Zogby Poll: Are American Voters Sore Losers? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Sour Grapes

As I reviewed the data from the latest Zogby Poll, I came to a new conclusion that will undoubtedly draw the criticism of some of my fellow citizens...but what the hell...I think it needs to be spoken. A majority of Americans are sore losers who lack the good sense to know when its time to admit we were wrong and move on. There, I've said it. Now I'll try to explain it.

As I've watched the debate on the war in Iraq, I've struggled to understand the lack of conviction on the part of the Democratic Party following their sweeping victory in 2006. At the same time, I would also challenge anyone who would argue that the shift wasn't primarily about the war in Iraq. So why has so little changed since voters voiced their displeasure with the status quo? The answer to that question is found in the numbers.

At first glance, one might surmise that the Democrats have squandered their mandate...and that seems a fair assumption when looking at the horrendous approval of the handling of the war in Iraq by Congress...a mere three...yes only 3 percent think Congress is doing a good job on that issue. That compares with the President's approval on the war in Iraq of 24 percent.

A majority of American adults (54%) lack confidence in President Bush’s ability as Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, a new UPI/Zogby Interactive poll shows. A majority (60%) said they do not trust the president’s judgment when it comes to the war, while 38% say they have faith in his military decisions.

Just 24% give the president favorable ratings of his performance in handling the war in Iraq, but confidence in Congress is significantly worse – only 3% give Congress positive marks for how it has handled the war. This lack of confidence in Congress cuts across all ideologies. Democrats – some of whom had hoped the now Democrat-led Congress would bring an end to the war in Iraq – expressed overwhelming displeasure with how Congress has handled the war, with 94% giving Congress a negative rating in its handling specifically of that issue.

Instinctively, one might conclude that these numbers suggest that all of the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the Democratic leadership and their inability to put an end to an unpopular war. However, while the war is of great concern to the voting public, the other numbers in the poll seem to indicate a baffling disconnect.

Whether the Democratic leadership's lack of action in bringing an end to the war is a direct result of their understanding of these other numbers is beyond my ability to discern...but it may be a plausible explanation for what otherwise seems like blatant incompetence. Let's look at the numbers.

Congress has proposed a bill continuing funding the war in Iraq, but that would require the withdrawal of the majority of troops there by Spring of 2008 – a plan favored by 49% of Americans. But nearly as many (45%) are opposed to this plan.

Slightly more than half (54%) believe the U.S. should set a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and 55% believe the U.S. should begin the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. President Bush has threatened to veto any bill that funds the war in Iraq that also sets a date to begin withdrawing U.S. troops, but 52% would disagree with a presidential veto, while 44% would approve.

More than half (55%) believe if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq that it will be considered a defeat, while 41% disagree.

Half of Americans (51%) believe the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq incites anti-U.S. sentiment and creates a greater likelihood of a terrorist attack within the United States. But 44% believe the U.S. troops in Iraq are fighting terrorists within Iraq so that the U.S. does not have to fight terrorists here at home.

While half said Congress should fully fund the war in Iraq to maintain current troop levels, 29% would favor attaching requirements for phased withdrawal to Iraq war funding and 16% believe Congress should cut all funding for the war in Iraq and bring the troops home.

Here's what the numbers tell us. Slightly more Americans favor a funding plan that requires the withdrawal of significant troops by the spring of 2008. A narrow majority favors a plan that simply sets a timeline for the commencement of troop withdrawals...and a slightly higher majority favors some troop withdrawals by the end of the year.

These numbers seemingly support the argument that the Democrats haven't responded to the will of the people...but note how evenly divided voters seem on any specific plan as opposed to their overwhelming dissatisfaction with the handling of the war.

The question is how to explain this apparent inconsistency. Part of the explanation rests with the diametrically opposing views of Democrats and Republicans...with Democrats overwhelmingly opposed to the war and Republicans overwhelmingly in favor. Independents are more evenly divided.

Regardless, the respondents’ answers suggest an unexplained disconnect. While dissatisfaction with the handling of the war is high, the favored solution remains a closely divided issue. Logic would lead one to assume that a higher percentage of respondents should be in favor of one or all of the possible plans for troop withdrawals...and yet the numbers aren't there.

Also note that a majority of Americans believe that our presence in Iraq is inciting anti-American sentiment and will lead to a greater likelihood of an attack here in the homeland...51 percent to 44 percent. Again, one would think that such beliefs would lead to larger support for one or all of the plans for withdrawal...but the numbers aren't there.

How can this be explained? There is only one survey response which provides a clue to these disparities. A solid majority...55 percent to 41 percent...believe that a withdrawal from Iraq would mean that the United States was defeated. Therefore, I contend that our unwillingness to deal with the perception of defeat has resulted in an inconsistent and irrational response to the war which simply exacerbates the indecisiveness of our elected officials. Simply stated, Americans can't accept the notion of losing.

Look at it this way...suppose you're a member of Congress...and suppose you see that support for you're handling of the war is virtually zero (and the President doesn't fare much better)...and at the same time a majority of voters agree that the war may well lead to more terrorism...and yet despite having offered numerous versions of plans for withdrawal, you simply cannot muster a strong consensus from the electorate; instead you see tacit acceptance of the President's plan...tepid support for troop withdrawals...and tortured tirades that something must change.

My fellow Americans...I would call that a double bind...a damned if you do and damned if you don't conundrum. We can and will blame our elected officials but may I suggest that its time we dispense with the denial, suspend the sanctimony, and make a damn decision. We either want to "win" this war (and who knows how that should be defined) or we're ready to be big boys, take our lumps, and get the hell out of Baghdad.

There isn't going to be a knight in shining armor riding in to rescue us from our misguided decision to invade Iraq nor a silver lining found within our mismanaged strategy. The Iraqi people aren't going to miraculously bridge their decades of differences and reach some concise consensus. The rest of the world isn't going to suddenly shower us with the respect we once garnered as an honest broker for the greater global good.

I'm proud to be an American but I'm not proud of our mistakes. Foolish pride is the pride of fools. America has a long history as a force for fairness in a world which frequently fails to fulfill its responsibilities to uphold the constructs of civility and the dictates of decency.

If protecting and defending the actions of America means I must wake up in a country which I no longer recognize as America...then I will long for our storied past...I cannot and will not accept the present...and I fear who and what we will be in the future.

My friends, destiny is staring at us...will we blink...or will we embrace that which has always defined us and do the right thing? We can blame those we've elected or we can make the hard choices to create change. The time has come for each of us to choose.

Tagged as: Congress, Democrats, Iraq, Republicans, War On Terror, Zogby Poll

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2007 | 11:07 AM
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