updated 6/11/2004 9:03:14 AM ET 2004-06-11T13:03:14

A majority of American registered voters polled from across the nation now say conditions in Iraq did not merit war, but most are reluctant to abandon efforts there, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll.

Voters are increasingly concerned that Iraq is a quagmire America cannot escape, and they are doubtful that a democratic government will be established there, according to the poll published in Friday editions of the Times.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said the situation in Iraq did not merit war, while 43 percent said war was justified. When the same question was asked for Times polls in March and November, the numbers were precisely reversed.

But less than 20 percent said America should withdraw its troops within weeks, and 25 percent said the U.S. should set a deadline for pulling out.

“I never thought we should go to war in Iraq,” said Anne Wardwell, a retired museum curator in Cleveland. “But I think we have to see it through, because if we don’t, it is going to be a disaster in the region.”

Voters’ mounting worries about the war have damaged their confidence in President Bush, the poll showed. Forty-four percent said they approved of Bush’s handling of the war, compared to 51 percent in March.

The poll, which was conducted from Saturday to Tuesday, surveyed 1,230 registered voters nationwide. It had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Forty-one percent approved of Bush’s handling of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, while 37 percent disapproved of his performance.

A majority of voters said presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has done little to help: The poll found that 34 percent said Kerry has not offered a clear plan to handle the war, while 15 percent said he has. The other voters said they didn’t know.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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