Does public opinion have a say in the decision to go to war?

I was watching ABC world news just a while ago and they had the latest poll for american support of going to war with Iraq.

I tried to find the poll on ABC news website for a cite, but couldn’t find it- if you watched it, back me up on this one? Better yet if you can find it, post a link… (please forgive my lack of resourcefulness)

But anyway, the poll said that 66% of americans support military action as of now. The number dropped to 50% when asked if they support war without UN backing.

Now for the discussion:

  1. Do you think public opinion plays a role in our decision to go to war? - If yes, proceed to next questions…
  2. Do you think that these numbers are high enough to go to war?
  3. Do you think this poll is a crock and the numbers are in error?

Since we are not a ‘democracy’ per se, I say no. We elect politicians to do what they feel is best, not to try to second-guess public opinion. If we don’t like what they feel is best, we can always not vote for them next time around.

As an aside, how do we know what is ‘public opinion’? Polls are generally unreliable. How the question is asked, where it asked, and other factors can all easily skew the numbers. Internet polls border on useless, as far as a true expression of public sentiment goes.

  1. I think poll numbers play some role, but would hope that our elected leaders will do what they think is best for the country and for the world.

  2. I think the amount of support is quite high by historical standards, at a time before the President has definitely said he is going to war. Obviously, once we go to war, the per cent supporting war will rise sharply.

  3. I have no reason to doubt these numbers. However, I was visiting with a friend last night who has moved far to the left. She was stunned to hear that I supported going to war. She said, “Everyone I know opposes going to war.”

Exactly what december said. (Sheesh – three times in one week! The Second Coming is nigh! ;))

I do not believe that Iraq constitutes a significant threat to us, nor is it IMHO supplying the terrorists (and this is not the thread to argue that in), so I am opposed to going to war – at least until either my knowledge of the situation or the situation itself changes. It is my right and responsibility as an American citizen to let my views be known to my elected representatives, including the President.

Once we as a nation have embarked on a war, it becomes incumbent on me as a good citizen to support my country in its decision to do so.

The President and Congress should be guided by public opinion, but must never become mere conduits of it – we chose the people we considered most competent to represent us, and they are entrusted with the power to make the decision. (I’ve also noted that John Edwards, my moderate Democratic Senator, supports the President on this issue, and my judgment is that he would not do so without confidential information he is declining to make public, for probably excellent reasons. That helps to guide my views, to a certain extent.)

Public opinion is a very very bad way to make any decision about war.
Many will not listen to reason, they just put their hands over their ears and chant no more war.(this fits their self-image)
Others have so much hatred that they want war on certain states no matter what.(nuke all Arabs etc)
Still more just go with whatever others around them are saying.(stay popular!)
What do you think of the population’s knowledge of world affairs?How many even know where Iraq is?Should they be allowed to vote for war on this basis??
Suppose the gov. was against war & the people were in favour - should the president say “well we know it’ll all end in tears but if thats what you want, you got it - fire up the bombers!”
Remember most people in the UK & in the US were against war with Germany.
They were wrong.
Also the pres does listen to opinion to some extent - he needs to to stay in power.But thats as far as it will go.

I agree with **Polycarp. **

I’ve learned a lot more about the situation in Iraq over the last couple of days that I’ve spent immersed here in GD, but I’m still not absolutely convinced that actual war is the right thing. I absolutely believe that Saddam Hussein needs to be taken out of power some way, but I’m just not quite sure yet that war is the way to go. I’m still in the “are you SURE there’s not a better way?” phase.

Of course, if war is declared, I will support the troops. I may not agree with the war itself, but I’m sure not going to slam the soldiers for doing their jobs.

But I don’t think that actual public opinion has a whole lot to do with the decision. Like **december, ** nearly everyone I know is opposed to war as well. But it’s mostly for reasons like mine–they’re not sure that there’s no better way, and they’re not all keen on the idea of troops shooting at each other when the threat isn’t really coming from said troops–it’s coming from Saddam Hussein (I know a lot of people who are against this war, but not one of them thinks that guy should even be in charge of an ice cream cart, let alone an entire nation).

It’s a tough call. But I’m pretty certain that there’s information that I just plain don’t know, and will never be privy to, that leads me to believe that those in office will make the right decision, when it needs to be made.

Public opinion matters insomuch as the country’s will to fight depends on it. If a Dictator, King/Queen or some other godhead ruled us it would depend on their will and not the general population.

We can enter into battle but the battle must end before the people’s will diminish.

As much as we might like to think that our elected leaders are above mere “poll numbers” you can bet your bottom dolar that Mr Bush is looking at them. 50% might seem low, but he knows support will go up if we go to war, and stay up if it turns out OK. Doesn’t have to be great, just OK. If the polls were going 75% against the war, Bush would not be pushing so hard.

Of course there is a good chance the war will NOT go OK. Or, rather, the aftermath of the war.

Of course, isn’t this entirely dependent on the kind of people you know and hang around with, the circles you run around with? I mean, if you hang around with conservative-minded people, then you’re likely not going to meet a lot of people to go to peace marches and if you hang around with liberal-minded people, then you are likely not going to find a lot of war supporters.

But “Everyone I know opposes (a) war” or “Everyone I know supports going in and kicking saddam’s ass as soon as possible” dosen’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things.

Given what we know of the current december and inklings that you have given of the past december in some threads, I wonder if what we have here is a case of “relative velocity”! :wink:

Is this a general question or one that applies to a specific case?

There have been times when public opinion had some say as to whether we went to war. The only one that I can cite for sure was the Second World War, when we were kept out until Pearl Harbor changed public opinion. Problem is that there is overwhelming opinion that waiting to get into that war was a mistake. I’m assuming that the OP is looking for a case where public opinion against a war kept us out of a war. That actually would be hard since if the war didn’t happen then it was a non-event. I don’t know enough about it, but possibly public opinion kept us from going to war with Cuba.

There certainly is no law saying public opinion is to be considered. In the current example, war with Iraq, my opinion is that the war is almost as sure as death and taxes. The stage is set and unless a miracle saves the day, we will be going to war, before it gets hot in the desert. We will not back down and Saddam will never admit he’s run out of cards to play. Regarding the OP another reason to do it soon is before public opinion turns more against the war. So in that sense, public opinion may play a role.