Public opinion is considered to be extremely important in the modern world. It is impossible to imagine a democratic country which does not pay attention to the public opinion in the relation to a specific affair which concerns the whole society. Many different models have been used to make conclusions about the relation of the public opinion to the specific parameters and events in the society.
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To consider this problem, a specific situation should be taken into account. One of the most crucial questions which has been bothering not only the USA but also the whole world is the problem devoted to the war in Iraq. Different people have various points of view regarding the situation. It is important to state the personal opinions of people in different years have been changing.
It may be predicted that the reasons for change in the public opinion are different, starting with those which have relation to the USA and the actions which are taken there and finishing with the actions which take place on the international arena and influence of the war on other spheres of the world life.
The main purpose of this article is to consider the public opinion of the citizens of the USA which has been changing from one year to another which are gathered in polls and review and analyzes those public opinion polls about the importance of the attitude “public preference” of citizens toward a specific public policy.
Iraq war polls
Public preference in thermostatic model
According to Soroka (2010) “the representation of the public opinion presupposes that the public actually notices and responds to what policy makers do” (22). Thus, from the first words it is seen that the actions taken by the government and the documents they accept as the legal influence public opinion. The change of the public preference may change either to the positive or negative opinion, like a thermostat.
Thus, the model which dwells upon the change of public opinion as a result of the changes the policymakers do is called thermostatic. The public preference for policy is different in different regions of the USA as the public preferred level is different as well.
People pay much attention to the laws and different policies which are accepted in the society, but at the same time people do not have the copies of those documents in their houses. Most people create their personal opinion on the basis of the public opinion and form their preference on the basis of the public preference. These processes are interconnected.
People are not predicted to have detailed information about the event as well as they are not predicted to have a stated and perfectly formulated opinion about some specific fact. Public is also not predicted to be aware of different actions held by the policy makers.
The only thing which is required is the changes of the public preference to the specific occasion with the change of some actions. Public opinion may become either negative or positive with the change either to the less or to more public preference.
Soroka (2010) has proven that the policy reacts to the policy change even though people do not read the entire documents or do not present while the specific events. The information flow plays an important role in the thermostatic model as it makes it possible for people to get to know something about the changes and identify their personal attitude to the change either positive or negative.
It may be stated that public creates its opinion not on the basis of the credible information they get from numerous sources, but on the basis of the feedback. Depending on the nature of the feedback, either positive or negative, public preference becomes either lower or higher.
But, even when a positive feedback is got, public opinion may change in different ways, either favorably or less supportive. The behavior of the political elites may become crucial in the decision.
When the opinion is created, public has an opportunity to response to the specific event and policy which had been accepted. There are two main ways for public response to the policy, namely elections (indirect) and the response of the politicians to the desires of the public (direct). These two kinds of public responses are closely related. People are not really interested in the way how their desires are going to be met.
They just want to respond express their opinion, response to the government reaction and get what they want. Thus, the theoretical information considered above may be easily related to the poll results about the war in Iraq and public opinion was created by mans of different information and feedback as well as the public preference changed with the change of the situation and policies.
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Public opinion in different years
Dwelling upon public opinion about the war in Iraq in different years, it should be stated that the information has slight differences depending on the poll. The margin of error should be considered as ± 3 which corresponds to the norm.
Thus, here are the results considered by different research centers in different years in the relation to the war in Iraq. According to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, 74%of Americans thought that it was a right decision to start a military campaign in Iraq. 41% of people think the same in 2006.
According to Gallup poll, 23% of Americans consider a war in Iraq as a mistake in the beginning of 2003 while at the end of 2010 this number has increased significantly and now comprises about 55% of American population.
It should be noted that public opinion changed and public preference became less with some specific event, like tortures by US military, bombing of Golden Mosque in Samarra, surge and the beginning of presidential primaries (‘Big mistake’ 2010). All these events negatively influenced public preference to the war in Iraq.
The reaction of public in the relation to the staying of American troops in Iraq has been changing as well. In 2003 64% of Americans supported the idea to stay in Iraq until the situation there is stabilized. Only 47% of Americans thought the same in 2008 (‘Public Attitudes toward the War in Iraq’ 2008).
According to the research of NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 31% of Americans supported the additional sending of 21,500 troops to Iraq in 2007. His says that the general appreciation of the war is reduced.
More and more people begin to think that it is impossible to implement democracy in the country and there is no need to stay there, otherwise, the USA has some different reasons to send more troops to Iraq and stay there as long as possible.
The attitude of public to financial problems has not changed much. According to the results of ABC News/Washington Post (2009) in 2007 40% of respondents considered it financially profitable; in 2009 only 39% thought that the war worth those financial costs.
Comparison and contrast of public opinion in different years
Having considered numerous polls related to the public opinion about the Iraq War since 2003 up to present times, it has been found out that it was changing. According to the summary of the poll provided by the USA Today, Benedetto (2003) states that people in the USA supported the fighting which began in Iraq.
