Public Agenda, in its March 27 update, said that a substantial majority of U.S. citizens support the decision to go to war in Iraq. ?Yet in the weeks prior to the outbreak of war, opinion surveys showed significant concern about the risks of invasion, with much of the public seeming to hold both pro- and anti-war views simultaneously. Go to www.publicagenda.org or click "read more info" below for the full text of this announcement. Public Agenda?s Special Edition on Terrorism is at www.publicagenda.org/specials/terrorism/terror_pubopinion6.htm
Public Rallies Behind Leaders on Iraq But Aware of Risks
Substantial majorities support the decision to go to war in Iraq, surveys found after hostilities began last week. Support for military action had been gaining over the past month, and the public historically rallies behind their leaders in a crisis, particularly when the crisis involves sending U.S. troops into battle. Yet in the weeks prior to the outbreak of war, opinion surveys showed significant concern about the risks of invasion, with much of the public seeming to hold both pro- and anti-war views simultaneously. Polling in the last few days suggests that the majority of Americans, despite their support for President Bush and the troops in the field, do not believe the administration has "clearly explained" the potential financial and human costs of the war.
Large majorities say the war is going well for the U.S. (84 percent in the latest Gallup poll), but there is some indication that concern over casualties is growing. The number who told the ABC/Washington Post poll that there would be "significant" casualties jumped from 37 percent on March 20 to 54 percent on March 23, while 82 percent said they anticipated a difficult battle for Baghdad. Eight in 10 also said they believe the U.S. is doing "all it reasonably can do" to avoid civilian casualties.
Yet there is some evidence that the public mood has shifted somewhat as people respond to events and intensive media coverage. The CBS/New York Times poll, which has been tracking the same group of respondents since the war began, found the number who say the war will be "quick and successful" has shifted from 62 percent down to 43 percent and back up to 56 percent in just over a week. It's certainly possible (and hardly surprising) that victories and defeats on live television may sharply affect short-term poll results, without affecting the public's underlying support for and concerns about the war.
Read the full article in our Special Edition on Terrorism at: www.publicagenda.org/specials/terrorism/terror_pubopinion6.htm