Americans Rank Iraq Information Sources

Public Opinion Polling Graphic A recent Gallup poll examines which public figures Americans trust most for information on Iraq. It’s not pretty.

Americans Rank Iraq Information Sources Gallup

Essentially, this shows that Americans discount the views of active “partisan politicians” more than they do political appointees who they perceive as experts. Indeed, it’s surprising that Bush and Cheney rate as highly as they do, given their woeful standings in the opinion polls. My strong guess is that Pelosi and Reid would rank slightly lower if they were better known. Not because they are inherently untrustworthy but because they would be more tainted as “partisan politicians.”

We see that effect more strongly when we break it down by respondent party leaning:

Americans Rank Iraq Information Sources Gallup by Party ID

The only people listed who have even as much as 40 percent “reliability” ratings by those on the other side of the aisle are the “non-political” appointees. And that’s with “somewhat reliable” — which definitionally means “somewhat unreliable” — included.

Unfortunately, this means it is virtually impossible to have an honest discussion of what is far and away the most important public policy topic. If the presumption is that elected leaders on the other side of the aisle are dishonest, there’s not much chance of changing minds.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Public Opinion Polls,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hastings: Bill Clinton Talked Me Out of Intelligence Post Beltway Traffic Jam Have You Had Your Melamine Today? The U.S.’s Royal Class Chavez Takes Control of Oil Production Bubbles Great for the Economy House Q&A OTB on One Blog A Day Americans Rank Iraq Information Sources Iraq Claims Al Qaeda in Iraq Leader al-Masri Dead [IMG OTB Sports] Warning: main(): open_basedir restriction in effect. File(/var/www/vhosts/outsidethebeltway.com/subdomains/sports/httpdocs/wp/wp-content/recent-posts.txt) is not within the allowed

  2. rank slightly lower if they were better known. Not because they are inherently untrustworthy but because they would be more tainted as “partisan politicians.” We see that effect more strongly when we break it down by respondent party leaning: [IMG Americans Rank Iraq Information Sources Gallup by Party ID] The only people listed who have even as much as 40 percent “reliability” ratings by those on the other side of the aisle are the “non-political” appointees. And that’s with “somewhat reliable

  3. It would appear that only Petraeus is significantly seen as reliable by both parties. Gates, Pace and McCain can at least claim majority support from both.

    But what strikes me is that all five of the top five the democrats see as reliable are politicians (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Carter). Sharing 6/7th place, the democrats equate Pelosi with Petraeus.

    No one else even gets 2/3 support. With the exception of Petraeus and Carter, none of those the democrats deem reliable have served in the military. And with due respect to members of my own family serving in the silent service, Carter’s submarine duty is not the most useful training ground for Iraq.

    The republicans find reliable the two generals named, the secretaries of defense and state, the president, vice-president and previous president and a long serving senator who was elected at least in part on his war record. In short, only three of the nine people that 2/3 of the republicans find reliable are with out military experience (the vice president, Rudy and Rice who has an extensive history of national security service). Four of the nine have extensive military service when the bullets are flying.

    Stepping aside from the inevitable partisan poo flinging, doesn’t that say something about the two sides when questions like “Is the war lost or winnable?” are debated. It would be like discussing the medical condition of a patient and relying on people experienced in the medical field vs those with out experience.

  4. Barry says:

    James: “Unfortunately, this means it is virtually impossible to have an honest discussion of what is far and away the most important public policy topic. If the presumption is that elected leaders on the other side of the aisle are dishonest, there’s not much chance of changing minds. ”

    It’s also hard to have an honest discussion when one party has lied and BS’d as a matter of policy for the past several years. Which party that is, is pretty freakin’ clear by now.

    You have that assumption of symmetry here, which is a reasonable *starting* assumption. However, as the evidence rolls in, it’s quite reasonable to re-evaluate that assumption, and adjust your estimates accordingly.

    At this point we’ve had years of lies, arrogance, corruption and incompetance on the part of those supporting this war, from Bush on down to the lowliest warbrlogger.

    It wasn’t Reid, for example, who launched a war on lies, ran it into the ground on arrogance, corruption and incompetancy, and clearly feels that pushing it onto the next president is a worthwhile course of action.

  5. Michael says:

    I wonder how much the titles play, versus the people themselves. I would think that people would say the “Commander of US Forces” is more reliable than “General Petraeus”, which would again be higher than simply “David Petraeus”, if asked as separate options. Likewise people would probably rate “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” higher than “General Pace”, “Secretary of Defense” as more reliable than “Robert Gates”, and almost certainly “Secretary of State” would be rated higher than “Condoleezza Rice”.

    Title naturally adds assumptions to how we view those holding the title.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I wonder how much the titles play, versus the people themselves.

    An excellent point. Certainly, it reinforces the “objective expert” angle for Petraeus, Rice, and Gates and detracts from it for the politicians.

    You have that assumption of symmetry here

    That’s what the polls show here. McCain is the highest pure politician in the rankings and Cheney the lowest. Both are Republicans. In between, it’s mostly a function of name recognition.

    Democrats distrust Republicans somewhat more than vice-versa but the trust levels are incredibly low both ways.

  7. Tlaloc says:

    Stepping aside from the inevitable partisan poo flinging, doesn’t that say something about the two sides when questions like “Is the war lost or winnable?” are debated. It would be like discussing the medical condition of a patient and relying on people experienced in the medical field vs those with out experience.

