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Poll shows just how eager many Americans are to exit Afghanistan

Despite the wording of the poll's question, a plurality of Americans effectively said, "Terrorist, schmerrorist, let's get out of Afghanistan."

One of the keys to polling analysis is how specific questions are worded. If respondents are asked, for example, "Do you approve or disapprove of Sen. John Doe's job performance?" you'll get one set of results.

But if a survey asks respondents, "Do you approve or disapprove of Sen. John Doe, who's been accused of being a corrupt, lying bastard?" you'll get a very different set of results.

With this in mind, Politico's Sam Stein, an MSNBC contributor, this morning highlighted a question from the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll:

"Do you believe the U.S. should still withdraw its military presence in Afghanistan if it means it creates an opening for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to establish operations in Afghanistan?"

Before we get to how the public responded to this, it's worth dwelling on the amazing wording of the question itself. It's easy to imagine the phrasing eliciting a specific response: those responding to the poll are being introduced to the idea that withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan may invite terrorists to take root in the country.

That the question specifically referenced al Qaeda, shortly before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, adds additional weight to the scale. The wording practically echoes a negative campaign ad. [Update: See below.]

And yet, 45% of respondents said they still support withdrawing from Afghanistan, while 40% oppose withdrawing "if it means it creates an opening" for terrorists.

In other words, despite the wording of the question, a plurality of Americans effectively said, "Terrorist, schmerrorist, let's get out of Afghanistan."

I'm mindful of the fact that President Biden's public standing took a hit after the Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan and Americans saw brutal images of chaotic conditions in Kabul. But if this Morning Consult/Politico poll accurately reflects public attitudes at all, it's reminder of just how eager many Americans are to end the longest war in U.S. history.

Postscript: I should also add that Sam Stein seemed eager to note that he was not responsible for the wording of the question.

Update: The Morning Consult/Politico poll is now available online. An initial question asked respondents, "As you may know, President Biden announced the start of a withdrawal of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beginning May 1, with all troops returning home by September 11, 2021. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose President Biden’s decision?"

On this point, 50% supported withdrawal, while 39% were opposed.

It was the next question that examined attitudes further, asking whether Americans would still support withdrawal if it meant creating an opening for terrorists. This was the context for the survey; the above text has been edited for clarity accordingly.