Monday, July 14, 2008

McCain Holding Strong on Iraq Support, Poll Finds

Public opinion on the Iraq war continues to improve, and overall trends appear to benefit John McCain, a new Washington Post poll finds:

Progress in Iraq

Americans divide evenly between Barack Obama and John McCain’s approaches to the war in Iraq, and rate McCain much more highly on his abilities as commander-in-chief – key reasons the unpopular war isn’t working more to Obama’s advantage.

Despite broad, longstanding dissatisfaction with the war, just 50 percent of Americans prefer Obama’s plan to withdraw most U.S. forces within 16 months of taking office. Essentially as many, 49 percent, side with McCain’s position – setting no timetable and letting events dictate when troops are withdrawn.

That division is reflected in another result: While Obama’s steadily led on most domestic issues, he and McCain run about evenly in trust to handle Iraq, 45-47 percent in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll. The war’s been a top campaign issue, second only to the economy in public concern; Obama speaks on it tomorrow, after writing an op-ed on the subject in today’s
New York Times.
This is key: While the survey continues to find a large majority agreeing the war was a mistake, the public is evenly divided on a timetable for withdrawal.

Allahpundit has more analysis, but these findings appear to vindicate one of the major claims of the Bush administration: That increasing success in Iraq would translate into improvements in public support for the deployment, an argument that was central the president's "Strategy for Victory in Iraq," from 2005.

At that time, amid high combat fatalities, the administration relied on
findings in political science research in adjusting to trends in public opinion:

Since the Vietnam War, U.S. policymakers have worried that the American public will support military operations only if the human costs of the war, as measured in combat casualties, are minimal ... Ultimately, however, beliefs about the likelihood of success matter most in determining the public’s willingness to tolerate U.S. military deaths in combat.
See also, "Bush's Speech on Iraq War Echoes Voice of an Analyst."

The length and cost of an engagement also drive trends in support, although the level of casualites are hypothesized to be the major factor leading to the loss of public backing for the use of force.

Image Credit: Hot Air


UPDATE: See also the feature stories on the poll at ABC News and the Washington Post, plus the blogosphere reaction here.

The response from the lefties seems to take out their frustrations on Michael O'Hanlon (who arguing that Obama should not offer a withdrawal timeline until he visited Iraq).