Among the few things that Democrats and Republicans agree upon these days is that the rapid and chaotic departure of U.S. troops after a 20-year military occupation of Afghanistan was a disaster on many levels. A new I&I/TIPP Poll asks Americans the question: “Who, besides the Taliban, bears the most blame for the recent tragedy in Afghanistan?”
The answer came back loud and clear: The largest share of voters, 40%, blame President Joe Biden. A smaller yet still significant share, 23%, blame Donald Trump. The other choices included Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (2%), Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (2%), and the U.S. intelligence agencies (10%).
The September data come from the monthly I&I/TIPP poll, conducted by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence. The online poll of 1,305 adults was taken from Sept. 1 through Sept. 3, as events unfolded in Afghanistan after the U.S.’ departure. The poll, part of a broad new public opinion collaboration between Issues & Insights and TIPP, has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 points.
The shockingly rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban following the ill-timed U.S. departure led to 13 Americans killed in a terrorist bombing, thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies stranded in the country with no way out, and billions of dollars in U.S. arms and equipment in the hands of the Taliban.
The fast-developing events have led to serious public opinion and image problems for the Biden administration, both in the U.S. and abroad.
But that’s not to say that public opinion is monolithic. Indeed, Republicans and Democrats are, as is often the case, nearly perfectly split in how they assign blame for the Afghan debacle.
While, overall, 40% of Americans say they blame Biden, just 19% of Democrats do. Instead, 40% of Dems blame Trump.
Not surprisingly, Republicans and independents assign the blame somewhat differently. Of Republicans, 73% blame Biden for the Afghan mess, while 38% independents do. But 20% of independents finger Trump as responsible.
Among the other significant results:
- The second-highest response wasn’t “Trump,” but “Not Sure,” which garnered 22%. Among those giving this answer, 27% of women said they were unsure, as opposed to just 17% for men. A similar divide could be seen between Dems (22% “Not Sure”), independents (26%) and Republicans (14%).
- Blacks and Hispanics apportioned blame equally between Biden and Trump. Each received 27%.
- The U.S. Intelligence Community was No. 3 in being blamed, at 10%. But here, too, was a political split: Both Democrats (13%) and independents (11%) were far more likely to blame our nation’s spy agencies than were Republicans (6%).
- Despite being in charge with executing Biden’s Afghanistan policies, neither Austin nor Blinken garnered much blame among Americans, who appear to see withdrawal as a largely presidential failure. None of the 21 demographic and regional groups broken out in our data gave more than 5% to either Austin or Blinken.
Meanwhile, a number of other recent polls, including opinion surveys by FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics, and a Washington Post-ABC News poll, all show sharp increases in Biden’s disapproval ratings, a troubling sign for a presidency not yet eight months old.
Meanwhile, criticism of Biden by some former Obama administration officials and the media has at times been fierce. That includes the mainstream media, many of which seemed taken aback by the rapid unraveling of Afghanistan’s regime and the quick capture of the capital city of Kabul by the Taliban.
The question of whether Biden can weather the storm over his handling of Afghanistan, or whether it will cripple his administration, is an open one. COVID-19, rising inflation, massive new spending, and an enormous rise in illegal immigration across our southern border had already substantially weakened Biden’s presidency in the eyes of many Americans.
Will the Afghanistan debacle, for which a plurality of Americans blame Biden, be a final blow?