Thursday, June 22, 2006

Don't Believe the Media or the GOP: Americans Support the Democrats on Iraq

(by Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher)You'd never know it from some of the reporting and bloviating on the debate over an Iraq withdrawal, but all major polls show that the public favors withdrawals, with strong support for a timeline or total pullout within a year.

The new efforts by Republicans in Congress, and in the media, to use Iraq to their advantage by branding Democrats as favoring a "cut-and-run'" policy, has received wide coverage in the past week. Often pundits, and even reporters, have suggested that this is working, because Americans are not in favor of a "hasty" withdrawal. Democrats are in shambles, they report, as they fear that proposals for setting a timetable for withdrawal put forward by Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John Murtha will prove disastrous for the party in the November elections, due to the alleged unpopularity of this stance.

This conclusion, however, flies in the face of surveys by all major polling firms, as E&P has chronicled over the past two years.

It's one thing when polls are dismissed, ignored or twisted by political or media spinmeisters. But when journalists in their news stories do it, it is downright misleading.

Take Jim Rutenberg and Adam Nagourney in The New York Times today.

They produced a front-pager on the Republicans' unexpected confidence on this issue, and declared: "Some polls show a majority of Americans continue to think that entering Iraq was a mistake, and pollsters say independent voters are particularly open to the idea of setting some sort of timetable for withdrawal, the very policy Democrats have embraced and Republicans are now fighting."

The fact is, not "some" polls, but virtually every major poll shows that American have long declared that going to war against Iraq was a mistake.

And far more than "independent voters" are drawn to withdrawal. Every major poll reveals that a majority of Americans advocate withdrawals from Iraq, with large numbers wanting this to be quite speedy, and most wanting a full pullout in a year or so (Kerry's idea) or by the end of next year.

This is hardly a "some" position. A CNN poll, for example, conducted June 14-15 found that 53% favored a timetable for withdrawal, while 41% opposed it. Yet newspaper editorials, as usual, remain mute on this and the Senate today soundly trounced the Democrats' withdrawal pleas, even a wishy-washy one put forward by Sen. Carl Levin.

On Wednesday, Charles Babington in The Washington Post noted "polls showing that many Americans oppose the war but do not want to leave Iraq amid such chaos that it is a breeding ground for terrorism." Again: All major surveys show that a clear majority do want us to "leave Iraq," partly because of that very "chaos."

And how is this for a bottom line poll result? The CBS News poll taken less than two weeks ago asked if what has transpired in Iraq was "worth the loss of American life and other costs." The result: 62% said "no."

I happen to have a full printout of a detailed NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey completed 10 days ago. It shows, among other things, that 57% of respondents support reducing troop levels now, with only 35% favoring current levels. The vast majority of those backing withdrawal favor setting a timellne. The same poll finds just 35% supporting the job President Bush is doing on Iraq.

But here's the key finding. The pollsters stated a series of positions, ranging from opposing gay marriage to repealing the estate tax, and asked if a candidate running for congress who embraced such a position was more or less likely to gain their vote. One position was: "Favors pulling all American troops out of Iraq within the next 12 months."

That couldn't be more simple and clear. The result? Some 54% said they would be "more likely" to vote for such a candidate and only 32% said "less likely."

They were then asked to rank the most important issues for this fall's election. Iraq topped the list at 53% with illegal immigration far behind at 32%. This survey, and recent ones from Gallup, strongly show that the public very much prefers Democrats in this year's races and, in fact, would like to see a Democratic congress to balance the Republican White House.

Of course, time will tell if they actually go ahead and vote their beliefs. But reading the latest poll results, one might conclude the opposite of what many reporters and pundits now seem to be suggesting: that, actually, the GOP faces an uphill fight on re-selling the Iraq war, now in its fourth year.

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