Monday, January 10, 2011

Public Support for War With Iraq

I've made the point in the past that only 33% of the American people supported the invasion of Iraq without UN authorization, and my source for that is here. The right wing war mongering American Enterprise Institute has compiled the results of various polling questions regarding the war and that is available here. It's interesting to note that the AEI basically confirms my prior claim. But the AEI has an additional question that is worth considering, which is on page 6. Would you support the invasion of Iraq without UN authorization but with the support of one or two major allies? Since of course Britain did support the invasion (despite public opposition) this question more accurately reflects what happened. The results were as follows:

Jan. 3-6, 2003 PSRA/Newsweek - Support: 47, Oppose: 45
Jan. 16-17, 2003 PSRA/Newsweek - Support: 39, Oppose: 52

As you would expect more people did support war with the support of a couple of additional states but without UN authorization than supported with the US acting alone.

But what makes this all the more remarkable is that 2/3 of the American people were under the false impression that Saddam was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks. According to the University of Maryland 69% believed this falsity. Despite this they opposed Bush's invasion when it occurred. After it commenced though the public did rally in support as the public typically does in such cases.

My memory is that Bush did not explicitly state that Saddam was responsible for 9/11 or had links to Al Qaeda. But did he intentionally conflate Saddam and OBL, such as during the 2004 debates when he "accidentally" said one when he meant the other? As is well known, Foxnews viewers are more likely to have pro-war misperceptions. They would be expected to get a more steady diet of such conflations.

Well, that's impossible to prove and speculative. But it's interesting how tepid support was despite the widespread belief that Saddam had attacked the US.


HispanicPundit said...

This matches my recollection of the events as well, both were true: the general support for the Iraq war, atleast given one major powers joint support, seemed high and the false belief that Saddam was responsible for 9/11.

Jon said...

Support with one major power was high? The poll that was closer to the initiation of the war had 39% in support and 52% in opposition to the war with the support of a major power. You call this high support?

HispanicPundit said...

I dispute the 39%. My memory was that it was high. Even here in liberal California. In fact, most, if not all, of the liberals I knew at the time also supported the war.

In fact, most of the liberal bloggers and pundits that now vehemently oppose the Iraq war supported it at the time. That seems high to me.

What I would really like to see is a poll of the views of Americans after we tried to get UN approval and it was evident that Germany and France (or was it just France?) wouldn't budge. Thats the real important poll, and thats the one that matters - it's also right before the invasion, so calls of patriotism don't count either.

Even hawks tended to want to attempt UN support and to get the backing of others. The question is what would the American people do once we saw that we were blocked from doing so? I remember that was the turning point for many. But absent are the polls during that critical period.

It was after that that Bush decided to go it "alone" - without UN support.

Jon said...

The link I provide related to Foxnews discusses later polls from February in the run up to war. The results are pretty much the same. For those that thought Saddam was directly involved in 9/11 (about 25% of the population, note this is a different question than is involved in the 69% figure I cited in my post because that one includes those that believed it was "somewhat likely" that Saddam was involved in 9/11) only 58% of this 25% of the population supported war without UN authorization. That means between 12 and 14% of the whole population. Support drops off amongst those that think there are Al Qaeda/Saddam links, but Saddam was not involved in 9/11, less for those that think it "somewhat likely" that Saddam was involved, and lowest amongst those that think there was no link. The overall rate of support is still pretty much the same. Assuming all groups represent equal slices of the population you're at about 37% support for war without UN authorization in the run up to war.

You can either believe your memory or the data.

HispanicPundit said...

But I am not asking for "without UN authorization". Even I, the hawk that I was back then, wouldn't have supported war in such circumstances.

What I am asking about is that sweet spot after the attempt to get UN approval failed. The general US public (falsely or not) believed that France hijacked the conference and was being stubborn. I wonder what the support for the war was THEN. That was still before the actual invasion.

Do you remember when that happened? The UN attempt failed?

Jon said...

That's like a 3 day window. The US abandoned UN efforts on March 17 and invaded just a couple of days later.

On the other hand Powell's speech was in early February, and the polls that I referred to were done in February. The US initiated a resolution to authorize war on Feb 15, but this was followed by the largest protests that ever occurred in the history of humanity in opposition. It would be known pretty early the prospects of these actions.

The evidence, such as it is and imperfect as it is, all points in the same direction. You say the perception was that France had hijacked things. I wouldn't say that was the perception. I would say that was the story offered by US media. Foreign media was all over Collin Powell's speech and how it was laughable. This story wasn't told in the US. So yeah, the corporate media blamed France, but that's not the same as saying that the public agreed.

This much I think is clear though. Whatever support for war there was, it was buttressed by misconceptions. If France was perceived to be the problem that's another media generated misconception. An informed public wouldn't possibly have supported what was done. My contention is that even with the misleading elements the public still did not support war. That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from the data. The contrary conclusion you offer is based on what you're hearing in the media, but that's very tainted. Even so called liberal media was dancing to the war drumbeat. Remember that Donahue was fired from MSNBC because of the "unpatriotic" face he offered for their channel. His ratings were as good as any other show on that channel.