Poll: Most Americans Believe Iraq Civil War is Likely

According to a new Washington Post poll, two thirds of Americans think there will be civil war in Iraq.

An overwhelming majority of the public believe fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq will lead to civil war and half say the U.S. should begin withdrawing its forces from that violence-torn country, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey found that 80 percent believed that recent sectarian violence made civil war in Iraq likely, and more than a third said such a conflict was “very likely” to occur. Expectations for an all-out sectarian war in Iraq extended beyond party lines. More than seven in 10 Republicans and eight in 10 Democrats and political independents believe civil war was likely.

Neither the political leaders in Iraq, or generals in theater, the world’s intelligence agencies, nor all the Middle Eastern experts in academe have anything more than a good guess as to where things in Iraq are headed. Polling people who could not differentiate a Shiite from Shinola about something so complicated as this is just silly.

Such polls are useful barometers of the public mood, which has some bearing on public policy in a democracy. But they are nothing more than that.

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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. DC Loser says:

    So you gonna blame Zogby for this?

  2. James Joyner says:

    I didn’t blame Zogby for the last one, either. I merely pointed out that his survey methodology was highly questionable and that experts on both sides of the aisle have documented that he appears to be selling results to the highest bidder.

    I don’t have the internals of this poll–which won’t be released until 5 EST, apparently–but presume it was done using accepted techniques.

  3. legion says:

    The problem is not the results of the poll, nor its methodology. It is, as you note, that nobody seems to know a damned thing about what several million angry, frustrated Iraqis are thinking and talking about and doing on a daily basis.

    We’re like a blindfolded man walking down a dark alley saying, loudly, “Oh I wish I knew where I was going or what I was doing. I hope nothing bad happens to me.”

  4. James Joyner says:

    Legion: I don’t think it’s quite as stark as you say, merely that Iraq is a chaotic environment with many variables, most notably a relatively small but very powerful set of people who want more chaos.

  5. bindare says:

    Polls are like expert witnesses at a trial. You can always find one to give the answers you seek.
    In a society like ours where so many strive to be hip and politically correct, they are usefull to advance your political agenda.

  6. Patrick McGuire says:

    I saw Tim Russert bring up this poll with the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday. Russert threw it out as strong evidence that a civil war will happen.

    If I had been the general, my reply would have been:

    And why is it that 73% of Americans believe there will be a civil war? Considering that few if any of those polled have actually been to Iraq or have any direct contact with anyone there, they must be getting their information from somewhere else. Maybe it’s because the talking heads are saying there will be a civil war that they believe this crap?

  7. LJD says:

    Polling people who could not differentiate a Shiite from Shinola about something so complicated as this is just silly.

    Funny if it were not so true.

    Considering a majority of Americans get their news from the Daily Show, I wouldn’t be all that worried.

  8. Randall says:

    Read “Iraq The Model” for today (3/6/06).

    He’s basically throwing in the towel.

    I don’t think they are inferior people, or even incapable of handling democracy (some day). But the average Iraqi faces hurdles to democratization put in place by an unfortunate combination of history, culture, and maybe even geography that are not going to be surmounted any time soon.

    I think democracy will come as I genuinely do not think there is a viable, long-term alternative, but the short is going to get very, very ugly.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Once again, as we did in Viet Nam, we have gotten involved in trying to shape the destiny of a culture that we do not understand at all.

    Throw into the mix a White House that only hears what it wants to hear and you have a recipe for disaster.

  10. RA says:

    This is just more evidence of the anti-American, anti-Iraqi MSM trying to twist reality into what they really want. This is mearly the old traitorous Vietnam play book being brought out again. I hate lieing liberals.

  11. Herb says:

    I don’t think the Liberal Left Wing Media will be happy until they gain a “victory” of sorts in any way they can to “prove” to the American public that the Iraq war was a giant mistake and they, The Media, were right.

    Our so called “American” media is the biggest defender of the terrorism OBL has in his stable.

  12. LJD says:

    The iraqis are shaping their own destiny, something every American should be proud to have assisted…

    Viet Nam references- you guys are way too predictable. When will you get some new material?

  13. spaceman says:

    Gee, too bad the Iraqis aren’t reading the polls, so they’ed know what’s expected of them. Bush don’t either, go figure.