Thursday, August 20, 2009

# Posted 7:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBAMA FIGHTS THE GOP'S WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: Jazz linked earlier to the new ABC-WaPo poll results on Afghanistan. I'd like to take a closer look at the data.

The Post's headline reports, Public Opinion in US Turns Against Afghan War.
Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting, up six percentage points since last month and 10 since March. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
Yet strangely, 60 percent approve of Obama's handling of the war and
Broad majorities across party lines say they are confident that the United States will defeat the Taliban and succeed in spurring economic development.
I think public opinion is far more nuanced than the WaPo headline suggests. The situation is very complicated because we have a Democratic president, deeply admired by his own party, now sending additional troops to fight a war that his fans oppose and his critics support. The Post observes,
Overall, seven in 10 Democrats say the war has not been worth its costs, and fewer than one in five support an increase in troop levels.

Republicans (70 percent say it is worth fighting) and conservatives (58 percent) remain the war's strongest backers, and the issue provides a rare point of GOP support for Obama's policies.
Unfortunately, the WaPo data sheet doesn't provide a breakdown by part of who approves of the President's handling of the war. The WaPo article mentions that 43% of Republicans approve, which implies that Democrats and independents approve to a much greater extent, if Obama's overall ratings is 60.

In other words, Democrats (and possibly independents) approve of Obama's performance, are confident that he can bring the war to a successful conclusion, but don't think the war is worth fighting. That's not a contradiction. I am sure we could win a war against Canada, but it still wouldn't be worth it (although possibly enjoyable).

The harder thing to know about Democrats (and liberals, whose opposition is even greater) is whether they oppose the war in such great numbers because it has been especially bloody the past few months, or whether they really don't believe that this is a war of necessity, no matter how often Obama says so.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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