Lefty blogs and annoying e-mailers are all atwitter over a new Military Times Poll that shows a decline in support among the military for both the original decision to go to war in Iraq and President Bush's handling of it since. And while there appears to some level of change in attitude when compared to a similar poll from January 2006, a few points are in order:
- In the January poll, 44% of the respondents had served at least one tour in Iraq. In the latest poll, 50% had. So while the poll does capture the opinions of members of the military, it's not necessarily the opinions of those who have first hand experience in Iraq. It would be interesting to see the results split out for those had served in Iraq and those who had not.
- In the January poll, 56% said the US should have gone to war in Iraq while 26% said no and 18% had no opinion or didn't answer. The numbers in the latest poll are 41% yes, 37% no and 20% percent no opinion/didn't answer. This is an area where opinion definitely seems to have shifted.
- In the January poll, 54% approved of the way Bush was handling the war, while 25% disapproved, and 21% had no opinion/didn't answer. In the latest poll, the numbers are 35% approve, 42% disapprove, and 22% no opinion/didn't answer. This is the result that has gotten most of the attention from gleeful lefties.
But before they start assuming that the troops want to join their push to pack 'er in and go home, they should consider a couple of other questions and answers from the latest poll that were not asked in the January poll.
One is that 52% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president, while 31% disapprove, and 16% have no opinion/didn't answer. This would indicate that their disapproval of the president is largely limited to the handling of the war in Iraq. But that disapproval should not be confused with support for bailing out.
Consider this question and result from the latest poll:
We currently have 145,000 troops in Iraq and Kuwait. How many troops do you think we should have there?
No opinion/Don't know 23%
Only 13% favor a complete withdrawal and a combined 26% a reduction from current troop levels. In fact, 38% favor sending more troops to Iraq.
The other item to note about both of these of polls is the methodology:
The mail survey, conducted Nov. 13 through Dec. 22, is the fourth annual gauge of active-duty military subscribers to the Military Times newspapers. The results should not be read as representative of the military as a whole; the survey's respondents are on average older, more experienced, more likely to be officers and more career-oriented than the overall military population.