Monday, December 10, 2007

Military Families Unhappy With President Bush

The latest Los Angeles Times poll finds that President Bush has lost the support of military families. Here's the introduction:

Families with ties to the military, long a reliable source of support for wartime presidents, disapprove of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq, with a majority concluding the invasion was not worth it, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The views of the military community, which includes active-duty service members, veterans and their family members, mirror those of the overall adult population, a sign that the strong military endorsement that the administration often pointed to has dwindled in the war's fifth year.

Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does.

And among those families with soldiers, sailors and Marines who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 60% say that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, the same result as all adults surveyed.

"I don't see gains for the people of Iraq . . . and, oh, my God, so many wonderful young people, and these are the ones who felt they were really doing something, that's why they signed up," said poll respondent Sue Datta, 61, whose youngest son, an Army staff sergeant, was seriously wounded in Iraq last year and is scheduled to redeploy in 2009. "I pray to God that they did not die in vain, but I don't think our president is even sensitive at all to what it's like to have a child serving over there."

Patience with the war, which has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II, is wearing thin -- particularly among families who have sent a service member to the conflict. One-quarter say American troops should stay "as long as it takes to win." Nearly seven in 10 favor a withdrawal within the coming year or "right away."

Military families are only slightly more patient: 35% are willing to stay until victory; 58% want the troops home within a year or sooner.

Read the whole thing.

It's certainly not unreasonable to expect military families to reflect general dissatisfaction with the administration and Iraq. The war has been prolonged, and tremendous strains have been placed on our service personnel.

I would note, though, that the Times sample is small: the survey contacted 631 respondents from military families and 152 who have had someone in their family stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan (there is a 4 percent and 8 percent margin of sampling error, respectively).

Also, I get the feeling of buyer's remorse in some of the quotes from survey respondents, for example:

"The man went into Iraq without justification, without a plan; he just decided to go in there and win, and he had no idea what was going to happen," said poll respondent Mary Meneely, 58, of Arco, Minn. Her son, an Air Force reservist, served one tour in Afghanistan. "There have been terrible deaths on our side, and it's even worse for the Iraqi population. It's another Vietnam."

With all due respect to Ms. Meneely, I don't find that to be a particulary incisive comment on the origins, conduct, and historical consequences of the war. (Perhaps the Times could have provided interview responses more supportive of the administration's policies for some balance.)

The Times also suggests that their finding are similar to those of the 2005 Military Times poll, which also found military unhappiness with the Bush administration. See Mudville Gazette for an analysis of that poll.

Greyhawk at Mudville suggests the Military Times findings reflected pre-surge disatisfaction with the way the war was being prosecuted. Thus with the current Times poll we should have expected to see a rebound in support if that hypothesis were true.

I think we have real war-weariness among military families, just like among the general public. As American success continues in Iraq - and we see reduced pressure on enlistees - we should see the numbers come up some, as is happening in public opinion generally.