updated 8/20/2004 12:39:46 PM ET 2004-08-20T16:39:46

Fifty-four percent of Americans surveyed in a poll released Friday continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them before the United States invaded last year.

Evidence of such weapons has not been found.

Half believe Iraq was either closely linked with al-Qaida before the war (35 percent) or was directly involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country (15 percent).

The poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found the numbers on both questions have dropped in the face of evidence that both pre-war claims may have been false.

"Since the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee reports, more Americans have doubts and support for the decision to go to war has eroded," PIPA director Steven Kull said in a statement accompanying the poll results.

President Bush consistently equates the war on terrorism with the war in Iraq, though he has replaced his claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction with claims that Iraq had the “capability” of building such weapons.

Both the Sept. 11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee have raised doubts about pre-war claims by the Bush administration before the Iraq war.

Seven in 10 in the poll say they believe the United States went to war in Iraq based on false assumptions. A similar number say the war in Iraq has given the United States a worse image in the world.

A majority, 55 percent, say they don’t think the war in Iraq will result in greater peace and stability in the Mideast. In various polls, people have been evenly split on whether the war in Iraq was the right or wrong thing to do — a sharp drop from last winter.

The poll of 733 adults was conducted by Knowledge Networks from Aug. 5-11 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Poll details are online at www.pipa.org.

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