International Opinion Remains Split Over War’s Justification

Posted March 9, 2004 at 1:56pm

For the most part, citizens in other countries agree with many Americans that despite the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war was justified. [IMGCAP(1)]

A mid-February Ipsos Public Affairs poll reminded people in eight countries that “the United States and Great Britain now say there appears to be little or no evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” The survey organization then asked people whether the United States should not have gone to war or whether there were other reasons besides WMDs to justify it.

In the United States, 32 percent said we shouldn’t have gone to war, while 66 percent felt that there were other reasons to take that course. In four of the seven other countries, majorities felt the same way: Mexico (32 percent to 60 percent), France (31-62), Italy (28-58), and the United Kingdom (39-55). Opinion was more closely divided in Canada (46 percent to 51 percent) and Spain (44-45). Only in Germany did a majority say the United States should not have gone to war (68 to 30 percent).

Homeland Security and Privacy. A mid-February Harris Interactive poll found that 70 percent thought the Bush administration has done an excellent (33 percent) or pretty good (37 percent) job preventing a terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. In the early-March Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 58 percent said the United States is safer than before Sept. 11, 23 percent less safe, and 15 percent said that there is no difference.

Fourteen percent responded to another question in the Harris poll by saying they felt that a great deal or quite a lot of their own personal privacy has been taken away since Sept. 11. Another 22 percent said a moderate amount has been taken away.

In March 2002, 12 percent told Harris interviewers that they were very confident and 61 percent somewhat confident that U.S. law enforcement agencies would use their expanded surveillance powers in a proper way and 12 percent were not very or not confident at all about this. In the new poll, 23 percent were very confident and 53 percent somewhat confident. A quarter were not confident.

Outsourcing. The Feb. 19-20 Princeton Survey Research Associates/Newsweek poll found 68 percent disagreeing with “a government official who recently said that the outsourcing of American service jobs to other countries is not only inevitable, but is good for Americans.” Twenty-three percent agreed.

When asked about some possible reasons for the loss of American jobs to foreign competitors, 80 percent said that a major reason was that people in other countries were willing to work for lower pay (11 percent called this a minor reason and 5 percent not a reason). Seventy-seven percent chose as a major reason “investors and CEOs want profits and don’t care where they come from” (13 percent minor, 4 percent not a reason); 61 percent that other countries have lower environmental and worker health standards (20, 11); 56 percent that consumers here want everything at the lowest possible price (28, 11); 42 percent weak corporate leadership in the United States (28, 20); and 35 percent that labor unions had too much power (28, 20).

When registered voters in the survey were asked which candidate could do the best job of protecting American jobs and creating new ones, 35 percent said President Bush, 31 percent Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and 18 percent then-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

Recovery or Not? Forty percent in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll said they believe Republicans who say an economic recovery is under way, while 43 percent believe Democrats who say the country’s economy is still not recovering.

Twenty-eight percent in the mid-February Gallup poll said now is a good time to find a quality job; 70 percent disagreed.

Nader and the 2000 Race. The early-March Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll seems to confirm the conventional wisdom regarding consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s long-shot presidential bid: Democrats hate it.

While 47 percent of respondents said Nader did not cost Al Gore the 2000 election and 37 percent said he did, Democrats were a mirror image: 49 percent to 37 percent. In the poll, Nader’s favorable rating was 30 percent, down from 43 percent in 2000.

The Death Penalty. In the February Field poll of Californians, 68 percent said the death penalty should be kept for serious crimes, while 26 percent were in favor of doing away with it. Seventy percent of white non-Hispanics and 71 percent of Latinos there favored retaining the death penalty. Sixty-four percent of Asians and 45 percent of African-Americans did.

In an October 2003 Gallup poll, 64 percent of those surveyed favored the death penalty for someone convicted of murder, and 32 percent were opposed.

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.