Friday, March 14, 2008

Public Opinion on the Iraq war, what is it good for?

On the one hand: BLOGGED BY Jon Ponder ON 3/13/2008 7:20AM
Poll: Success for Bush - Iraq Is Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The Iraq Occupation Received Just 1% of News Coverage in the Third Week of February
Guest blogged by Jon Ponder,
Pensito Review.
The stated objective of the Bush administration's "surge" of troops into Iraq was to suppress the violence. Its unstated purpose was to get the occupation off the radar of the news networks in order to tamp down the war as a campaign issue against Republicans in this cycle. If it bleeds, it leads. Conversely, no blood, no coverage.
In that sense, the surge can be counted as one of Bush's rare successes. According to a
new poll from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, coverage of the Iraq occupation by television news was reduced to barely a blip last month:
[ Pew] found that the number of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined this year, along with professed public interest. "Coverage of the war has been virtually absent," said Pew survey research director Scott Keeter, totaling about 1 percent of the news hole between Feb. 17 and 23.

With no coverage, the public perception of the situation in Iraq has improved:
Twenty-eight percent of the public is aware that nearly 4,000 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq over the past five years, while nearly half thinks the death tally is 3,000 or fewer and 23 percent think it is higher, according to an opinion survey released yesterday.
The survey ... found that public awareness of developments in the Iraq war has dropped precipitously since last summer, as the news media have paid less attention to the conflict. In earlier surveys, about half of those asked about the death tally responded correctly.
What was the news people cared about? Figures from Pew are hardly surprising: "During the last week in January, 36 percent of those surveyed said they were most closely following campaign news, while 14 percent expressed the most interest in the stock market and 12 percent in the death of actor Heath Ledger. In contrast, 6 percent said they were most closely following coverage of Iraq."

And on the other hand: Citing the same poll

Pew: Majority of Americans see a successful conclusion in Iraq
posted at 9:31 pm on March 12, 2008 by Ed Morrissey Send to a Friend printer-friendly
Public confidence in the Iraq war has risen to
its highest level in almost two years. Fifty-three percent now believe that the US will ultimately achieve its goals in Iraq, fifteen points higher than just six months ago, according to Pew Research:
American public support for the military effort in Iraq has reached a high point unseen since the summer of 2006, a development that promises to reshape the political landscape.
According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.
The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.
The situation in Iraq remains fluid, of course. A surge in violence or in troop deaths could lead to rapid fluctuations in public opinion. But as the war nears its fifth year, the steady upturn in the public mood stands to alter the dynamics of races up and down the ballot.
Congressional Democrats seem to have already figured this out. They recently approved the entire appropriation request for operations in Iraq without making hardly a peep about it. It’s no coincidence that it’s the first time in two years they haven’t tried to hold it hostage for a retreat.
The big question will be how this affects the presidential race. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have campaigned on their commitment to withdrawal, especially Obama, who has tried to position himself to Hillary’s left. That made sense in the beginning of the primary campaign, when the surge had yet to begin and the violence appeared to overwhelm the American mission in Iraq. Now, however, it looks more like a senseless surrender with success in reach.
It’s not just Republicans, either. Half of all independents now believe that the US needs to remain in place until the gains in Iraq have been secured. The one presidential candidate arguing that policy also happens to be the Senator who spent the last three years arguing for a better counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. John McCain already had significant appeal for centrists and independents, and this makes his case even stronger.

I think Morrissey can only sustain his conclusion as long as Americans are ignorant or wrong on the facts of what is going on in Iraq. And so what else is new?

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