Survey sez: Politicizing terror works

Via Cursor, I see there’s a new Pew Research Center study on foreign policy attitudes. The entire survey is worth looking at but it is revealing on the effects of the politicization of terror.

“Currently, four-in-ten Americans (41%) cite international and defense issues such as the Iraq war and terrorism as the most important problems facing the country, while just a quarter of the public (26%) offers economic concerns. And both Pew Research Center and Gallup surveys show that, if anything, the public’s focus on foreign and security issues is increasing as the campaign progresses.” (Emphasis added). The survey also revealed: “In the July 8-18 survey, conducted prior to the Democratic convention and the government’s announcement of elevated terrorism alert, a 54% majority approve of Bush’s performance in handling terrorist threats. This rose slightly to 58% in the August 5-10 survey, conducted after the government’s Code Orange announcement.”

So, increasing the terror level produced a four point increase in Bush’s poll numbers. But it isn’t all good news for Bush. Here’s a few more tidbits from the survey:

Two-thirds (67%) of Americans ­surveyed believe the United States is less respected by other countries than in the past.

“A narrow majority of Americans (53%) continue to believe it was the ‘right decision’ to use military force in Iraq, but this figure is down from the 74% who held that view during the height of major combat last year. And more Americans now disapprove (52%) than approve (43%) of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq.”

“The erosion in public support for the war in Iraq over the past year is best illustrated by a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who question whether the war has helped the war on terrorism. Just 45% now say it has ‘helped,’ while 44% say it has ‘hurt.’ . . . . As recently as February of this year, 62% said the war in Iraq had helped the war on terror, and only 28% said it had hurt.”

“Fully 72% of the public says following moral principles should be a top priority in the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy.”

Fifty-six percent say it is not necessary for the average person to sacrifice some personal freedoms to fight terrorism effectively. This represents a decline that is uniform across most demographic groups. “Only among Republicans and people in upper-income brackets does a majority continue to say it is necessary to give up civil liberties.” (Emphasis added).

At the same time, though, more Americans (49%) are concerned the government has not gone far enough to protect the country from terrorism than say the government has excessively restricted civil liberties in the war on terror (29%).

Partisan views play a significant role in the results. Yet even considering that, here’s the core question: If people view Bush as having done a poor job and making us less safe with Iraq and foreign policy, want moral principles to guide foreign policy and support civil liberties, why is re-defeating Bush so difficult?

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