Thursday, September 19, 2002

Popular Opinion

For the last year, opponents of invading Iraq have claimed the public does not or would not support that course of action. I’ve disagreed strongly based on polling and the evidence of Desert Storm when President Bush 41 led our nation to support a war against Iraq despite fears it could be too costly in lives.

The threat from Iraq in light of September 11, their history of obstructing us, and the leadership of President Bush 43 have combined to drive pro-invasion poll numbers up from their August nadir when opponents of war had the stage to themselves. They drove the numbers down, but never gained a majority even then. The recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows remarkable numbers in support of war against Iraq.

An aspect that is kind of funny is related to the questions on sending ground forces. I noted this to and then thought, wait, what am I doing? I have a blog (albeit one that isn’t read by very many…). I can post this.

Anyway, questions 3 and 4 ask about sending ground troops to attack Saddam Hussein. Fifty-seven percent favor sending ground troops to overthrow Saddam in question 3. Thirty-nine percent oppose it. In question 4, a higher 65% favor sending ground troops to keep Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction. A smaller 31% oppose this course of action.

The interesting part is then looking at question 8. Here, the pollsters ask what comes closer to your point of view about sending ground troops to Iraq—the U.S. should send troops only if the UN supports it; the U.S. should send them even if the UN opposes it; or the U.S. should not send them at all. Sending troops with UN support garnered 46% of those polled. Sending troops even if the UN opposes it had the support of 37%. Fourteen percent oppose sending ground troops.

Why is there a difference between questions 3 & 4 and question 8? In question 8, a total of 83% indicate support for sending ground troops under somebody’s authority—whether the UN or ourselves unilaterally. There shouldn’t be overlap here since people were supposed to pick one statement that is closest to their view. At the other end, only 14% said they would not send ground troops at all! How could people support ground troops at levels of 57 to 65 percent and then later support it at a level of 83 percent? How could opposition go from 31 to 37 percent down to 14 percent?

I believe the United Nations did it.

The United Nations is not exactly popular here. Questions 5, 6, and 7 essentially reminded those polled that the UN has utterly failed to successfully deal with Iraq over the last eleven years and is unlikely to do anything useful without America. In question 5, 80% of respondents said that the UN has not been tough enough dealing with Iraq. In question 6, 93% believe the UN should pass a resolution imposing a deadline on Iraq to submit to weapons inspections or face grave consequences. Question 7 showed that if Iraq fails to meet a UN deadline, 61% believe the UN should authorize military action against Iraq as opposed to the 35% who favored further diplomatic efforts. By the time those polled were asked quetion 8, they were primed to take out Saddam in spite of UN paralysis.

Fairly amazing. It is arguable that just being reminded by a perhaps bored, monotoned, neutral pollster that the UN lacks the spine necessary to do the job reduced opposition to sending American ground troops by 17 to 23 percentage points! Support increased by 18 to 26 percentage points! I say let the UN debate this and publicize every bit of it. By the time we go to war to overthrow Saddam, about 98% will support regime change and a plurality of 38% will support paving the entire country.

I continue to have no doubt that the United States Army is going to Baghdad.