Who are the 15%? (Bush ratings discrepancy)

I am stumped. According to the CNN Gallup poll, 58% of Americans disapporove of the way Bush is handling the war in Iraq, only 40% approve.

Yet 55% of Americans approve of his “handling” of terrorism, with 41% disapproving.

The poll also showed that half of Americans do not view Iraq as having anything to do with the “war on terror”.

There has to be some overlap between these people, obviously. So here’s what I don’t understand…what the hell do the people who don’t approve of the Iraq war but do approve of the way he’s “handling” the war on terror see him doing that they approve of, exactly? (To my eyes, the only thing that he’s done that he * claims * has anything to do with fighting terrorism is go to Iraq, which has actually increased terrorism and anti-US feeling.)

Can anyone provide insight here?


Perhaps they approve of the Patriot Act.

Residual sympathy, plus a (misguided) sense of patriotism, they feel its somehow wrong and/or disloyal to criticize the Prez in a time of war. But they are aware enough of the facts that they can’t bring themselves to approve of the war in Iraq, but want to say something nice. So they reflect that there have been no subsequent attacks after 9/11 and credit him for that.

Another possibilty is hanging chads on the survey forms.

How many terrorist attacks have there been on US soil since 9/11/01?

Change of emphasis. We don’t suffer terror, we inflict terror.

I guess I’m one of the 15%. If someone asked me those questions that is precisely the way I’d be inclined to answer. I might not actually answer that way because I tend to answer surveys to give a message to politicians, corporations etc, but that’s probably just me. If I were to answer honestly I’d answer that way. And I’m in no way a string Bush supporter.Those sorts of discrepencies are just an inherent part of the way surveys are conducted.

Let me see if I can explain.

I certainly don’t think the war in Iraq been been well handled since the first few weeks and the initail victories. I dispprove thoroughly of the Guantanamo detentions, Abu Ghraib abuses, the ‘manufacture’ of evidence to support the invasion, lack of any clesr signs of a move towards stability and independence etc. There is no way on Earth that I could say the current administration has handled the war at all well ro the last 18 months at least. I’ll admit now that I have never supported the invasion even before it was decided, but even if I did support it in principle couldn’t honestly say it has been well handled. So of course I answer “no” to that question.

Now they ask me whether I approve of the way Bush has handled the “War on Terror”. Now the war on terror is a very nebulous concept. it’s not a real war with real enemies, it’s just a set of somewhat co-ordinated activities designed to control terrorist attacks against the US. When someone asks me that question I immediately ask myself “What is the alternative, what would Kerry/Clinton have done differently”.

And realistically I can’t think of anything. Let’s not start a debate on whether they would have been different, but to me there would have been no obvious difference. Maybe the Patriot Act/Homeland Security would have been stronger or weaker in some areas. Maybe more resources would have been allocated or the jobs would have gone to he FBI rather than some new organistation or vice versa. But to me that’s window dressing. From my perspective the current administration has taken sensible steps to fight terrorism and prevent future attacks. IMO they’ve stripped a few to many rights and liberties in the process but overall they seem to have struck a good balance between what is practically required and what is idealistically desirable.

So I can’t say that I disapprove of Bush’s tactics in fighting terrorism. And I say that because I can’t think of anything important that he’s done that Kerry/Clinton would have/should have done or wouldn’t have/shouldn;t have done in the same position. For me that amounts to approval. That’s the closest most politicians will ever come to winning my approval, they’ve managed workable solution that doesn’t suck any worse than anyother workable solution. So I have to answer “yes” to that question.

You’ll notice here that I’m effectively making a distinction between Iraq and the War on Terror sup[/sup]. That’s because I don’t see the invasion of Iraq as having anyhting to do with the War on Terror. However even if I did see them as linked I’d still not make the connection if a pollster asked me those questions. The fact that they are asked seperately somehow makes me think I’m not meant to consider Iraq in the WoT question. That may be intentional or it may be accidental, but that’s the way I read it.

If you asked me if I support the way the WoT has been handled factoring Iraq into the calculations I’d have to say “hell no”, but as the questions are presented I’d have to answer “yes”.

About as meaningful as the fact that my elephant repellent has kept elephants away. Terrorists are extremely resolute and patient. Waiting 10-20 years between major attacks would mean nothing to them. The key question is whether Bush could thwart another 9/11. I don’t think he could and I don’t think anyone could. Terrorists have all the time in the world to figure out the weakness in any defense. They will strike again no matter who sits in the White House.

