WASHINGTON - More than half of Americans support President Barack Obama's apology for the burning of the Noble Qur'an at a US base in Afghanistan, a new poll has found.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 56 percent of Americans backed Obama's apology for the Qur'an burning in Afghanistan.
Twenty-three percent of those polled opposed the apology.The poll showed that far more Democrats supported Obama's apology, with 76 percent of them saying Obama made the right decision.
Only 37 percent of Republicans backed the apology, and almost half said Obama was not right to do so.
Some 53 percent of independents supported the apology for the Qur'an burning.
More than 30 people were killed in a week of protests in Afghanistan over the burning of the Qur'an at the Bagram airbase in Kabul last month.
Seeking to calm the Afghan anger, Obama sent a letter of apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, describing the incident as a mistake.
But the apology has brought the American leader under fierce criticism from Republicans.
Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich described the apology as an outrage for the US president to apologize.
Rick Santorum, who also seeks the Republican Party nomination to run against Obama in the November election, also criticized the apology, saying there was nothing deliberately done wrong here.
But Obama rejected the criticism, saying the apology has helped to calm things down in Afghanistan.
Muslims consider the Qur'an the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy.
Similar incidents in the past have caused deep divisions and resentment among Afghans towards the US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Seven foreign UN workers were killed during protests that raged across Afghanistan for three days in April 2011 after a US pastor burned the Qur'an in Florida.
The survey also revealed that most Americans want the Obama administration to bring US troops home from Afghanistan.
Sixty-six percent of those polled said that Washington should bring its troops home immediately.
In keeping with calls from Capitol Hill, Democrats surveyed professed even less support than Republicans for a continued US presence in Afghanistan.
Some 76 percent of Democrats said US troops should be withdrawn immediately, compared with 53 percent of Republicans.
Seventy percent of independents favored an immediate withdrawal from the Asian Muslim country.
The poll, conducted from March 2 to March 5, included 1,143 Americans interviewed online. The poll had a credibility interval of 3.4 percentage points.
Obama's formal apology and the debate that decision created have underscored the delicate course the president must tread in his campaign for re-election in November.
Afghanistan and other foreign policy issues are sure to take a backseat to the economy in the campaign but Obama is loath to give Republicans more ammunition in the crucial months before the elections.
Obama plans to pull all of the 33,000 troops he deployed in 2009-10, credited with turning around the long-neglected campaign in Afghanistan, by this fall, leaving around 68,000 US troops.Most foreign combat troops are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.