Guest Pollster | November 19, 2007
[On November 6th, Charles Franklin posted an analysis of recent trends in public opinion on the Iraq War. In response we've recieved a Guest Pollster's contribution from political scientist Alan Abramowitz, the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.]
The claim that there has been a significant shift in public opinion toward the war is simply not supported by recent polling data. For example, a new CNN/Opinion Research Poll finds opposition to the war at an all-time high of 68 percent. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll finds that 27 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of the war, down 3 points from September and almost identical to the levels of support from the first half of the year. This same poll finds that the war remains easily the most important issue in the minds of Americans--26 percent named the war as the most important problem for the federal government to address with health care a distant second at 16 percent. 46 percent of the respondents chose Iraq as the first or second most important problem compared with 34 percent who chose health care as the first or second most important problem. Other issues including terrorism, illegal immigration, and global warming finished far behind.
The war remains enormously unpopular and major political liability for the Republican Party. The new ABC-Washington Post Poll finds Democrats favored over Republicans on the war by a 16 point margin, slightly higher than the Democratic margin earlier this year and last year.
The claim that public opinion has shifted on the war appears to be based almost entirely on a small uptick on one measure--opinion about how the war is going. There has been a small improvement on this question, presumably in response to reports of decreasing violence and, most importantly, decreasing U.S. casualties. But this shift is not indicative of any broader shift in public opinion toward the war. Opposition to the war remains as high as ever as does support for a withdrawal timetable. And Iraq clearly remains the most salient issue in the 2008 election.