A new survey shows more Americans now believe the war in Iraq will make the U.S. less, not more, safe from terrorism, representing a reversal of public opinion in recent weeks.

The survey, conducted by pollster Scott Rasmussen for Rasmussen Reports, found 41 percent of Americans now believe the U.S. is a more dangerous place since the war in Iraq. Just 39 percent, meanwhile, think that the war will make the U.S. safer in the long run.

Member of 101st Airborne aims a Humvee-mounted TOW missile before firing. [DoD photo]

“Those numbers represent a significant decline from earlier in the year,” said the survey. “In April, while Operation Iraqi Freedom was in progress, 50 percent of Americans believed the war would make the U.S. safer, while 32 percent said it would make our country a more dangerous place to live.”

The number of Americans who believe President Bush is handling Iraq effectively has also slipped. The poll said just 44 percent believe the president is doing a good or excellent job in Iraq, down from 62 percent four months ago. A majority – 52 percent – now give Bush a fair or poor rating regarding Iraq.

The data is from a national telephone survey of 1,000 adults conducted Aug. 24 and 25 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

The survey comes on the heel of reports earlier this week that said the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq since the end of the war May 1 have exceeded those killed during the campaign.

Since the war began March 20, about 280 American military personnel have been killed in Iraq. But despite ongoing guerrilla warfare and mounting casualties, Bush said Tuesday the U.S. would not be driven out of Iraq.

Speaking in St. Louis to the 85th annual convention of the American Legion, Bush said the current struggle in Iraq was a “point of testing in the war on terror.”

“[Terrorists] have declared war on the entire civilized world,” he said. “The civilized world will not be intimidated. Retreat in the face of terror would only invite further and bolder attacks. There will be no retreat. We are on the offensive.”

Despite increased pessimism of the progress of the war, Rasmussen said the number of Americans who believe the U.S. is winning the war on terror has remained stable. According to the latest figures, 49 percent say America is besting terrorism, while 25 percent say the terrorists are winning.

Though casualties are mounting, administration and Pentagon officials say the U.S. will not send more troops to Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday troop levels in Iraq currently meet commanders’ needs, despite calls from some in Congress to dispatch more American forces.

Rumsfeld said Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid, who is in charge of operations in Iraq, has told him the number of troops in Iraq is “appropriate at the present time for the tasks that he has,” Reuters reported.

“There are some recommending that more U.S. forces go in. I can tell you that if Gen. Abizaid recommended it, it would happen in a minute. But he has not recommended it,” Rumsfeld said.

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