18 January 2006

Boston Review Poll on War

During the first week of November, Boston Review polled 1170 people(.pdf), asking them about their political affiliation and then questions about war --- both Iraq and Afghanistan specifically, and general questions as well. It will come as little surprise that over 75% of those surveyed thought it was not "a mistake" to invade Afghanistan; nor is it shocking that 60% considered the Iraq war was not worth fighting. Of course, a higher percentage of Republicans (94%, 84% in favor, respectively) than Democrats (59%, 04%) supported both invasions. The 4% number seems quite low to me. Granted, I don't personally know any self-identifying Democrat in favor of the war, but I'm tempted to think the number is higher than that. If it's not, Democrats in Congress ought to come up with a plan rather quick.

Yet, these numbers aren't what I found most fascinating. The poll turns abstract, asking questions about situations in which they are likely to support the use of US military troops. A majority Democrats and Republicans would support the use of troops to: "destroy a terrorist camp;" "intervene in a region where there is genocide or a civil war;" and "to protect American allies under attack by foreign nations."

A majority of Republicans support military intervention for four of the six rationale. The two in which they'd prefer to defer: "to ensure the supply of oil" at 40.9% and "to help the United Nations uphold international law" at 35.5%. Democrats enter in at 10.2% and 70.5%, respectively.

I'm not entirely sure what, if anything, to make of these numbers. In fact, as Henry at Crooked Timber writes:
As I interpret these results (and I acknowledge that they could be interpreted in various ways), Democrats are more likely than the earlier numbers suggest to favour such interventions – but only if they’re in accordance with international law. The interesting question – which we’ll never know the answer to – is how Republicans and Democrats would have responded to these questions in 2000 or even in late 2001. I suspect that Democrats would have been more likely than today to favour intervention to spread democracy, but that very few Republicans indeed would have been favorably disposed to actions of this sort.
That statement seems mighty accurate to me. My guess is that the sands have shifted a great deal over the past five years, but I would not go so far as to say that this is their final movement. I venture that it will be a while before Democrats, and perhaps Independents, support military intervention without concrete knowledge of where and why the troops will be used. Of course, I'm sure someone wrote the same thing after Vietnam, too.


Blogger Amy Archer said...

speaking as a professional, what to make of these numbers is:

not a damned thing.

The basic rule of interpreting polling is that the results are, at best -- and only 19 times out of twenty, -- a snapshot of public opinion within a range of about 6 percentage points.

18 January, 2006 16:48  
Blogger W A Hurd said...

I'm certainly not going to disagree with you, especially seeing you're a professional. Thank you for lending some expertise to us amateurs.

18 January, 2006 16:58  
Blogger Friedrich Hobbes said...

You can check the polls conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. They do not divide the information according to democrat/republican, but elite/masses. However, there might be some ability to compare data. There is also polls done in Europe (of course there is always the Eurometer). While I'm not sure on the methodology of the Boston Review's poll, the procedures followed by the CCFR are quite good and well documeted. Of course polling is simply a horrible way to conduct politics, but it manufactures an "objective" reality that dazzles people (and admittedly can be useful).

20 January, 2006 15:57  

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