Fred Moreau has been studying the complete results of the latest New York Times/CBS news poll, and has found 26 reasons you should cheer up....
A TO Z: 26 REASONS TO CHEER UP
By Fred Moreau
United for Peace of Pierce County
April 29, 2004
A New York Times/CBS News telephone poll of 1,042 adult U.S. residents taken Apr. 23-27 showed a steep decline in support for the Iraq war compared with a month ago.[1,2] Other polls show similar results.
On the question of whether the U.S. had done the right thing by invading Iraq, agreement declined in a single month from 58% to 47%.
On the question of whether the U.S. should stay the course, the poll shows that the U.S. public is evenly divided, 46% saying that the U.S. military should remain in Iraq for as long as it takes, and 46% saying that the U.S. should withdraw as soon as possible.
The full results and the wording of the questions can be studied in a .pdf file at www.nytimes.com/politics, which has lots of interesting information the articles below do not mention, for reasons known only to the Times.
Examination of the 34-page presentation of full results reveals 26 reasons to cheer up:
THE TWENTY-SIX REASONS!
a) The New York Times/CBS News poll has been tracking favorable vs. unfavorable impressions of George W. Bush since 1999, and only in the past two polls, taken at the end of March and the end of April, has Bush's unfavorable rating exceeded his favorable rating (43% to 38% currently -- the first such gap that can be considered statistically reliable).
b) The number who say that they "will definitely vote" in 2004 has grown significantly in recent months, and now stands at 88%.
c) For the first time ever, the percentage saying that they "disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president" exceeds those who "approve," 47% to 46%.
d) The percentage that disapproves of his handling of foreign policy, which was less than the percentage of those who approve as recently as Dec. 14-15, 2003, now greatly exceeds those approving, by 51% to 40%.
e) Disapproval of the way he is handling the economy is even greater, 54% to 39%.
f) Disapproval of the way he is handling Iraq has never been higher, and is now 52% to 41%.
g) Reviving the draft to provide soldiers for Iraq is opposed by a margin of 70% to 24%.
h) Since January, the percentage of those who think that Bush's policies are making the U.S. safer from terrorism has declined from 68% to 49%, while the percentage of those who think they are making the U.S. less safe has increased from 15% to 25%.
i) Meddling in another country's affairs in order to change it from a dictatorship to a democracy is solidly opposed, 62% to 22%.
j) The percentage that thinks it was a mistake to "get involved" in Iraq has jumped from 24% to 48% in the past year, and now exceeds the percentage of those who think it was not a mistake.
TEN DOWN, SIXTEEN TO GO -- DON'T YOU FEEL BETTER ALREADY?
k) Dick Cheney's unfavorable rating is now at an all-time high, at 29% -- 26% view him favorably -- and his "unfavorable" rating now exceeds his "favorable" rating for the first time.
l) Twelve percent of the U.S. public regards George W. Bush as a "liberal" (this may not be a reason to cheer up, but it's kind of funny).
m) Forty-two percent of the U.S. public thinks George W. Bush "has the same priorities for the country" as they do (also good for a laugh).
n) Fifty-seven percent of the U.S. public thinks that they would "like Bush personally" (for some reason this makes me smile, too).
o) Those who say they are "uneasy" about Bush handling foreign policy crises is at an all-time high, at 53%.
p) The percentage of those thinking the war "was not worth" the loss in U.S. lives is ahead of those who think it "was worth" it by an unprecedented amount, 58% to 33%.
q) The percentage who think that Iraq was "not a threat" to the U.S. is at an all-time high, at 17%.
r) The percentage who think that Iraq was a threat that "required" immediate action is at an all-time low, at 32% (down from a high of 61% at the beginning of the war).
s) The percentage of those who think the U.S. should have "stayed out" of Iraq is at an all-time high (46%, up from 28% a year ago), and the percentage of those who think the U.S. did the "right thing" in invading Iraq is at an all-time low (47%, down from 64% a year ago).
t) The percentage of those who think the U.S. was "too quick" to use military force in Iraq is at an all-time high, at 61%.
FEELING THE GLOOM LIFT? SIX MORE TO GO!
u) The percentage of Americans who think things are going "badly" or "very badly" in Iraq is at an all-time high, at 60%.
v) The percentage who support "bringing in" the United Nations is at an all-time high, at 76%.
w) The percentage of those who think that Bush is either "hiding something" or "mostly lying" in his statements on Iraq is 76%.
x) The percentage of the U.S. public that thinks that the war in Iraq is "not part" of the war on terror is at an all-time high, at 45% (up from 30% a year ago).
y) Only 12% of the U.S. public were able to pick the correct answer when asked how many U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq and offered, as choices these answers: 100-499 (23%), 500-699 (22%), 700-799 (12%), 800-999 (6%); 1000-2999 (10%), more (4%).
z) Fifty-eight percent of the U.S. public has heard or read "not much" or "nothing" about the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act.
