Plurality of Americans Thinks Obama Fumbled Bergdahl Deal

June 9, 2014 - 3:19 PM

A new USA Today/Pew Research Center poll found that a plurality of Americans think Obama botched the Bergdahl exchange:

Overall, 43% say it was the wrong thing for the Obama administration to exchange five Taliban prisoners for captive soldier Bergdahl, while fewer (34%) say it was the right thing to do; 23% do not offer an opinion.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted June 5-8 among 1,004 adults, finds that while this specific prisoner exchange is viewed negatively on balance, most think the U.S. has a responsibility to do all it can to free captive U.S. soldiers in general, regardless of the circumstances of their capture.

Overall, 56% say the U.S. has a responsibility to do all it can to return an American captive soldier, no matter what the circumstances; 29% say that because Bergdahl left his post, the U.S. was not obligated to do all it could to secure his release.

Concerning notifying Congress prior to such exchanges, nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that President Obama should've done so concerning this deal:

President Obama has received criticism for failing to notify Congress 30 days in advance of the transfer of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. When asked to think generally about situations like the Bergdahl president inform congress table Bergdahl exchange, most Americans (64%) say "the president should be required to inform Congress in advance of decisions like these;" just 30% say he "should have the flexibility to make decisions like these without informing Congress in advance."

And, what about the veterans; how do they feel about this exchange?

Overall, 33% of the public says someone in their household has served in the U.S. military or the military reserves at some point. Among this group, 55% say the exchange of five Taliban prisoners was the wrong thing to do, compared with just 26% who say it was the right thing to do. Non-veteran households are evenly divided (37% right thing, 38% wrong thing).

Furthermore, veteran households are somewhat more likely to say they are angry with Bergdahl (23%) than sympathetic toward him (12%), though most (57%) say they hold neither feeling toward him.

Last week, the Bergdahl deal and the fiasco at Veterans Affairs were the top stories in terms of the proportion of Americans who said they're following these stories closely.