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The war and public opinion

Posted by Richard on December 12, 2005

The other day, I surmised that Hillary will try to remain hawkish if she can figure out how to get the nomination without pandering to the anti-war crowd:


I’m sure that she and Bill have looked beyond the superficial poll stories about "waning support for the war" and examined some of the polling "internals."

To see what I meant, look into last week’s CBS News / NY Times poll (link to PDF). On the surface, the results look bad for supporters of the Iraq campaign. The poll found that 58% of those surveyed thought the U.S. should set a timetable for troop withdrawal, and that’s the result most widely reported. But if you dig deeper into the poll results, you find that it’s not quite that simple:

  • 46% believe withdrawing our troops will lead to more violence in Iraq and 40% believe it will lead to more terrorism against the U.S.
  • 61% agree with Bush’s statement that removing our troops now would be "a recipe for disaster."
  • 41% think Iraq is a major part and 12% think it’s a minor part of the war on terrorism. Only 43% think it’s not part, down from 51% a year ago.
  • If their representative called for immediate withdrawal, 21% would be more likely to vote for him/her, but 36% would be less likely.

The polling data reveal a great deal of pessimism about Iraq — and remarkably low numbers for how well the administration has explained its goals and justified its policy. But, they also suggest that Americans are — at the least — conflicted or confused.

And mind you, this poll sampled adults. Not registered voters, much less likely voters, but merely adults. That’s the sample most likely to return anti-Bush and anti-war results (and least likely to be well-informed). And this pessimism, confusion, and conflicted thinking comes after months of the most blatantly biased, relentlessly anti-Bush and anti-war news coverage imaginable.

We’re only a few days from parliamentary elections in Iraq, and all indications are they’ll go as well as the preceding rounds. Sen. Lieberman has again returned from Iraq full of good news about how the war is going, confirming what those of us who don’t rely on Reuters, CNN, et al, for war news already knew. My guess is that support for the war will increase over the next six months to a year, assuming three things happen:

  1. The administration continues its recent efforts to better make its case.
  2. The parliamentary elections go well and the new government turns out to be reasonably functional.
  3. The war-fighting itself continues to go well.

I’m moderately optimistic about #1 (now that Rove is no longer distracted by the Plame nonsense) and #2, and quite optimistic about #3. I’m pretty certain that a clearly anti-war Demcratic candidate for President in 2008 would end up like McGovern. I suspect Hillary thinks so, too.

Even Howard Dean and the party leadership seem to be having second thoughts about staking their future on the Murtha "pull out now" strategy. Thus Dean, in the course of the week, flip-flopped from insisting that the war couldn’t be won to claiming that it can and must be won, and that the Democrats have a plan to accomplish that.


I wonder if it’s the "secret plan" that Kerry had?

UPDATE: You think the Republicans don’t know how to hit back? Check out their latest "web ad," "Retreat and Defeat," at Then ask yourself — or them —  why this is only a "web ad" when it should be airing on broadcast television nationwide. Why do these people have so much trouble doing PR?

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