Published on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 by OneWorld.net
Poll Finds Swing Voters Critical of Bush on Iraq, Foreign Policy
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - If Iraq and foreign policy play a major role in the minds of voters in next year's presidential election, President Bush could find himself in difficult straits with independent voters, according to new analysis by a major polling organization.
According to the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), swing voters--people who consider themselves independent of both major political parties and very likely to vote in next year's elections--are considerably more critical of Bush's handling of Iraq and foreign policy than the general public and more likely to see the President as deliberately misleading the public about the reasons for the war.
By contrast, 42 percent among the general public said the administration was misleading, while only 36 percent of the same pool said Bush himself was misleading about the justifications for war.
Moreover, a similar majority of swing voters (52 percent) said that "the fact that the President presented information that was in fact false" lowered their confidence in the president some (34 percent) or a lot (18 percent). Only 40 percent of the general public, by contrast, said their confidence in Bush had been shaken some or a lot, according to the poll, conducted July 11-20.
The study also found that swing voters were more critical of Bush's general foreign policy, and, although they divided evenly on whether they voted for Bush or former Vice President Al Gore in 2000, more said they are more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate in the next elections.
The new study comes amid growing concern over the rising costs--in both lives and money--of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Eleven U.S. servicemen have been killed in just the past five days--since Saddam Hussein's two sons were killed--bringing to 50 the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat since Bush's May 1 declaration of end of major military operations.
A total of 163 died since the war began, 16 more than in the 1991 Gulf War.
A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Tuesday suggested continued general support for the U.S. effort in Iraq. It found that 26 percent of the public believes the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq now and 33 percent believe that Washington should withdraw "if the number of U.S. troops killed becomes too high." Twelve percent defined "too high" as 200, while another ten percent defined it as 500. Thirty-seven percent said they believed the U.S. should remain in Iraq regardless of the toll on U.S. troops.
The polls were released amid increasingly sharp attacks against the administration by lawmakers in Congress for misleading the public in advance of the war, classifying portions of a Congressional report on intelligence failures leading up to the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and failing to disclose its own estimates of the costs of the U.S. occupation.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, found himself almost continuously on the defensive during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, with both Democrats and Republicans questioning his assessment of the situation in Iraq. Several lawmakers raised pointed questions about his judgment and credibility.
Noting that Wolfowitz had championed overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad long before September 11, Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he "really resent[ed]" Wolfowitz's insistence that the attacks persuaded him of the necessity for going to war. "That's just not true," Chafee said. "You've been advocating for regime change all through the late 90s."
Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold also took Wolfowitz to task over his testimony that "the battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terror." Noting that the administration's pre-war assertions of a link between Hussein and al Qaeda were based on what Wolfowitz admitted last weekend was "murky intelligence" and have not substantiated, Feingold questioned Baghdad's centrality to the war on terrorism. "[I]t sounds as if we basically walked through the looking glass here," said Feingold.
Almost all of the questioners, including the Republican chairman of the Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, also argued that the administration was not doing enough to persuade other countries, through NATO and the United Nations, to share the peacekeeping and financial burden currently being borne almost exclusively by the U.S. in post-war Iraq--even at the cost of ceding some control.
The costs of the occupation and the administration's credibility were the factors fueling dissatisfaction with the administration among swing voters, according to the PIPA report.
The credibility findings were particularly remarkable. Forty percent of swing voters believe that when Bush presented evidence that Iraq sought to buy uranium in Africa he was knowingly presenting false evidence, compared to 27 percent of other voters.
Moreover, independents also consider the process of rebuilding Iraq to be going more poorly than the general public. Seventy-two percent of independents said the operation was not going very well (49 percent) or not at all well (23 percent), compared to 57 percent of the general public.
Nonetheless, swing voters were generally more determined to see through the U.S. mission. While 72 percent of the general public said the U.S. had a "responsibility to remain in Iraq as long as necessary until there is a stable government," 82 percent of independents espoused that position.
As for the decision to go to war, 56 percent of the general public said it was the right decision and 28 percent said it was the wrong one. Independents were somewhat less supportive: 50 percent agreed it was the right decision; 38 percent said it was wrong.
Swing voters were also more likely to believe the war was unnecessary than the general public (51 to 44 percent) and were more aware of widespread international criticism of the war.
Copyright 2003 OneWorld.net