Majority Oppose Supplemental Spending Shenanigans

Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies* has announced the results of a telephone survey conducted for the Republican National Committee of 800 registered voters from March 25-27, 2007. They found a majority opposed to the provisions of the Iraq War Supplemental Spending bill that just passed both Houses of Congress but faces an almost certain veto by President Bush.

Key Findings follow in block quotes below, with analysis interspersed.

1. A solid majority of Americans want Congress to fully fund the war in Iraq.

When asked if they favor or oppose Congress fully funding the war in Iraq, 56% favor fully funding the war in Iraq, while just 38% oppose. In fact, more voters STRONGLY favor (40%) Congress fully funding the war in Iraq than out-right oppose it (38%).

Support for funding our troops is consistent across the board:

  • Republicans are unified with 87% support. A majority (55%) of Independents support fully funding the war in Iraq. Despite the party line vote in Congress, more than one in four Democrats support funding for our military in Iraq.
  • Across the country, majorities of Americans support funding our troops – including 51% in the Northeast, 56% in the Midwest, 58% in the South, and 59% in the West.

The phrase “fully fund” may be more likely to lead to positive response than some other choices. Other surveys released this week have indicated majority support for setting a deadline to bring the troops home.

2. Americans soundly reject key components of the Democratic funding bill for Iraq.

When asked about the Democrats attaching spending for non-defense, domestic projects to a defense bill, more than three-in-five voters (64%) oppose the bill, including a majority (53%) who STRONGLY oppose it. Just 30% favor the Democrats use of pork barrel projects in the Iraq War funding legislation.

  • Almost half of Democratic voters (41%) oppose including domestic spending in a defense bill.

A majority (54%) also oppose Democrats imposing a reduction in troops below levels requested by military commanders, while just 41% favor.

  • Among Independents, 54% oppose the troop reduction levels, while just 37% favor it.

The first set of responses is interesting only in that the numbers are so low. People generally hate pork barrel spending and would prefer to see “clean” bills that focused only on the titular subject of the legislation.

Much more interesting is that a bare majority oppose reducing troop numbers. How the question was framed is unclear from the press release, however. It’s somewhat odd to me that Independents match the general population exactly.

They next turn to the Matt Yglesias question:

3. Voters point the finger of blame squarely in the Democrats’ direction for not funding the troops.

We read voters the following statements and asked them to pick which statement they agreed with the most.

    President Bush has declared that he will veto the bill because it sets a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq and includes billions of dollars in non-emergency spending. By vetoing this bill, a spending bill for the troops will not be passed.

    In thinking about this, which position do you agree with most? (ROTATE STATEMENTS)

    40% (SOME/OTHER) people say that if President Bush vetoes the Democratic spending bill then Bush should be blamed for not funding the troops because his veto will mean that there is no spending package available for the troops.


    50% (OTHER/SOME) people say that if President Bush vetoes the Democratic spending bill then the Democrats in Congress are to be blamed for not funding the troops because they attached restrictions on the President and military commanders in Iraq along with billions of dollars in pork barrel spending to a bill intended to help the troops.

A plurality of Independent voters (47%) would blame Democrats for not funding the troops, while just 33% say the blame lies with the President.

The second question is a bit wordy and the use of the phrase “billions of dollars in pork barrel spending to a bill intended to help the troops” could well be prejudicial. Again, it’s odd to me that Independents are more supportive of the president on this than the general population, which tends to have something like a 1/3-1/3-1/3 Democrat-Republican-Independent breakdown.

My guess, though, is that the numbers wouldn’t move much on this one with a cleaner wording. Even though the war and the president are both unpopular, people generally don’t want Congress micromanaging our wars.

UPDATE: In the comments, “Anjin-San” says these are “Nice GOP talking points.”

Absolutely. This is, after all, a poll commisioned by the RNC.

The GOP is polling to see how the public reacts to the way it’s trying to frame the debate. What the polling shows is that, if they can persuade the public that the issue is “fully funding the war,” “not adding pork to a war bill,” or “Democrats in Congress micromanaging the war,” they win. That’s actually useful information. If the GOP talking points were polling at 40%, they’d need a very different political strategy.

