony Blair, only 37 per cent said they were confident in the judgement of the American leader.

The poll of 3,000 people carried out by YouGov for The Observer revealed that British women are more reluctant about air strikes on Afghanistan. Three-quarters of men are in favour of air attacks but this falls to 55 per cent among women, according to the survey. Fifty-three per cent of men believe Britain should contribute troops to the "war against terrorism", while only 36 per cent of women are in favour of such military action.

Sixty-three per cent of British voters believe Britain is now "at war" with terrorism and 65 per cent support the use of targeted "surgical" air strikes against countries harbouring terrorists.

The approval for Mr Blair's response to the crisis is likely to be greeted with relief by Downing Street strategists, who had worried that support for military action against the perpetrators of the attacks on America might begin to wane.

Britons' reluctance to endorse President Bush is not shared by those in the US, a separate poll revealed yesterday. Ninety per cent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the crisis, the highest approval rating for an American leader since polls began.

The Gallup weekend poll of 1,005 Americans showed that 82 per cent favoured direct military action in Afghanistan, while 13 per cent disapproved and 5 per cent had no opinion.

Ninety per cent of those surveyed were convinced that it would be a long war, and 95 per cent said it would be difficult to win, the poll said.

It also showed confidence in the US economy, despite a slump that was clearly exacerbated by the attacks. Sixty per cent of those polled were "extremely" or "very" confident that the US economy would be prosperous in the long term, while 31 per cent were moderately convinced.

In the UK poll, only 27 per cent backed the use of "massive" air strikes on countries knowingly harbouring terrorist organisations.

Sixteen per cent thought it "very likely that the present crisis would lead to an all-out war in the Middle East", while another 53 per cent thought it was "quite likely".

Seven in 10 said they would be prepared to see some erosion of their civil liberties to help improve security in Britain.

Some 55 per cent wanted the Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, brought into the cabinet committee overseeing the crisis.