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Opinion About Iraq War: Stable or Shifting?

Emory University poly sci proff Alan Abramowitz has a post at Pollster.com challenging Charles Franklin's earlier analysis of recent trends in public opinion about the war in Iraq. Abramowitz explains:

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.

And this translates into advantage Democrats:

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.

Abramowitz concedes a "small uptick" in Americans' opinion about how the war is going, but concludes:

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.

Franklin makes his case with equal fervor that "partisan persuasion has tilted towards the Republicans and away from the Democrats," but concedes that Americans remain pessimistic about the war by a 20 point margin. He also notes that "It is too early, and the changes too modest, to declare this a 'turning point' in opinion." No doubt the presidential candidates' poll analysts will be watching this debate with increasing interest in the months ahead.