Of course, if they were polling at 40%, they probably wouldn’t be issuing a press release on the results. That’s the advantage of paying for your own survey research.


*Full disclosure: My wife is the firm’s COO.

FILED UNDER: Congress, 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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anjin-San says:

    Nice GOP talking points.

    As for Congress “micromanaging” the war, well, Bush has show himself and his administration to be utterly incompetent in this regard, and nature (and politics) abhor a vacuum.

  2. Mike says:

    That doesn’t leave a vacuum… We could always, I don’t know, have the Pentagon manage the war. It is what they are trained to do and all…

  3. Anjin-San says:


    That’s not a bad idea, but Bush has a way of firing Generals who tell him things he does not want to hear.

    Now if Mr. Bush had ever read any history books, as opposed to talking about reading history books, he might know the story of what happened when Crassus rode off to conquer Parthia…

  4. I think the significance of these numbers is more in how things play out in step three. Step one is almost over (just need the conference report to approve final language of the bill). Step two is the president vetoes the bill. The language he uses when he describes his veto will have an impact.

    Step three is what happens after the veto. One view of the world would be for the democrats to say, ‘Hey, we passed a bill with the money. You don’t want the money, that’s your problem when you veto it’. The problem of course is that it will impact the entire defense budget, not just Iraq. The pentagon will start putting holds on contracts, which in turn will cause companies to start laying off people. It will be like the secretary of the interior shutting down the Washington monument in the 90’s budget show downs.

    If the democrats cave and produce a defense bill without the time line, but with the pork, that will be another interesting test. That starts to hit home with the congress critters if he vetoes it. Enough to override a veto? I don’t know.

  5. Anjin-San says:


    While we are on the topic, perhaps you could (or some of your readers) look back and see if there was any pork in bills funding the war in the years when the GOP controlled congress. If it turns out there was none (somehow I doubt this) I will happily admit the Democrats are out of line and call Speaker Pelosi’s office to express this view.

    If it turns out that the GOP has a history of including pork in its war funding bills, will you admit the GOP is now playing politics with the lives of the troops?



  6. daryl smith says:

    Republicans is seems will never learn you can lie your way to political oblivion as easily as tax and spend your way to the same fate.

  7. Tano says:

    Thanks for this insight into Republican spin operations. This is exactly why people detest politicians. Instead of dealing with reality and trying to develop sane policies, the focus is on crafting a PR message, a framing, that can elicit temporary “support”, while marching further down the road that the people really dont want to go.

    I guess it is the only hope for Republicans.

  8. Wayne says:

    Lets pass a law that says military supplemental can only contain military related spending and give the President a line item veto for this one bill.

  9. jeff b says:

    Can we quickly recap the situation? Bush doesn’t include the war in the usual spending bill because he wants to be able to claim to have a “balanced budget” by keeping the huge war expense off the books. Therefore he requires this “supplemental” spending measure in order to fund the war. By cutting this one expense out of the herd, Bush has made it vulnerable to exactly the kind of conditional approval that came to pass: the legislature added terms and conditions to the money. It is a major tactical error on the part of the Executive, but it’s understandable that they don’t have any practice working with a real legislative branch.

    If Bush had included the war in the main budget, this would not have happened because the majority would not risk a total government shutdown. But then the White House would have lost the illusion that their budget is balanced. When Bush vetoes the supplemental it’s going to read very badly in the papers: Bush Vetoes War Spending or something along those lines. It will appear that Bush’s second veto ever was used to derail the war, put the troops in danger, etc etc etc.

    Bush went up against a hostile legislature for the first time in his sad little executive career, and he appears to be losing.

  10. Tano,

    I freely admit that the RNC is going to spin this. But are you seriously suggesting that the democrats aren’t trying just as hard to spin this?

    Let’s put this a different way. What is to keep congress (other than the fact they are congress) to pass a ‘clean’ funding bill with no pork or withdrawal date. Then to either say that they will do the monitoring they describe and if the conditions aren’t met, they will a) cut off funding, b) vote to revoke the AUMF or whatever.

