updated 5/11/2004 11:54:56 AM ET 2004-05-11T15:54:56

Americans appear to be evenly divided as to whether President Bush or Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry would do a better job of handling Iraq.

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A CNN-USA Today poll released Tuesday found that 48 percent of adults surveyed thought the president would better handle “the situation in Iraq,” compared with 45 percent for Kerry. In March, 54 percent of those polled thought Bush would do a better job of handling Iraq, compared with 39 percent for Kerry.

Asked whether “it was worth going to war in Iraq,” 44 percent of those surveyed said yes and 54 percent said no. As recently as late March, 56 percent of those in the CNN-USA Today poll said the Iraq war was worth it and 41 percent said it was not.

Overwhelmingly, Americans said they were bothered by the U.S. military’s abuse of Iraqi prisoners — 54 percent said they were bothered “a great deal” and 25 percent said they were bothered “a fair amount.” Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said there were “no circumstances” under which such behavior by U.S. soldiers was justified.

Sixty-four percent said they thought the abuse stemmed from “isolated incidents,” while 30 percent said they thought such abuse was a common occurrence.

The poll of 1,003 adults was taken May 7-9 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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