2004: THE YEAR OF ALL THE ANSWERS
William Pfaff of the International Herald Tribune says that "2004 will be the year of all the answers." The good news is that the U.S. public is beginning to wake up. So cheer up!
SUPPORT FOR WAR IS DOWN SHARPLY, POLL CONCLUDES
By Richard W. Stevenson and Janet Elder
New York Times
April 29, 2004
Support for the war in Iraq has eroded substantially over the past several months, and Americans are increasingly critical of the way President Bush is handling the conflict, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
After initially expressing robust backing for the war, the public is now evenly divided over whether the United States military should stay for as long as it takes to stabilize Iraq or pull out as soon as possible, the poll showed.
Asked whether the United States had done the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, 47 percent of respondents said it had, down from 58 percent a month earlier and 63 percent in December, just after American forces captured Saddam Hussein. Forty-six percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, up from 37 percent last month and 31 percent in December.
The diminished public support for the war did not translate into any significant advantage for Mr. Bush's Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The poll showed the two men remaining in a statistical dead heat, both in a head-to-head matchup and in a three-way race that included Ralph Nader.
Support for Mr. Bush is stronger in other areas vital to his re-election, including his handling of the threat from terrorism, which won the approval of 60 percent of respondents.
Even so, just short of a year after Mr. Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last May 1 and proclaimed the end to major combat operations under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," his approval rating has slid from the high levels it reached during the war.
It now stands at 46 percent, the lowest level of his presidency in The Times/CBS News Poll, down from 71 percent last March and a high of 89 percent just after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
At this point in his winning re-election race in 1996, President Bill Clinton's approval rating in The New York Times/CBS News Poll was 48 percent.
Mr. Bush's approval rating for his handling of Iraq was 41 percent, down from 49 percent last month and 59 percent in December.
The survey held hints of trouble for Mr. Kerry as he seeks to introduce himself to an electorate that knows relatively little about him. While 55 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters said they strongly favored the president, only 32 percent of Mr. Kerry's supporters strongly favored their candidate.
Sixty-one percent of voters said Mr. Kerry says what he thinks people want to hear, versus 29 percent who said he says what he believes. The Bush campaign has attacked Mr. Kerry for months on that score, portraying him as a flip-flopper with no convictions.
On the same question, 43 percent said Mr. Bush says what people want to hear and 53 percent said he says what he believes.
The poll, conducted from Friday to Tuesday, came during a month that has seen more American soldiers killed in Iraq than in any other month since the invasion 13 months ago. In the days before the poll was conducted, a Web site obtained and publicly released for the first time photographs of soldiers' coffins returning to the United States from Iraq.
"The only thing I think was good was when they got Saddam," said Anna Bartlow, 67, of Tulsa, Okla., a poll respondent who identified herself as a Republican. "That's the only thing that I think they did right, but if they were going to go over there just for him, they should have gotten him and then got out."
Of the Iraqis, Ms. Bartlow said, "Let them fight it out among themselves."
The poll questioned 1,042 people. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Terry Holt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, questioned whether the poll accurately reflected public opinion. But, Mr. Holt said, the White House has all along expected the presidential race to be close until the very end.
"There will be tough times in Iraq," Mr. Holt said, "but the key to prevailing and winning the war on terror is steady, determined leadership."
Chad Clanton, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, said the fact that the race remained essentially tied showed that Mr. Bush's attacks, including an aggressive advertising campaign, had failed to take down Mr. Kerry.
The poll suggested that American attitudes about the war were shifting in response to a daily barrage of disturbing images and news reports. Mr. Bush's advisers have asserted that Americans long ago made up their minds that the war was justified, and that violent flare-ups in Iraq would not hurt the president politically as long as the United States remained committed to creating a stable democracy there.
But the Times/CBS poll appeared to bolster the view of many Democrats that the intensified violence in Iraq would inevitably lead to questions about the wisdom of the war and Mr. Bush's leadership.
Asked whether the results of the war with Iraq were worth the loss of American lives and other costs, 33 percent of respondents said it was worth it. That was down from 37 percent at the beginning of April and 44 percent in December. Fifty-eight percent said it was not worth it, up from 54 percent at the start of the month and 49 percent in December.
At a time when American troops are engaged in fierce battles in Najaf and Falluja, two centers of the Iraqi insurgency, the poll found that 46 percent of Americans thought the United States military should remain in Iraq for as long as it takes to create a stable democracy, even if it takes a long time, and 46 percent said the United States should withdraw as soon as possible.
American perceptions of Iraqis have also shifted, the poll found. While 53 percent of Americans in a CBS News poll a year ago saw Iraqis as grateful for getting rid of Mr. Hussein, 38 percent see Iraqis feeling that way now. Forty-eight percent now view the Iraqis as resentful, up from 26 percent a year ago.
But the Iraq developments do not appear to have reshaped the presidential race in any discernible way.
