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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, July 21, 2003

I Will Have A Better Day Tomorrow

Or soon. From both Dan Drezner and the CalPundit, we have this from Dr. Drezner:

The power of the critique against Bush would be strengthened if it could be shown that a significant fraction of the American public -- as well as the legislative branch -- supported action against Iraq only because of the claim that Hussein's regime had an active nuclear weapons program.

Well, I have just begun! But it is a fairly grim beginning. Here we have a Pew Research Center survey from January 16, 2003:

Public Wants Proof of Iraqi Weapons Programs
Majority Says Bush Has Yet to Make the Case

Summary of Findings

A two-thirds majority of the public continues to express qualified support for the idea of using military force to end the rule of Saddam Hussein. But the Bush administration may face a major challenge in winning public support for the use of force if U.N. weapons inspections yield anything less than evidence that Iraq has been hiding weapons of mass destruction. Only about three-in-ten Americans say they would favor war in Iraq if no weapons program is discovered, even if there is no proof that Iraq is not hiding weapons.

I am not going to add emphasis, you can figure out for yourself what the juicy bits are.

And, reading from their table, I see that 76% support war if UN inspectors find WMDs; support eases slightly to 28% if UN inspectors cannot find weapons, but also cannot be certain that there are none.

[Sidebar: "eases slightly" is a technical term I learned from my broker a few years ago; it means, roughly, "I meant to call last week". ]

Now, I should mention that I have been taking a very similar position to Tom Friedman and Dan Drezner on this issue, so I am hoping to see Drezner Ascendant! And, in the hope of achieving that, let me suggest some interpretations of this poll:

(1) What poll, it never happened. OK, that won't work, and no more clowning around.

(2) People respond to the question being asked. This poll was framed in terms of WMDs, so people agreed that not finding them was significant. If the pollster had asked about Iraq as a human-rights disaster, respondents might have shown a similar reduction in support for the war if
evidence of human rights violations was not found.

Convincing, huh? It makes sense, now if only I had even a little bit of evidence to support it. Otherwise, we have another faith-based initiative.

Which has worked for me (so far), but has obviously left some folks troubled.

UPDATE: Any more help like this and Dr. Drezner is going to enlist me in the French Foreign Legion. From the useful ABC News Poll Vault, I found a summary, with more detail in the WaPo. I will excerpt question 10:

10. Say the United States has circumstantial evidence suggesting that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but the United States does not have direct evidence proving it. Do you think circumstantial evidence, without direct evidence, would or would not be enough to justify going to war with Iraq?

Would be enough - 42% / Would not be enough - 52%.

This seems to compare to baseline support for a war to remove Saddam from power (Question 3) of 61% in favor, 31% opposed.

Which sort of suggests that about 20% of respondents were focusing on WMDs.

And here is another interesting summary, but I haven't found the details.

What Factors Affect War Support?

Respondents in this poll were asked, in an open-ended question, why they support or oppose war with Iraq. Among those who support war, 40 percent cited a threat — to the United States or the world in general — including a threat of terrorism. A quarter also spoke of a need to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Among those who oppose it, top answers were a lack of justification, a need for more international support, other problems here at home, and the human cost of war.


Here is reaction to Powell:

Powell's presentation appears to have been particularly compelling on the assertion that Iraq possesses chemical and biological weapons. Seventy-eight percent of those who watched or heard about the speech say the United States has "strong evidence" of this; among non-watchers, 60 percent think the United States has strong evidence.

Seventy-eight percent of speech-watchers also think the United States has shown strong evidence of Iraqi non-cooperation; that compares to 66 percent of non-watchers.

Somewhat fewer see strong evidence that Iraq is trying to develop nuclear weapons — 64 percent of speech watchers, and 56 percent of non-watchers. And Powell appears to have had the least impact in asserting links between Iraq and al Qaeda; 50 percent of speech watchers see strong evidence — almost the same as it is among those who didn't watch or hear about Powell's presentation. (Previous ABCNEWS polling has shown, however, that most Americans do think such a link exists.)

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