March 15, 2004
Support for Iraq invasion dropping in Texas

The latest poll of Texans shows declining support for the invasion of Iraq and not a small amount of cognitive dissonance.

In what analysts called the most striking finding, 58 percent disapproved of the way the war is going for the United States, reflecting apparent concern over continued attacks on U.S. troops and almost daily bombings aimed at derailing attempts to stabilize the country. Thirty-eight percent approved.

While 59 percent of those surveyed believe that Bush was justified in launching the war on March 20, the finding reflects a 13 percent drop over the past nine months. Other survey categories also suggest that support is waning for the president's Iraq policy since the last poll in June.

"What we saw in the poll is declining support for the war in Iraq," said Ty Meighan, director of the Texas Poll. "It's still a high number, but you can see that there is less support for the war. It's very clear that Texans are more concerned about our role in Iraq."

The survey showed growing skepticism over Bush's central justification for launching the war -- ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. In the June survey, 56 percent predicted that the weapons would eventually be found, but only 34 percent made that prediction in the latest poll.


But, at the same time, 60 percent disagreed that Bush deliberately misled the country. Moreover, an identical percentage believe the war was justified even if weapons of mass destruction are never found, and 66 percent said that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein's regime, posed a threat to the United States.

"I would love for them to find the weapons -- so President Bush could thumb his nose at them [Democratic critics]," said Paula Pruitt, a 51-year-old grandmother in Mansfield, who was among the 1,000 Texans polled in the survey, which was conducted Feb. 12-March 3. "But whether they find them or not," she added, the invasion was necessary to "keep a person like Saddam Hussein from killing and torturing people."

Anyone want to bet this woman watches a lot of Fox News? Just out of curiosity, would you expect the President to say "neener neener" or "nyah nyah nyah" while thumbing his nose at Democrats? Leave your vote in the comments.

Here's a handy chart of the poll results, sent to me by JD from

The Scripps Howard Texas Poll; conducted 2/12-3/3; surveyed 1,000
adults; margin of error +/- 3%.

How Would You Rate The Way Things Are Going For The U.S. In Iraq?
Excellent/good 38%
Fair/poor 58

Yes No
Was The Situation In Iraq Was Worth Going To War? 59% 35%
Think Inspectors Will Find WMDs In Iraq? 34 55
Is The Iraq War Justified Even If WMDs Are Never Found? 60 35
Think Bush And His Admin Deliberately Mislead The Public
About Whether Iraq Had WMDs? 33 60
Did Iraq Pose A Threat To The U.S.? 66 30
Believe The Capture Of Hussein Has Made The U.S. Safer
From Terrorism? 50 46

The (much shorter) Chron version of this story gives the expected explanation for the numbers:

That assessment [of how things are going in Iraq] was largely split along political party lines. Sixty-two percent of the respondents who identified themselves as Republicans rated the progress "excellent" or "good," while 82 percent of those who identified themselves as Democrats described it as "fair" or "poor." The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


The much-anticipated capture of Saddam in December led Bush to proclaim that the United States is now safer from terrorism, an assertion with which only half of Texans agree, the poll found.

That belief is also sharply split along political party lines, Meighan said.

Seventy-five percent of respondents identifying themselves as Republicans agreed with the president, while 66 percent of the Democrat respondents disagreed.

So how will this affect the elections here in November? Here's an expert's opinion, from the Star-Telegram article:

National surveys suggest that wavering public support for the war could become a major vulnerability for Bush as he charges into his re-election campaign against Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Disenchantment over the war was cited as the biggest source of voter anger at Bush in a recent Gallup survey.

Although the former Texas governor is considered unbeatable in his home state, analysts say a noticeable decline in support for the war could prompt Kerry to campaign more aggressively in Texas. Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas, said the Texas Poll's finding that only 38 percent of Texans approve of the way the war is going constitutes a particularly troubling statistic from the Bush perspective.

"The South, including Texas, is sympathetic to the president's role as commander in chief, and that's what makes this number so surprising," Buchanan said.

And here's my non-expert's opinion: It won't mean diddly. Maybe Bush carries Texas by a less overwhelming margin than the 59-38 tally he rang up in 2000, but I doubt it gets any closer than 56-42, and that's only if Democrats turn out in droves while Republicans take a breather. That kind of turnout would help down-ballot Democrats, but otherwise this issue is a zero for them, since they need to convince Republicans to cross the aisle for them. The one place where the Iraq issue, and some campaigning from Kerry, might make a real difference is in the CD 32 race between Frost and Sessions, as it's the only one among the endangered-incumbent races that will be fought on mostly non-rural turf and is thus the most likely place for Kerry to get a decent reception. Beyond that, it's just fodder for us navel-gazers.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 15, 2004 to Iraq attack | TrackBack

Considering that Rove/Bush tried to win California in 2000 by spending two days there toward the end of the campaign, which the CW says was a mistake which nearly cost them the "win," wouldn't Kerry be in danger of doing the same thing if he spent much time in Texas?

Posted by: Linkmeister on March 16, 2004 1:25 AM

Depends on what he's doing here. There's still a lot of Democratic money to be raised in Texas, and the Congressional elections are important. If he keeps his focus narrow and doesn't spend time here at the expense of a more closely contested state, it makes sense.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 16, 2004 6:33 AM

Those numbers probably need some context, and I can't provide it with any great authority. But let me just suggest that I suspect there is a "war weariness" effect that comes into play at some point, and that effect is particularly strong in liberal democracies. I suspect if we polled folks, for example, and asked them if they supported the war in Bosnia and our troops still there, they'd say the war was a good thing, and our remaining troops should be home! They'd probably say the same thing about our troops in Germany. :)

If the interim constitution takes hold and the troop drawdown takes place over the summer, however, there's a real possibility these concerns will be assuaged, and the Senator will once again be claiming "I'm for it, but I'm for doing it better." Fearlessly progressive, the good Senator! If the handover/drawdown goes badly, then the issue becomes more interesting.

But back to the initial point -- Our commercial republican minds only wander from our 401k plans for short stretches. Three years is probably about the normal limit. And really, that's probably not the end of the world (even though I preach vigilance more than most). Professionals like Frank Gaffney and Richard Perle will nag us the rest of the time, and they'll always be around to advise when we actually need to do something (because despite the caricatures, they are highly knowledgeable and capable men on a wide range of defense issues). So it goes.

As Kerry goes, for gawd's sake, raise money in Texas if there's money to be raised, but influencing a Congressional race or two here where the odds are so stacked anyway probably is not as good a use of time as trying to influence some Senate races (IL, OK, maybe even MO where people keep saying Kit Bond is weak -- another reason Gephardt could be part of the ticket) where the payoff is potentially much greater (i.e. the House is going to remain GOP barring some seismic political event, but there is some potential in the Senate).

Eh, on second thought, I hope he spends lots of time in Texas. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on March 16, 2004 8:22 AM