Many of the hawks on this board claim that there is solid support in the US for a big ground war in Iraq. However that is only true of the plain-vanilla "military action " question. Once you ask more precise questions support is much more limited.
The latest Zogby poll is instructive especially the following questions:
“Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it included sending in hundreds of thousands of U.S. ground troops?”
47% for 45% against
“Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if there were hundreds of American casualties?”
46% for 47% against
“Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties?”
40% for 53% against.
The first scenario is about the likely plan against Iraq. The other two are plausible even if the war goes well. Put together they indicate a lack of solid support for the kind of war that is like to be fought.
Of course I have no doubt that there will a “rally behind the flag” once the war gets very close and especially after it begins. But these polls now are more instructive because they show that the Bush administration has failed to persuade a large majority that this war is worth the cost.
The questions are meaningless in a way, because nobody knows in advance what will happen. Zogby could have asked, “Would you support or oppose a war in Iraq if we could win it in under a week?” Or, “Would you support or oppose a war if that were the only way to prevent Saddam from getting a nuclear arsenal?” IMHO those are equally likely scenarios.
But, the point is, they’re speculation, just as are Zogby’s two scenarios. The real question is the plain, vanilla, “Do you support or oppose war in Iraq?” This question draws a substantial majority for “support” in the US.
Not exactly “the cost” of the war. Rather, the possible cost under certain pessimistic hypotheses.
“Rather, the possible cost under certain pessimistic hypotheses.”
Umm hundreds of US casualties and thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties aren’t “pessimistic hyptheses”. They are entirely reasonable estimates even if the war goes quite well. The Gulf War killed tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians for instance.
Not only that, but those questions have a ‘negative’ tilt. You can do the same thing with almost any question:
“Do you favor increased funding for education?” - will get you lots of support.
“Do you favor increased funding for education, if it means increasing the Department of Education’s budget to almost 60 billion dollars, requiring either tax increases or cuts in other programs?” - will get you an entirely different result, even though the second part of this question is implied in the first.
Actually I don’t consider your second education question negatively tilted . I think it gets the respondent to take seriously the costs and trade-offs which is as it should be. Same with the Zogby questions.
Note that the plain vanilla question has a majority of only 54% which is hardly overwhelming when it comes to war.
That is, 54% to 41%, which is indeed a strong majority, particularly given that our President has not quite called for war. Imagine what these numbers will be the day Bush says, “All peaceful alternatives have failed to disarm Saddam. We have no choice but to go to war.”
“That is, 54% to 41%, which is indeed a strong majority, particularly given that our President has not quite called for war”
If it was a normal bread-and-butter issue maybe. When it comes to war I think you need a much bigger majority than that. Bush hasn’t quite called for war but he has been building the case for it more than a year. You would have thought that he would have gotten more people to support a serious ground war.
My point was that it’s NOT a ‘negative tilt’ in the sense that it’s just a more accurate statement of the costs involved, which are implicit in the first question. But when you write the question to include the costs, support always drops.
I think questions like that are tendentious, and not good polling. Especially since, in the case of the specific questions mentioned, they ask about the costs, but not the benefits.
How about we ask these questions:
“Are you in favor of a war, especially if it means removing a major sponsor of terrorism in the world?”
“Are you in favor of a war if the U.S. has 41 allies supporting it?”
And rather than ask, “Are you in favor of a war even if the U.S. can not get support from the United Nations?”, ask “Are you in favor of a War in Iraq, even if France vetos a U.N. resolution?”
When one of the British papers tried that variant, they saw a 30% increase in support. But then what are you measuring? Support for the war, or anger at France?
“But when you write the question to include the costs, support always drops.”
So what? That just indicates that support for war is fickle which is precisely the point. People who solidly support the war will say yes for each of the three questions. The polls clearly indicate that there is no such support. Let me note again that the 54 support for the plain-vanilla question is far from overwhelming when it comes to war.
