The Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland has published an interesting poll on Americans’ attitudes toward the war in Iraq.
My general reaction is that public attitudes seem sensible, given that the news from Iraq has been presented in an entirely negative light for the last two months. It also appears that the American public is, by and large, more knowledgeable than the pollsters, who blithely and incorrectly assert that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and there is no evidence of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. (The Liberal Law of Epistemology applies: If we say it often enough, it must be true.) Anyway, here are some of the results:
A month of “Bush Lied!” headlines has made some impact, as 32% say the Administration was fully truthful in its statements about Iraq’s WMDs; 52% say the Administration stretched the truth but didn’t make false statements; and 10%–the loyalist Democratic core–say “Bush Lied!”
Fifty-eight percent say that Iraq had WMDs before the war, and 24% say–correctly in fact, “incorrectly” according to the pollsters–that WMDs have been found.
The public has a surprisingly accurate sense of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Twenty-five percent say that Iraq was directly involved in the September 11 attacks–which could be true, but for which there is currently little evidence. Thirty-six percent say Iraq gave substantial support to al Qaeda, but was not directly involved in the attacks, while 26% say a few al Qaeda representatives visited or had contact with Iraq. Only 7% say there was no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
By a 53% to 40% margin, respondents said the reconstruction of Iraq is going “not very well” or “not at all well,” compared to “very well” or “somewhat well.” I think this is too pessimistic a consensus, but not at all surprising given that the press has reported only bad news from Iraq since the war ended.
Finally, the American public has an astonishingly accurate understanding of the number of American casualties both during and subsequent to the war.
Everything considered, 58% of respondents think the war was a good idea.
I suspect that these results are near the bottom of the news cycle. Presumably, more evidence of WMDs will be uncovered soon, Saddam and his sons will be caught or killed, interim Iraqi authorities will be established, and so on. So I think there is more up side than down side for the Administration from here on.
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