If the election were held today, 46 percent of registered voters would vote for Mr. Kerry and 44 percent for Mr. Bush, the poll found. With Mr. Nader in the race, Mr. Bush would get 43 percent, Mr. Kerry 41 percent and Mr. Nader 5 percent, suggesting that nearly all of Mr. Nader's support comes from voters who would otherwise back the Democrat.
Follow-up interviews with people who took part in the poll suggested that the surge in violence in the past few months had led some Americans who supported the general goal of bringing democracy to Iraq to become more skeptical.
"It appears to me that we're not welcome there, and I don't know if I would have been able to support the invasion of Iraq if I had felt that the Iraqi people didn't welcome us there," said Michael Ryan, 54, of Ashland, Ore., who identified himself as a Democrat.
"I'm under the impression now that Dick Cheney came into office with an agenda for war in Iraq, and that George Bush had the same agenda, and that they were twisting the facts to justify the invasion," he said. "And I feel angry about it because I supported the U.S. invasion."
Violet Adams, 66, of Delta, Colo., who identified herself as a Republican, said she thought the United States would have to maintain a presence in the Middle East for a decade as part of the broader effort to confront Islamic terrorism.
"We either take them in their territory, on their turf, and keep them there, or we let them scatter all over the world and start their little cells, and then we'll all be living like Israel," Ms. Adams said.
Nick Dente, 46, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who identified himself as an independent, said he had not been a supporter of Mr. Bush but was open to backing him depending on how he conducted the fight against terrorism. In going to war with Iraq, Mr. Dente said, Mr. Bush took that fight in the wrong direction.
"I believe we've gotten sidetracked from finding Al Qaeda," he said.
--Fred Backus contributed reporting for this article.
HOW POLL WAS DONE
New York Times
April 29, 2004
The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll is based on telephone interviews conducted Friday through Tuesday with 1,042 adults throughout the United States.
The sample of telephone exchanges called was randomly selected by a computer from a complete list of more than 42,000 active residential exchanges across the country.
Within each exchange, random digits were added to form a complete telephone number, thus permitting access to listed and unlisted numbers alike. Within each household, one adult was designated by a random procedure to be the respondent for the survey.
The results have been weighted to take account of household size and number of telephone lines into the residence and to adjust for variation in the sample relating to geographic region, sex, race, age and education.
In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results based on such samples will differ by no more than three percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by seeking out all American adults.
For smaller subgroups the margin of sampling error is larger.
In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting any survey of public opinion may introduce other sources of error into the poll. Variation in the wording and order of questions, for example, may lead to somewhat different results.
Questions and results are at nytimes.com/politics.
DIFFERENT POLL RESULTS, BUT MUCH IN COMMON
New York Times
April 29, 2004
At least five organizations have surveyed the public this month about President Bush's performance, the war in Iraq and the political prospects for this year, and the differences among them are typical of surveys asking different questions at different times.
Because of the statistics of polling, those differences are less than they seem on the surface -- comparisons among polls of about 1,000 respondents, as these polls had, carry a sampling error of 4 percentage points.
The New York Times/CBS News Poll's main findings were consistent with trends in some other recent polls but somewhat more negative for Mr. Bush. For example, an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted April 15 to 18 put Mr. Bush's job approval rating at 51 percent. A poll by the Pew Research Center conducted April 21 to 25 put it at 48 percent. The current Times/CBS Poll, taken slightly later, April 23 to 27, put it at 46 percent. In statistical terms, these are virtually the same.
Wording differences among polls can also have a significant effect. In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 51 percent said that the war in Iraq had been worth fighting, "all in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States." That number was down from 56 percent in January and 59 percent in December. Forty-seven percent said it was not worth fighting, up from 41 percent in January and 39 percent in December.
The latest Times/CBS News Poll asked whether the "result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq." Thirty-three percent said it was worth it, down from 42 percent in mid-March and 43 percent in January.
The Pew organization asked, "Do you think the U.S. made the right decision or the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq?" It found that 54 percent of respondents believed going to war in Iraq was the right decision, statistically indistinguishable from 57 percent in early April and down from 62 percent in January. Pew found that 37 percent of Americans felt using military force was the wrong decision, nearly the same as 35 percent in early April but up from 28 percent in January.
Every polling organization has different ways of wording questions and of conducting surveys, but those methods tend to remain consistent over time within an organization. For this reason, the trends within an organization's polling are generally viewed as more relevant than the results from polls by different organizations within a short period of time.
Of course, the natural progression of news also has an effect on public opinion. For example, publicity about the new book by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, which spurred some critical accounts of the Bush administration's war planning, began appearing roughly a week before the current Times/CBS poll and while the ABC News/Washington Post poll was in progress. The first pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq were published in newspapers across the country and broadcast on television networks just before the New York Times/CBS News survey began. The toll in Iraq continued to grow in what has become the worst month for military deaths since the initial phase of the war ended.