Public is Skeptical of Course President is Charting in Iraq

Posted June 7, 2005 at 5:19pm

In a poll that brought little good news for President Bush, a weak 39 percent of those surveyed by Harris Interactive on May 4-10 said that things were moving in the right direction in Iraq, while 29 percent said they were moving in the wrong direction.

Unfortunately for Bush, only 21 percent thought conditions for U.S. troops there were getting better, while 39 percent said they were getting worse. The president’s ratings on handling the situation in Iraq reached a new low in the poll, with 37 percent rating the job he was doing there as excellent or good, 20 percent as fair, and 36 percent as poor.

In a May 11-15 Pew Research Center poll, 37 percent of those questioned approved of the job Bush was doing there. Iraq was identified as the most important problem facing the country in Pew’s poll.

In a mid-May NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 51 percent said that “removing Saddam Hussein from power” was not worth the number of U.S. casualties and the financial costs of war. Forty percent said it was.

Ideologues’ Influence on the Parties. Thirty-eight percent told Harris in early May that “extreme liberals” had too much influence in the Democratic Party, while 22 percent said they had too little influence. A quarter weren’t sure. As for the influence of “extreme conservatives” on the Republican Party, 53 percent of those surveyed said they had too much, 10 percent said too little and 21 percent weren’t sure.

The Religious Right’s Influence. Forty-eight percent in the Harris poll said the religious right had too much influence “in Washington,” 21 percent said too little, and 15 percent said it had about the right amount.

In an early April Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, 39 percent (up from 21 percent in an identically worded May 2003 CBS/New York Times poll) said the religious right had too much influence on “the Bush administration,” with 18 percent saying too little, and 39 percent saying the right amount.

In a late April-early May Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, 43 percent (up from 39 percent in early April) said the religious right had too much influence over “the Republicans in Congress,” 22 percent said too little, and 28 percent said about the right amount.

Moral Values and Religion’s Influence. In a May SRBI/Time poll, a strong 58 percent approved of Bush’s emphasis on moral values and religion while 33 percent disapproved.

In the May NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 30 percent said Bush was placing too much emphasis on issues related to moral values, 27 percent said too little, and 39 percent said the right amount.

How Much Do Journalists Know? When journalists were asked by pollsters from the University of Connecticut if they could name “any of the specific rights that are guaranteed by the First Amendment,” two-thirds named freedom of speech and 57 percent said freedom of the press. But only 39 percent recalled the right of assembly, 35 percent identified freedom of religion, and 6 percent said the right to petition.

Journalists outscored the public. Fifty-eight percent of the public recalled freedom of speech and 14 percent freedom of the press as rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Three hundred journalists and 1,000 adults who were not in the journalism profession were surveyed in late March and early April.

How Journalists Voted. In the University of Connecticut survey, 52 percent of journalists said they voted for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in last year’s presidential election, 19 percent said Bush, and 1 percent said they voted for Independent Ralph Nader. Twenty-one percent refused to answer.

Journalists’ Partisan and Ideological Orientation. When asked about their party in the University of Connecticut survey, one-third of the journalists questioned called themselves Democrats, 10 percent said they were Republicans, and 49 percent identified themselves as independents. The general public split evenly between Democrats and Republicans (33 to 32 percent), with 22 percent declaring themselves independents. As for ideological orientation, 28 percent of journalists called themselves liberal, 53 percent moderate, and 10 percent conservative. Nineteen percent of the adults surveyed called themselves liberals, 40 percent said they were moderates, and 34 percent identified themselves as conservatives.

A March-early May Annenberg Foundation Trust survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates of journalists found 31 percent identifying themselves as liberal, 49 percent as moderate, 9 percent as conservative, and 2 percent as libertarian.

CBS and Bush’s Guard Service. When asked why CBS and Dan Rather ran the story last fall — which turned out to be erroneous — about Bush’s National Guard service, 10 percent of journalists told Annenberg interviewers that a major reason was that “CBS News and Dan Rather are liberals who dislike President Bush,” 31 percent said this was a minor reason, and 54 percent said it was not a reason at all. Forty percent of the public said this was a major reason, 29 percent said minor, and 26 percent said it was not a reason.

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