Well, you don’t think he could, but that’s not the topic. We’re talking about the people who answered the poll questions and why they answered as they did. I think my explanation of the “15% discrepancy” is exactly right. And it’s also why Bush is trying ever so hard to tie the war in Iraq to the War on Terror.

I believe you are correct, John. That very likely is why the polls came out the way they did. Whether or not the lack of attacks is truly a credit to Bush or not is quite irrelevant as far as the poll is concerned.

For a start, it’s false to say there has been no terrorist attack on the US since 9/11. It’s true that there have been no Muslim guys piloting planes into landmark buildings, but have people already forgotten te anthrax attacks of October 2001? – an attack which the federal government has not solved, and for which they have implemented very expensive measures to p[revernt a future attack. Of course, it was only a few postal workers who died, and it almost certainly was not carried out by Muslims, but it does strike me as being a terrorist attack.

And then there was the Bali bombing of October 2002: not on American soil, but directed by Muslims at Americans and their Australian allies. Did Bush’s War on Terror help to prevent that one?

The Iraqi War, too, which was supposed to stop terrorism, has just become a series of terrorist incidents directed at US troops and American supporters in Iraq. That doesn’t seem to have reduced the number of terrorist incidents either – though as none are on American soil, I suppse they don’t really count.

I’d hate to see what the world would be like if Bush was actually losing the War or Terrorism.

At least several. Anthrax mailings springs immediately to mind.

True, although I think most people link them to 9/11 since they so closely followed that event. Also, I should have said “terrorist attacks linked to Islamic radicals”. The anthrax mailings have never been tied to Islamic terror groups.

We are always going to have our domestic terrorists, like John Muhammad and Lee Malvo. But the new brand of terrorism that we’ve seen in the last decade or so, Islamic terrorism originating or directed from outside the US, is what most people are going to respond to when asked about the “War on Terror”.

Then you’re forgetting the small matter of Afghanistan, innumerable “homeland security” measures, and a whole lot of hunting in and around Pakistan. You don’t have to approve of these things to see that they have absolutely nothing to do with Iraq. For that matter, the Democrats (and increasingly Republicans) have, rightly, long been criticising the conflation of Iraq with the war on terror. So I don’t see why you should be surprised that those polled do not necessarily equate the two.

Damn that Bush has a good track record. There were absolutely zero North Vietnamese airstrikes on Alabama while he was defending it during the Vietnam War.

[Nitpicking hijack]
It’s a war on terror, isn’t it? Not a war against radical Muslims.
[/Nitpicking hijack]

I don’t see the contradiction myself. Indeed, if things were different – that is, if the war in Iraq DID have anything to do with the War on Terror–then the results would be puzzling. As it is, it’s like wondering why 55% approve of Bush’s CAFTA proposals, but only 40% approve of his Social Security plan. They’ve got nothing to do with one another.

Of course, I disagree with Blake. While Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror*, Guantanamo does. And I have an easy time believing that a different president wouldn’t be so cavalier about the rights of the detainees, and would therefore be prosecuting the WoT more effectively.


  • that is, it lacks the same causes, although the Iraq war may well exacerbate the WoT.

Actually the war in Iraq is very much a part of the War on Terror. It wasn’t so before we invaded, but it sure is now. Bush was right about one thing last night-- if we were to cut and run in Iraq, that country (or part of it) would become a breeding ground for terrorists intent on attacking the US just as Afghanistan was. Right now they seem to be content (if that’s the right word to use) in doing their deeds inside Iraq. If Iraq were to break up into little fiefdoms, I have no doubt that the business of exporting terror attacks abroad would ensue very quickly.

We stirred up the hornet’s nest, and now we have to do our best to make sure they don’t have a new nest to settle into.

The ironic part (or, at least, one of 'em) is that Bush originally claimed we needed to invade Iraq to prevent it from becoming a part of the WoT:

Of course, that’s assuming Bush was being honest with us back in 2002, an assumption that only a fool would make…

Yes. These sorts of polls are not all that reliable for gauging opinons on anything more complex than straight “voting for whom” questions.

I personally know people that disapprove of Bush’s performance because they feel he has not been aggressive enough. I have never seen any media analysis acknowledge that this segment of the population even exists.