February 27, 2008

The Beat of the Nation

So I did some informal polling at www.buzzdash.com this week and came up with some good info. I surveyed a good mix of political questions that had at least 300 voters and tried to put them together to make sense of the population's stance on most issues.

First is the war in Iraq.
64% of Americans think the surge in Iraq is a temporary fix while 23% feel the surge is effective at stemming violence. When asked to choose the larger threat to US security between Iraq and Afghanistan, out of 375 respondents 63% answered Afghanistan, 17% said Iraq, and 20% said it was about equal. There is a very clear majority who feel Afghanistan is a bigger threat than Iraq, but what about the rest of the the Middle East?

Two countries and the "other" category score higher than either Afghanistan or Iraq. These two countries, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, are considered the strongest US allies in the Middle East. So why is the general public so afraid of these two countries? It could be that 15 out of 19 9/11 highjackers were Saudi Arabian, or that the Saudi regime has harbored Hamas terrorists and provided medical care to their spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin.

Republican hopeful John McCain has stated that the occupation in Iraq may last for 100 years, when asked whether this policy was good because it finishes what we started or bad because its misguided the poll results showed 78% of Americans feel that McCain's stance is misguided.

Looking back 4 years ago public sentiment was very divided between the war in Iraq and the necessity to pursue Saddam Hussein. How do people feel about the war now?

Out of 700 votes 500 said that in retrospect the war was a bad idea. For me the interesting numbers lie within the "Yes, I see that now" and "No, though I once supported it" columns. These two responses cover the people who have changed their minds about the necessity of the Iraq war. An overwhelming majority of people who have changed their mind about the war have shifted from supporting to disagreeing with the war. Only 2% were against the war initially and later decided it was necessary. The public opinion of our occupation in Iraq has shifted greatly away from support but do our politics reflect that?

One last poll asked participants whether history would judge the war in Iraq as a success. 61% believe it will not be positively judged while 26% say it will be. 12% of respondents thought that to some degree the war will be positively judged.

So what do all of these numbers mean? I really don't think it says who's right and who's wrong as that will take a few decades to sort out, but it does offer a pretty good section of the public's feelings concerning our Iraq occupation. Hopefully the parties will start to reflect this public opinion instead of trying to guide opinion based on politics and scare tactics.

As a disclaimer, these poll results are completely unscientific as the sampling is not carefully controlled and the candidate pool may be biased based on the membership makeup of the polling website. But this does give a pretty good look at some gross trends on these policies.

Next up, the presidential candidates...

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