“The news from Iraq is mostly bad, and criticism of President Bush from Democrats is relentless. But nearly two-thirds — 63% — of Americans say the war in Iraq was worth fighting” (Benedetto 2003). The information in the polls states that in January about 53% of respondents said that the situation was worth going to war and in August this number increased up to 63% (USATODAY/CNN/Gallup poll results 2005).
The positive opinion about the war during this period may be explained by the public mood. The events of September 11, 2001 were still fresh in mind.
The inability to apply democracy in Iraq and to avoid blind submission to the desire of one specific person were also important for the Americans as the nation which respected democracy most of all. The promotion of the idea of the war also influenced the population in the USA. Moreover, the idea of the war against terrorism was proclaimed.
Providing the research in 2005, the following results were considered. 41% stated that the war was a right thing and 55% of respondents wanted American troops stayed out in Iraq. At the same time 59% of respondents stated that the war did not worth its costs. According to another statistics 64% sated that financial profitableness of the war was not confirmed.
It is possible to conclude that people reconsidered something, the policies which were adopted and the actions which were taken made some people realize that the war was not exactly what was happening. The public preference reduced, still, the change was not so great, more people still considered the war a right action (Roberts 2005).
Furthermore, the referendum was expected at that time and most Americans did not consider Iraq secure enough to take it up. All these policies and events influenced the public preference. People began to understand that the inability of the USA to lead a quick war influenced them directly. The financial costs were really great and the USA could not state firmly that they would be able to reach their purposes.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that Americans wanted for the Iraq war to finish as soon as possible in 2005, while in 2003 it was impossible to state that the USA would have this opinion in the nearest future.
Considering the data collected while 2007, it may be noticed that “Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the invasion more than four years ago” (Sussman 2007). Considering the statistical information, only 35% of respondents considered the war in Iraq a right thing, others believed that it was a mistake. 47% of Americans were sure that the efforts the US government provided were useless.
Bush had sent troops to Iraq in 2007, but 51% of Americans said that this was useless. Those troops could not change anything but the financial support of the war increased. Furthermore, Americans began to say about the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as one of the most reasonable decision the president could make. Only 20% of respondents saw the positive effect of the increase of the US troops in the USA.
The financing of the war was the main problem which made the public opinion change. 15% of the respondents were for blocking the financing of the war by Congress. 62% thought that the Congress should allow the war, but “on the condition that the United States sets benchmarks for progress and the Iraqi government meets those goals” (Sussman 2007).
Thus, it may be concluded that the change in public opinion was influenced by a number of different reasons. The change of the situation in Iraq influenced the inner situation in the USA. Public preference changed but this change was slight. It can be seen that about a half of respondents were either for or against the war in Iraq. Human opinion was formed under the influence of the situation in the whole world.
People acted according to the thermostatic model when people got to know about the situation in Iraq and their opinion changed. Depending on the actions taken in the country, the public got to know the latest news and its preferences changed as well.
The importance of public preference while collecting public opinion
The reduction of the war support from 2003 up to 2005 may be easily explained. The fall of support began when people began to understand that the financial stability of the country may be ruined. Financing the war, the federal deficit increased. More than a half of respondents (62%) would better finance the Gulf Coast rebuilding rather than the war which outcome seemed rather unpredictable.
Americans did not believe that it was possible to build stable democracy in that country (Roberts 2005). Thus, people began to criticize the war and the preference to it reduced. Public was dissatisfied with the situation and this led to the reduction of public support of the war.
Public preference to the specific event is important as it influenced public opinion about the situation. The beginning of the Presidential primaries was one of the most influential events which influenced public opinion. It should be mentioned that it reduced the interest to the war in general. Many people began to be less interested in what had happened there.
The Presidential primaries provoked the debates as each candidate wanted to refer his/her election campaign to the situation in Iraq. It is obvious that the debates made many people think about what had happened there, for some people more and more new information revealed.
Many facts about the situation in Iraq were dwelt upon in the daily newspapers According to Soroka (2010), most Americans do not read newspapers, but this does not prevent them from form public preference e and remain responsiveness to the policy. The author is sure that one of the main components of public preference is “whether policy has gone ‘too far’ in one direction or ‘not far enough’” (Soroka 2010, 31).
To give such an opinion is possible even without being aware of the detailed facts about the policy or vents. Thus, public preference is created on the basis of the superficial knowledge. This knowledge makes it possible to formulate public opinion.
Returning to the practical example which has been considered along the whole paper, the preference to the war in Iraq was ether less of more during different periods of time. This influenced public opinion and in different times more or less people supported the war or considered it to be a mistake.
The Economist in 2010 had provided a research with the purpose to consider when public opinion was more preferable to the war in Iraq and when the situation was less positive. When the president Bush declared about the end of the major combat operations in Iraq, the public thought that it was not a mistake (76 %).
When the reports about the tortures by the US military came to the USA, the public opinion changed and the preference to the war reduced, only 66% of Americans still believed that this war was not a mistake. With the bombing of Golden Mosque in Samarra, public opinion about the war began to get stable in the idea that the USA should not have to attack Iraq.
