updated 9/1/2006 7:49:06 AM ET 2006-09-01T11:49:06

Doubts about the war on terrorism are growing. Most people worry that the cost in blood and money may be too high, and they don’t think al-Qaida kingpin Osama bin Laden will ever be caught, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, fully one-third of Americans think the terrorists may be winning, the poll suggests. Worries fed by the war in Iraq have spilled over into the broader campaign against terrorists who directly target the U.S.

Half in the poll question whether the costs of the anti-terror campaign are too great, and even more admit that thought has crossed their mind.

Those costs are already high:

More than 2,600 U.S. troops dead in Iraq, more than 270 dead in Afghanistan and roughly 20,000 wounded in both countries. More than $430 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other costs overseas, and more than $250 billion for domestic security.

Increasing skepticism is not surprising to Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Sept. 11 commission.

“I think what you’re seeing now is a pushback,” said Hamilton, who noted he still considers the terror threat an urgent problem. “Since 9/11, the security folks have won all the arguments. People are beginning to see that security is a very expensive business. ... We’re seeing some rebalancing of the scales.”

But that shift may be unrelated to any reduction in the threat.

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding out somewhere in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the conflict in Iraq is edging toward civil war and terrorists are still attempting attacks, as evidenced by the alleged plot, recently foiled by the British, to blow up airliners in the sky.

Embarrassed by the U.S. image abroad
The AP-Ipsos telephone polling of about 1,000 people found:

  • Less than half, 46 percent, are confident that bin Laden will ever be caught — down from 67 percent in December 2003.
  • More than four in 10, 43 percent, say they’re embarrassed by the U.S. image overseas.

The big question for Karen Brown of Gainesville, Va., is whether the U.S. efforts are making a difference.

“Things are moving very slowly and not going very well,” said Brown, a freelance writer in Northern Virginia. “There’s Osama bin Laden still running free. We’re deeper into Afghanistan and deeper into Iraq. I don’t see any end to it.”

Not everyone agrees the war in Iraq is central to the war on terror, as the Bush administration maintains. Six in 10 polled think there will be more terrorism in this country because the U.S. went to war in Iraq. Some feel strongly that the two wars are separate.

“They’ve been successful in the war on terrorism as long as you distinguish between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism,” said Eva Washington, a semiretired nurse from Washington, D.C. “We allowed Iraq to become a home to terrorists by going over there.”

And they are divided about whether they are losing personal freedoms, according to polling done between Aug. 7-17 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

“I think there’s a fatigue about the price of doing these activities,” said Robert Blendon, a specialist in public opinion at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “There’s also a concern about the competency of how well we’re doing them.”

Political divisions apparent
Some of the divisions are from political differences. For example, Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to think the cost of the terror fight may be too high and twice as likely to think Iraq is making terrorism worse. And this comes when the nation has gone five years without an attack — possibly making the terror war seem less urgent to some.

Popular support for the war on terror helped neutralize opposition to the Iraq war for a long time, said political analyst Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. “Now the negative effect of Iraq is dragging down support for the war on terror,” he said.

Objections to the U.S. policies include invading Iraq without sufficient support from allies, faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction and holding “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo for many months without trial.

Some say they’re worried that terrorists are recruited faster than they can be captured or killed.

“I am very concerned that if you get one terrorist faction, then another one steps up,” said Carla Sanda, a meeting organizer from Las Vegas. “I’m very concerned this is going to be the world my grandchildren are going to be faced with.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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