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Public backing for war falls

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LONDON (Reuters) - Public support for the war against Iraq has fallen for the first time since the conflict began, an opinion poll shows.

The YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph also revealed a growing feeling among people that the war was going to take much longer than they initially believed and that British and U.S. troops were not doing as well as expected.

Most opposed the war before the fighting started but recent polls showed public opinion swinging behind Prime Minister Tony Blair, who gambled his political future on a conflict that has split his party and country.

The poll, conducted on Sunday, found 54 percent believed it was right to take military action against Iraq -- down from 59 percent on March 27.

Those surveyed said the most inaccurate statements made about the war before it started were that the southern city of Basra would fall swiftly, that the invasion would spark popular uprisings and that Iraqi resistance would crumble fast.

With the war entering day 12, Basra is still in Iraqi hands, resistance has been unexpectedly fierce and there is little sign of a popular uprising against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Most of the 1,004 people polled said they believed Iraqis wanted to see Saddam toppled but still viewed U.S. and British troops as enemies.

Fifty six percent said they now believed it would take a few months to defeat the bulk of the Iraqi army, against 37 percent on March 27 when more people were optimistic the war could be concluded within a month.

People were also less positive about the progress of the war so far with 30 percent saying they felt it was going "fairly badly" compared with 10 percent on March 23.

A similar survey in the United States showed that more than half of Americans believe their government was too optimistic in its assessments of the probable course of the war in Iraq.

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