Public preference to the war reduced and 65%believed that the war in Iraq was a great mistake. The Presidential primaries revealed much information and public preference to the war was even less than before, only 40% were sure that the war was not a mistake (‘Big mistake’ 2010).
Thus, referencing to Soroka and the thermostatic model of public preference, it may be concluded that public opinion is really important in the situation. “Without public responsiveness to policy, there is little basis for policy responsiveness to public opinion” (Soroka 2010, 41), but public responsiveness to the policy is an obligatory condition for the existence of the society.
People got used to the fact that they have their opinion about some specific situation. Each American had an opinion about the war in Iraq and the responsiveness to that event created the public opinion and changed public preference either to less or more.
In conclusion, the thermostatic model states that public preference reacts to the changes in the public opinion which is formed on the basis of different policies and events which take place. It should be mentioned that the information flow is really important as many Americans are not interested in detailed study of legal documents and reports about the events.
Being aware of the general facts devoted to the problem people create their opinion which influenced public preference. The attitude to the war in Iraq changed with the occurrence of different events.
When Americans thought that the war was fast and desired goal to make this country democratic were almost reached, the preference to the war increased, but when the war had been lasting for several years and the desired goal was too far, public preference to the war, influenced by the negative public opinion reduced as well.
The poll results presented by different research campaigns showed that the change of the public preference was influenced by different events, both inside the country and outside.
It was obvious that public got to know about different events later and their opinion changed greatly with the change of those events. The nature of the events caused either public satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and made public preference become either less or more.
‘ABC News/Washington Post.” 2009. Opinion Polls/Surveys. Web.
Benedetto, Richard. 2003. “Most say Iraq war was worth fighting.” USA Today. Web.
“Big mistake.” 2010. The Economist. Web.
“Iraq.” 2011. CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Web.
“NBC News/Wall Street Journal.” 2009. Opinion Polls/Surveys. Web.
“Public Attitudes Toward the War in Iraq: 2003-2008.” 2008. PewResearchCenter Publications. Web.
Roberts, Joel. 2005. “Poll: Fading support for Iraq war.” CBSNEWS. Web.
Soroka, Stuart Neil and Christopher Wlezien. 2010. Degrees of democracy: politics, public opinion, and policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sussman, Dalia. 2007. “Poll shows view of Iraq war is most negative since start.” The New York Times. Web.
“USATODAY/CNN/Gallup poll results.” 2005. USA Today. Web.
“Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?” (CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll in ‘Iraq’ 2011)
|8/30 – 9/2/06||39||58||2|
(New York Times/CBS News poll in Sussman 2007)
Did the USA do the right thing in taking military action against Iraq?
|Did the right thing||35%|
|Should have stayed out||61%|
How are things going for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq?
USATODAY/CNN/Gallup poll results 2005
All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, or not?
|Worth going to war||Not worth going to war||No opinion|
|2003 Aug 25-26||63||35||2|
|2003 Jul 25-27||63||34||3|
|2003 Jul 18-20||63||35||2|
|2003 Jun 27-29||56||42||2|
|2003 Apr 14-16||73||23||4|
|2003 Apr 9||76||19||5|
|2003 Apr 7-8||67||30||3|
|2003 Mar 24-25||68||29||3|
|2003 Jan 3-5||53||42||5|
How would you say things are going for the U.S. in Iraq now that the major fighting has ended – very well, moderately well, moderately badly, (or) very badly?
|Very well||Moderately well||Moderately badly||Very badly||No opinion|
|2003 Aug 25-26||6||44||30||19||1|
|2003 Jul 25-27||10||46||28||15||1|
|2003 Jul 18-20||6||48||30||15||1|
|2003 Jun 27-29||5||51||29||13||2|
|2003 May 30-Jun 1||11||59||22||7||1|
|2003 May 5-7||30||56||10||3||1|
|2003 Apr 22-23||21||64||12||2||1|
NBC News/Wall Street Journal (Mar. 2-5, 2007)
“In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job that George W. Bush is doing in handling the situation in Iraq?”
|Mar. 2-5, 2007||27%||67%||6%|
|Mar. 10-13, 2006*||35%||61%||4%|
|May 12-16, 2005*||44%||52%||4%|
“Do you favor or oppose the decision to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq?”
ABC News/Washington Post 2009
“All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?”
|Date||Worth It||Not Worth It||Unsure|
|Jan. 16, 20091||39%||61%||1%|
|Jan. 12, 20081||35%||64%||2%|
|Jan. 10, 2007||40%||58%||2%|
(‘Big mistake’ 2010)
CBS in Roberts 2005
Did U.S. do the right thing going to war with Iraq?
|Now||Feb. 2005||Sept. 2004||July 2004||March 2004||Dec. 2003||March 2003|
|Should have stayed out||55%||50%||39%||47%||37%||31%||25%|