    The answer is that they are trying to spin this by combining the funding with the withdrawal. While I agree that it would be nice if PR spinning wasn’t being applied to the serious subject of the war, I think you can take your pick as to the dems or GOP being the kettle or the pot on spin.

  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I invite the communists on this post, Anjin, tanto, to have someone read the Constitution to them as it is obvious they either have not read or cannot read the document. Congress has the power to either fund or not fund a conflict. That is all. There is no Congressional over site authorized by the Constitution on this matter. The President of the United States is commander in chief of the military. Lest you with very short memories forget, Bush beat the antiwar candidate in the last Presidential election. You guys have a real problem with rules.

  12. Anderson says:

    I’m not real comfy criticizing polling done by JJ’s wife, so I will completely change the subject, and just say:

    Duncan Hunter is a jerk.

    But Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, said a memo circulated among members of another committee showed Democrats were considering relocating Guantanamo suspects to military jails in more than a dozen different American communities, from Kansas’ Fort Leavenworth to Kentucky’s Fort Knox.

    “I am very distressed,” Hunter declared during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the future of Guantanamo. He is the top Republican on that committee and a presidential hopeful as well.

    “The idea that we would import dangerous terrorists, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, into American communities is dangerous,” Hunter said, referring to the al Qaeda suspect who claims to have organized the September 11 attacks on the United States.

    Because locking someone up in Leavenworth is placing him in an “American community.”

  13. bob in fl says:

    I am part of the majority all the way in 1 & 2.

    On to #3. There is already a time limit on combat troops in Iraq – January 2009 or before Afghanistan implodes. The Iraqis are aware of that & making a start on getting their shit together.

    There is no doubt that Bush is using voodoo economics & playing politics by putting expenses for the war into a supplemental bill. The Dems are also playing politics. If Congress goes home without without a bill that Bush will sign, then I blame both sides. It is past time for both Congress & Bush to get bi-pattisan. & pass the supplemental spending bill on its own. The money issue will come up within a year anyway. Lets give the people on the ground what they need now & argue the rest later.

    A final thought. General Washington & President Lincoln were both losing their wars when Congress played politics, yet eventually won when given the chance. Bush is neither, & winning outright is not possible. But giving international diplomacy time to work might create an outcome where nobody has to lose it all.

  14. bob in fl says:

    And Duncan Hunter is just full of it. Nuff said.

  15. James Joyner says:

    polling done by JJ’s wife

    Actually, she does pretty much everything but polling for POS. She runs HR, IT, and ops. She does occasionally run some “dial groups” (focus groups for commercials and the like) but isn’t involved in selling polls or creating the questions.

  16. paul a'barge says:

    Think back. Remember the “shut down the federal government” incident, in which Newt and Congress were held responsible instead of Clinton.

    That’s what this poll is about. The Republican party is not going to repeat the past. They’re going to make perfectly clear who is going to take the hit when funding for our military stops, and thankfully, this time it’s Congress and the DHIMMIcRATs.

  17. Keith, Indy says:

    Bush doesn’t include the war in the usual spending bill because he wants to be able to claim to have a “balanced budget” by keeping the huge war expense off the books.

    There is no doubt that Bush is using voodoo economics & playing politics by putting expenses for the war into a supplemental bill.

    Actually, you guys are wrong about the facts on this.

    The way the war is being paid for, through supplementals, has been the way wars and emergencies are paid for, for some time. Doesn’t make it the best way to do it, but it’s not like this is some new phenomenon or scheme…

    See this as an example:

    None of the $25 billion from the President is aimed at covering DoD’s unbudgeted spending for ongoing contingency operations, primarily in Haiti, Bosnia, and Southwest Asia. To cover those incremental costs, an FY 1995 emergency supplemental appropriations request is being forwarded to Congress at about the same time as the President’s budget.

    If you want this to change, we should push Congress into changing the laws and rules for appropriations.

  18. Brian Hines says:

    I’m guessing this poll was prematurely shut down. Once the people being polled found out that this poll didn’t skew heavily to the left, they either died of shock or hung up so they could gather food for the end of the world.