Cultural Psychology

Poll data reveals strong sentiment against Afghanistan war

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Though the information isn’t especially easy to find, semi-regular opinion polls on the Afghan and Iraq wars have been conducted by several sources, including CBS News, Fox News, USA Today, Newsweek, CNN, and the Gallup Organization.  The ABC News/Washington Post polls are especially instructive, because of arguably better-worded questions. (As we know, how a question is phrased can substantially affect results.)

Since 2007, the ABC News polling unit has been asking the question, “All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?” to groups of roughly N = 1000 respondents.

The latest results are described here, and cumulative historical data for the poll can be found here:

Because the cumulative graphs in the report are not very good, I’ve prepared two figures, below, from the data.

The first shows the proportion of respondents saying, “No” to the question over time.  The blue line indicates actual response rates; the green line is a quadratic trend line.  The important thing is the growth of negative opinion, now well over 50%.

Because, each time, from 3% to 5% subjects gave “Unsure” as their response, pro-war opinion and anti-war opinion sum to less than 100%. For example, in July 2010, 53% called the war not worth fighting, 4% were unsure, and only 43% were for the war – a 10% disparity.

Buried in the data is an interesting detail.  Respondents were asked to say whether they felt “strongly” or “somewhat”  that the war was worth/not worth fighting. This invites a stratified comparison of rates of strong approval vs. strong disapproval. This comparison is shown in the following figure:

As shown, when considering only those with strong beliefs, the disparity in favor of anti-war sentiment is more marked.  For example, in July 2010, 38% of respondents strongly believed the war was not worth fighting, vs. only 24% who felt strongly the opposite.  Factoring in degree of sentiment, therefore, makes an even stronger case that Americans do not support the war.

Maybe the media hasn’t exactly hidden this information, but they’ve taken no pains to draw attention to it!


Written by John Uebersax

August 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm

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