    Except look who is not on the list: all the generals Bush had to fire before he could find one that would support the surge, the National Intelligence Estimate, the state depts’ annual terrorism report, The reams of ex-generals who have discussed at length the failings of this war, Juan Cole, Larry Johnson, Joe Wilson, and so on…

    There are plenty of very knowledgable sources who consider this war both counter productive and a lost cause.

  8. Michael says:

    Except look who is not on the list

    Another interesting point, all of those ranked highly by Republicans support the war, yes, but they are also viewed as loyal Republicans themselves. Conversely, all of those considered to be Democrats are also mostly anti-war. So just because pro-war Republicans rank other pro-war Republicans highly, doesn’t necessarily mean they rank them highly based on their military record, maybe you just think the people who agree with you are more reliable.

    I wonder what the numbers would look like if the list contained anti-war Republicans and pro-war Democrats (not Democrat-leaning independents). Or Democrats with past military experience versus Republicans without.

  9. cian says:

    Having read ‘Fiasco’ by Tom Ricks, its hard not to admire Petraeus and see him as a man who can be trusted, but he has now joined the Bush administration where truth telling is not a top priority.

    After Petraeus’s first tour in Iraq he wrote a counter insurgency manual in which he stated that between 250,000 and 350,000 troops would be needed to defeat the insurgents.

    The troops he has for the surge can do little more than keep the number of civilian casualties down, but only at the cost of American lives, and will have no effect on the overall drift of the war.

    I’m certain if he could he would say this, but of course he can’t because his job is not to level with the American people, it’s to get this president to the end of his term without having to declare a withdrawal, no matter how many lives are lost in the process.

  10. G.A. Phillips says:

    Barry, lies, corruption, arrogance, incompetence, are all the that makes up a liberal, oh I almost forgot historical stupidity, forgive me, it was you liberals who did went and done your best to undermine this war effort with all of your stated methods listed above from it’s outset, and now being totally invested and believing in your propaganda you have become perfectly tempered receptacles for your own lies, it was your Donkylord leaders who launched a political war of lies, with the aid of their soulless, mindless, and heartless legions of burro spawn and all from the hatred of of one President and why because he is a Cristian, you have betrayed our president, our troops, and our country, you have propped up and aided as to date the most ruthlessly evil enemy that we as nation have ever faced. I know that you would have attack Bush and everything good in this country because it is your nature and the way you go about gaining power, I could forgive you for that but we are at war, and when you and your leaders support, aid, and side with the goals of our enemy, you are going and and have gone to far. SUPPORT THE WAR EFFORT!!!

  11. Tlaloc says:

    After Petraeus’s first tour in Iraq he wrote a counter insurgency manual in which he stated that between 250,000 and 350,000 troops would be needed to defeat the insurgents.

    Actually it’s worse than that. Given Iraq’s population we’d need 530,000 troops for the ratio he recommends as a minimum. The counterinsurgency manual has a number of other tidbits that all run counter to what we are doing or could do in Iraq. I have a partial list here:

    http://www.swordscrossed.org/node/1157

  12. Tlaloc says:

    G. A. Phillips,

    when you write a single sentence that goes on in excess of 12 lines of text, you just might possibly be freaking out.

  13. Michael says:

    when you write a single sentence that goes on in excess of 12 lines of text, you just might possibly be freaking out.

    At least I wasn’t the only one immediately struck by the lack of a sentence break.

    I must give him credit though, I have never before seen quite to much ignorance and arrogance crammed into a single run-on sentence. Props for tenacity, if not efficiency.

    The only thing I would add is that Congress, as is their duty, passed a measure giving continued financial support to the war effort. Last I heard, the President was going the one who was planning on blocking it.

  14. Michael says:

    it was you liberals who did went and done your best

    You’re wouldn’t happen to be from the South, are you?

  15. Tano says:

    Over 80% of Republicans trust Dick Cheney to give accurate information on conditions in Iraq?

    I’m almost speechless.

    How can we allow people like that to continue to have the right to vote? Y’know,,,the Constituion is not supposed to be a suicide pact, and all that…

  16. G.A. Phillips says:

    Ha ha, Tlaloc, X-cracked almost an X-liberal with a 12Th grade liberal education here, so please cut me a little break, and yes reading the stuff you guys write freaks me out, and I thank God and James for the spellchecker everyday.

  17. Michael says:

    12Th grade liberal education here

    I had 12 years of public education too, you get out what you put it. Don’t blame your “liberal education” for your lack of intelligence. To quote a popular comedian, “You can’t fix stupid”.

  18. G.A. Phillips says:

    No Micheal, I am from The great blue hell state of Wisconsin and its my hobby to crush the pun-ky intellects of liberals plus it’s the right thing to do, and is not my fault that you can’t understand the truth and then confront my reasoning with another lie and reshaping of the same treason I was just talking about you taking part in, and please take my post as if I where talking right to you, not like some paper for a class in communism 101.

  19. G.A. Phillips says:

    Micheal, that’s so funny, man I just hate how you liberals always outsmart and get the best of me, maybe I should just give up and go away, I don’t think I can live in the monstrously towering comic shadow that you cast. NOT!!!

  20. carpeicthus says:

    Apparently sentence breaks are godless commies, and not to be trusted.

  21. Michael says:

    I am from The great blue hell state of Wisconsin and its my hobby to crush the pun-ky intellects of liberals

    Maybe it’s time for you to find a new hobby, you know, something you’re good at.

  22. […] James Joyner pointed to a Gallup poll yesterday ranks public trust in various sources about the Iraq war. Reid is near the bottom of that list. Watch his numbers fall as the press turns on him. […]