Friday, March 16, 2012

Maybe someone should campaign on these issues (updated)

3-15-12 FP #2Today, Pew Reseach published the results of a recent poll they took on American's foreign policy opinions.  Conducted between March 7th and 11th, Pew interviewed 1,503 people, and found that the country is in no mood to provide any military support in Syria, and a majority (57%) of people want the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan "as soon as possible."  On Iran's nuclear program however, there is still fear, as across the political spectrum a majority of people are worried that the U.S. "will wait to long to act" as opposed to "act too soon."

The overall picture is of a country very weary of war, and hesitant to take on new interventions.  In Libya last year, polls showed even less support for an intervention than currently in Syria, and although these numbers jumped slightly once the bombs began to fly, even when Tripoli was captured by the rebels in September, airstrikes were seen as "the right decision" by less than 50%.
3-15-12 FP #4
3-15-12 FP #5 The war in Afghanistan is also incredibly unpopular in Pew's poll (which was conducted before the recent night time shooting spree by an American soldier).  69% of Democrats say removing troop "as soon as possible" in the right policy, as do 58% of Independents and 41% of Republicans.  Among Democrats, only 25% approve of the policy of "keeping troops there until stable."  Moreover, the Republican base is divided, with a slight majority (51%) of moderate republicans favoring a cut and run policy, and only 57% of conservative Republicans favoring to prolong the mission until stability is achieved.

Update:  An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted over the same time frame gives similar numbers.  On Afghanistan, 54% of respondents thought that the U.S. should withdraw its troops "even if the Afghan Army is not adequately trained."  Given the question "has the war in Afghanistan been worth fighting?" 60% thought that it was "not worth fighting," and 44% of them strongly so, while only 35% thought that it has been worth fighting.   (See chart below).

On Iran, the poll shows a remarkable phenomenon.  Despite the fact that the public is convinced (84%) that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, which is not the opinion of the U.S. intelligence community,  81% still favor direct diplomatic talks between Washington and Tehran to solve the situation, a policy the U.S. has distanced itself from for over 30 years. A majority of people also oppose both the U.S. or Israel bombing Iran's nuclear sites, an idea discussed exhaustively over the past year in the media.  Here you have an American public that has bought into the fear-mongering, and yet is still far more open to diplomacy with this supposed "enemy" than the government is.

One wonders what effect these type of numbers will have on the rhetoric of the 2012 elections.  Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have already mentioned their doubts of ever achieving success in Afghanistan, and the less mainstream candidates like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson have campaigned against the war stridently.  If Democrats are polling even lower than Republicans on the issue, this message has to be taken up by Democrats running for Congressional seats.  It is absurd for the Democrats to suddenly become the pro-War party in the face of GOP anti-war messaging.  It makes much more sense for a bi-partisan consensus to be reached on the failure of the Afghanistan troop presence, realigning the Congressional ideology away from nation building

Moreover, what effect does the unpopularity of intervention, whether "humanitarian" or not, have on the current Republican power structure.  The hawkish duo of John McCain and Lindsey Graham have been foaming at the mouth for nearly a year to send the military into Syria, and they have brought along Senate wunderkind Marco Rubio, a name being bandied about for Vice President, to help carry the banner.  If it is clear that American's are not in favor of these missions, can the GOP build a national strategy on the backs of those who have loudly called for another Middle East intervention?

Washington Post/ABC News Relevant Poll Numbers

-17. On another subject: All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

            ----- Worth fighting ----   --- Not worth fighting --     No 
            NET   Strongly   Somewhat   NET   Somewhat   Strongly   opinion 
3/10/12     35       17         18      60       16         44         5
6/5/11      43       23         20      54       15         40         3
3/13/11     31       17         14      64       16         49         5
12/12/10    34       18         16      60       18         43         5
7/11/10     43       24         19      53       15         38         4
6/6/10      44       26         18      53       13         41         3
4/25/10     45       26         19      52       15         38         3
12/13/09    52       33         19      44       10         35         4
11/15/09    44       30         14      52       14         38         4
10/18/09*   47       28         19      49       13         36         4 
9/12/09     46       28         18      51       14         37         3
8/17/09     47       31         15      51       10         41         3
7/18/09     51       34         18      45       11         34         4
3/29/09     56       37         19      41       12         28         4
2/22/09     50       34         17      47        9         37         3
12/14/08    55       NA         NA      39       NA         NA         5
7/13/08     51                          45                             4
2/25/07     56        "          "      41        "          "         3
*10/18/09 "was" and "has been" wording half sampled. Previous "was."

-20. On another subject, based on what you’ve heard or read, do you think Iran is or is not trying to develop nuclear weapons?
           Is   Is not   No opinion
3/10/12    84     9          8
10/18/09   87     8          4

21. To try to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, would you support or oppose [ITEM]? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
3/10/12 – Summary Table

                                       ---- Support -----    ----- Oppose -----   No 
                                       NET  Strgly.  Smwt.   NET  Smwt.  Strgly.  op.
a. The United States bombing Iran's 
   nuclear development sites           41     27      14     53    18      35      6
b. Increasing international economic 
   sanctions against Iran              74     54      20     21     9      11      5
c. Direct diplomatic talks between 
   the United States and Iran to try 
   to resolve the situation            81     60      21     16     5      12      2 


a. The United States bombing Iran’s nuclear development sites

           -------- Support -------    -------- Oppose ---------     No 
           NET   Strongly   Somewhat   NET   Somewhat   Strongly   opinion
3/10/12    41       27         14      53       18         35         6
10/18/09   42       NA         NA      54       NA         NA         4
1/26/06*   42       NA         NA      54       NA         NA         4
* “Iran says it is refining uranium to use in nuclear power plants. Other countries are concerned Iran may also use this uranium in nuclear weapons…”

b. Increasing international economic sanctions against Iran

            -------- Support -------    -------- Oppose ---------     No 
            NET   Strongly   Somewhat   NET   Somewhat   Strongly   opinion
3/10/12     74       54         20      21        9         11         5
10/18/09*   78       NA         NA      18       NA         NA         4
1/26/06*    71       NA         NA      26       NA         NA         3
*”Imposing international…”

c. Direct diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran to try to resolve the situation

            -------- Support -------    -------- Oppose ---------     No 
            NET   Strongly   Somewhat   NET   Somewhat   Strongly   opinion
3/10/12     81       60         21      16        5         12         2
10/18/09    82       NA         NA      18       NA         NA         1

22. Would you support or oppose Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear development sites?
          Support   Oppose   No opinion
3/10/12     42        51          7

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