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Minnesotans favor action against Iraq

But they want approvalfrom Congress first

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- A slim majority of Minnesotans favor military action against Iraq, but three out of four said President Bush should first get congressional approval, according to a new poll.

"We're going to have to invade sooner or later, but there's enough uncertainty about what will happen that the public will feel better if Congress debates first," said Robert Lunn, an Edina resident who was one of the poll respondents.

The Star Tribune Minnesota Poll was conducted at a time when the Bush administration has ratcheted up its rhetoric against Iraq even as a growing bipartisan chorus has called for congressional involvement in any decision to invade. By late last week, administration spokesmen repeatedly assured audiences that such consultation is going to occur.

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By the numbers: 54 percent of Minnesotans think the United States should attack Iraq, while 32 percent do not. Support for an attack is strongest among young adults, Republicans and conservatives; it's weakest among older people, Democrats and liberals.

At the same time, 75 percent believe Bush should obtain congressional approval before launching an attack, compared with only 19 percent who don't believe it's a necessary step.

Results are based on the poll conducted Aug. 20-25 among 819 adult Minnesotans. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The strong desire for a congressional voice in waging war demonstrates that "everyone learned their basic civic lesson very, very well in high school: Congress declares war," said Bill Morris, a Twin Cities polltaker and longtime Republican activist. "Respect for the constitutional process is fairly well ingrained, regardless of your political orientation."

Indeed, support for congressional consultation is strong across the board, politically, demographically and ideologically. For example, seven in 10 Republicans and conservatives in Minnesota favor it, while about eight in 10 liberals and Democrats do so.

Bush's legal advisers have concluded he can launch an attack on Iraq without new approval from Congress because, they say, permission remains in force from the 1991 congressional resolution that allowed Bush's father to wage the Gulf War. In addition, they say Congress gave Bush a green light to proceed against Iraq last September when both houses overwhelmingly passed a resolution authorizing the president to strike at "those nations, organizations, or persons he determines" were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Morris and Chris Gilbert, chairman of the Political Science Department at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter said congressional involvement in the runup to the Persian Gulf War is likely to have influenced public opinion about any war with Iraq. The 1991 resolution authorizing the Gulf War was passed only after long, public debate in Congress.

"Even if the White House counsel says there's ample justification for the war, Americans know that's not enough," Gilbert said. "The debate over the Gulf War taught us that, and people are looking for someone to sign off on this."

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