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Making Sense of the Iraq War Polls

by JOHN WALSH

 

The media was howling full force over Michael Jackson on June 13, so the results of the new Gallup poll on Iraq registered barely a ripple, and that mostly on the back pages of a few newspapers in the provinces. Gallup asked: “Which comes closest to your view about what the U.S. should now do about the number of U.S. troops in Iraq: the U.S. should send more troops to Iraq, the U.S. should keep the number of troops as it is now, the U.S. should withdraw some troops from Iraq, (or) the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Iraq”? The answer:

Send more: 10%;

Keep the same number: 26%;

Withdraw some: 31%;

Withdraw all: 28%.

Bottom line is that 59%, or 6 in 10, Americans want troop withdrawal from Iraq ­ starting now.

There are several notable features of this poll, other than its absence from major papers, including the New York Times (where Michael Jackson was front page news along with yet another in the interminable run of puff pieces on the emergence of conservatives on college campuses), the LA Times and the virulently pro-war Washington Post. First, a prodigious majority has elected the withdrawal option, although it is scarcely mentioned in the news nor does it cross the lips or laptops of the punditry. Despite this, the people have decided for themselves that they want us out of Iraq. Second, this number, 59%, is up from 46% last January. Third, the least popular option in this poll, viz, sending more troops (10%) which has been least popular since Gallup first asked this question in August, 2003, is the stance of the Democratic leadership! When John Kerry ran for president, he was for sending 40,000 more troops, as was the “anti-war” Howard Dean, and that remains their stance to this day. So the Democratic leadership has managed to adopt a stance on the war less popular than Bush’s ­ quite an achievement.

In fact Gallup also asked: “If President Bush were to send more troops to Iraq, would you be upset or not?” 56% said they would be upset, up from the still substantial 40% last September before the U.S. Presidential election.

Are you surprised that Kerry lost the election? You have to hand it to these Dems; they are men and women (let’s not forget Hillary) of principle. Having voted for a criminal and illegal war, they are willing to sacrifice as many Iraqi and American lives as necessary to win that war ­ as long as their children are not part of the carnage.

Gallup deserves credit for asking the question about withdrawal and doing so in honest fashion. Not so the Pew Poll, released on the same day, which recorded that 46% of the American people favored withdrawal. Why the difference between Gallup’s 59% and Pew’s 46%? Easy. Pew simply asked a loaded question:

“Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible”?

This question is biased in the extreme. If one is for withdrawal, in the universe of this query, then one must be against “stability,” which ranks right up there with motherhood and apple pie in the lexicon of respectability. Surely the pollsters know this.

Let’s put the question another way to show the bias: “Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq despite the fact that many more Americans will be killed and badly wounded, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible”? But even with the question loaded by the Pew pollsters, 46 % called for withdrawal.

Gallup, alone, as far as I can see asks the withdrawal question in a reasonably fair fashion. In addition to the Pew, other polls like the LA Times and the NBC/Washington Post fall into the category of the loaded question. But on the scale of “how low can you go” some pollsters don’t even ask about withdrawal. The ABC/Washington Post, released a week earlier (June 8) to considerable attention in the media, queried extensively on Iraq, no surprise since Iraq and the economy are the main issues weighing on people’s minds, according to the poll. It found that majorities think:

the war was not worth fighting (58%);

the number of U.S. casualties is unacceptable (73%);

the war has not contributed to the long-term security of the U.S. (52%);

the U.S. is “bogged down” in Iraq (65%); and

the Bush administration has no clear plan for withdrawing from Iraq (65%).

Notice that the poll comes right up against the “w” word (“withdrawal” not “dubya”), even daring to utter it. But the poll does not ask respondents about their opinion on withdrawal. What makes this strange is that the ABC/Washington Post used to ask this question but did not do so this time around. I placed a call to a number of people at the Post about this, getting only one answer. The person to whom I spoke, a relatively junior one, I believe, acknowledged that the decision to drop the question was quite conscious, but the reasons he gave for so doing made no sense to me. Further he admitted that the question should be asked since it was on everyone’s mind!

That left me even more puzzled. Given the Post’s rabid embrace of the war on Iraq, one is entitled to ask if this question been squelched from above.
A footnote on Pew: Perhaps unwittingly, Pew uncovered the following in their poll last February in the heat of the hype over the Iraqi “elections.” The Pewsters asked whether people followed closely or fairly closely the following: The current situation in Iraq (84%), Social security (67%), Michael Jackson’s trial (25%). Like the Gallup, this poll showed that Americans are not mindless about the war on Iraq as some of the worthies on Air America radio splutter at times; Americans are very concerned, more so than over Michael Jackson trivia or the nauseating gruel served up as politics by the Democratic “opposition.”

Despite the reluctance or outright distortion of the pollsters, the ice is beginning to break on the question of withdrawal from Iraq. But we need to ask ourselves why the anti-war movement has not made greater strides, given the strong public support for withdrawal. More on that later.

JOHN WALSH can be reached at bioscimd@yahoo.com.

Some additional interesting information can be gleaned by the last LA Times poll even though its query on Iraq is in the form of the loaded question. See: http://www.latimesinteractive.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com. He is a founding member of “ComeHomeAmerica.US”.

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