Question - since when is America a Democracy? The fickle public gets our chance to have our voices heard every year in November (when 1 in 5 people get off their butts and go push a few buttons) - if we don’t like what our leaders are doing we vote them out, and vote in anti-war representatives. If we don’t agree with the policies we write our congressmen or protest, but I don’t think “support” or “anti” polls hold any real clout.
These poll questions put the respondent in the position of having to kill off a known number of people to accomplish the stated goal. You could skew the poll the other way by asking something like: “If Saddam was going to murder thousands of people in the next six months, would you support a war against Iraq?”
"You could skew the poll the other way by asking something like: “If Saddam was going to murder thousands of people in the next six months, would you support a war against Iraq?”
Well one difference is that this is neither a direct cost or benefit of the war (Saddam could kill those people even with a war and maybe kill lots more) so it’s rather different from the questions asked by Zogby which are a direct result of war.
BTW note that the question about hundreds of thousands of ground troops is.just a description of the kind of war that will likely be fought and isn’t tilted against war. In fact you could argue the opposite since suggests “overwhelming force” .
Anyone who seriously believes in the war is not going to change his mind because of hundreds of American casualties or thousands or Iraqi civilians killed. Presumably all the hawks on the board would answer yes to all three questions. The fact that there is not even a majority when asked these fairly reasonable corrolaries indicates that support for the war is fickle at best.
My source for the tens of thousands of civilian casualties was a yahoo news story which I can’t find now. It probably included deaths after the war from the destruction of civilian infrastructure. Note that even your source confirms thousands of civilian deaths which is what the Zogby poll asks. So my point that the question is perfectly reasonable in light of past history remains.
But if the deaths of civilians was my concern on wheather to go to war or not, wouldn’t it be prudent to actually take out Saddam by force considering that it is cited that he, personally, killed ten times the number of civilians mainly because of our inactions and lack of support of the civilians?
Not really. The civilians killed by Saddam were also a result of the civil wars triggered by the war. Even if Saddam had been removed , Iraq could have well have become another Lebanon or Afghanistan with decades long civil war which would have taken even more lives.
Anyway looking forward to the next war there are some very scary scenarios which weren’t there last time like Saddam pursuing a scorched earth policy,destroying dams etc. Also the fact that millions of Iraqis are now dependent on the Iraqi government for food ,many of whom may starve if war disrupts the food distribution system. Not to mention the use of chemical and biological weapons. There are realistic scenarios with maybe hundreds of thousands dead.
So there is simply no way that anyone can say with any assurance that war will save more lives than it takes. The opposite seems more likely considering the fact that the no-fly zones today prevent Saddam from attacking the Kurds or Shias in any significant way.
I certainly agree that poll questions can be designed to get whatever response you want. Even if you try your best to design unbiased questions, you may not capture the essence of the public’s opinion. In absolute terms, the responses have little meaning.
But I do think they have relative value. That is, ask the same questions over time, and look at the trends.
In doing so, you will see (as has been observed above) that the American public is quite fickle on the questions - which leads one to believe that the overall resolve, in either direction, is weak.
Reading this board, you would conclude that the issues are very polar. That is, calculate a distribution of support for war and you’d end up with a bi-polar distribution. Lots of folks are hawks, lots are doves, and few are inbetween.
But the reality from the polling suggests otherwise. There are certainly some die-hard hawks and die-hard doves, but the distribution looks much more normal (bell curve). And the median value seems to shift with the wind.
For example, take a look at this transcript describing recent CNN-Time polls:
Despite all the rhetoric about “going it alone”, and not leaving US national security decisions to the UN, it would be tough to argue that the Bush administration isn’t listening to what these polls are saying.
If I were to judge Bush on his words - I’d be very scared. But if I were to judge Bush on his actions (continually going back to the UN to garner an broader international coalition), I am comforted.
Nonetheless, the longer-term downward trend in support for the war has to be very frustrating to the administration.