Public Opposes Troop Surge by 61% to 36% Margin
Gallup’s Frank Newport reports that a poll conducted last week found overwhelming public opposition to sending more troops to Iraq, with only the Republican base in favor.
[T]he weekend USA Today/Gallup poll included an approximation of what news accounts indicate is the most likely scenario, phrased as follows: “As you may know, the Bush administration is considering a temporary but significant increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to help stabilize the situation there. Would you favor or oppose this?”
This wording includes several salient features: 1) it emphasizes that this will be an administration policy, 2) it points out that the surge would be “temporary,” and 3) it indicates that the surge would have a specific purpose (“to help stabilize …”).
The results are as follows:
It should be noted that the current poll measures Bush’s overall job approval rating at 37%. This suggests that the core support for the pending announcement of a surge essentially mirrors the size of the president’s core base.
In fact, analysis shows that the 36% support for the surge option is based primarily on strong support from loyal Republicans, two-thirds of whom support it. About a third of independents support it, compared to only 12% of Democrats:
At the same time, it would not be unusual to find that support for the president’s probable call for more troops in Iraq — once the proposed policy shift is made public — will be higher than this baseline minimum. This assumption is based on the fact that the action will no longer be hypothetical, but will have the institutional weight of the presidency behind it after the Wednesday night speech. A surge will, in essence, have become the stated policy of the country. It is particularly likely that Republicans will increase their support for the policy after the president’s announcement.
Certainly true. Still, it’s going to be very difficult at this point to move the public on this since, as a separate report indicates, overall support for Bush has remained steadily low for well over a year and support for the war is at its lowest ebb: “Just 26% of Americans approve of Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq, with 72% disapproving — the worst evaluation of Bush on this issue during his presidency.”
The bully pulpit is arguably the most potent tool in any president’s arsenal. Unfortunately for Bush, he is quite possibly the least talented public speaker to hold the office in the television era. And I’m not sure even someone with the oratorical skills of a Ronald Reagan or John Kennedy could persuade the public that Iraq is winnable at this stage of the game.