Increase in Iraq War Support Baffles Times' Pollsters

In a web-only column on Wednesday, Janet Elder, who writes about polling for the Times, found the Times' most recent poll revealed a surprising uptick in support for the invasion of Iraq.

The Times quickly went to work to explain the increase in support for the war,something it apparentlyconsidered an unwelcome anomaly.

"The war in Iraq is the single most important ongoing news story right now. Public opinion about the war is a critical part of that story. That's why when we had a poll finding about the war that we could not explain, we went back and did another poll on the very same subject. We wanted to make sure we had gotten it right.

It turns out we had gotten it right. Support for the initial invasion of Iraq, as measured by a question The New York Times/CBS News poll has asked since December 2003, increased modestly compared to two months ago."


"In the poll, The Times and CBS News posed a standard question that asks respondents to think back to the initial invasion and then judge whether or not the United States military action in Iraq was the right thing to do. 'Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the United States have stayed out?'

"Forty-two percent of those polled said the United States did the right thing, and 54 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. The last time the question was asked, in May, 35 percent said taking military action against Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out.

"The July numbers represented a change. It was counterintuitive. None of the other war related questions showed change. Mr. Bush's approval rating had not changed. Nor had approval of his handling of Iraq. The level of support for Mr. Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq - the so-called 'surge' - was about the same as it had been in past polls. Support for the decision to go to war had risen modestly and nothing else in the poll could explain it."

When support for the invasion plummeted by nearly the same amount between April and May (the April figures were 44 percent and 51 percent, before falling off in May), there was evidently no effort by the Times to question the drop in support for the war.

And is it not overkill to not only introduce the word "surge" with the dismissive phrase "so-called," but to put quotation marks around it as well? We get it: The Times rejects the accuracy of the word "surge." No need to underline it twice.

James Taranto at Opinion Journal: "Well, two cheers for the paper's diligence, but this also seems to be about as close as we're going to get to an admission of bias: an acknowledgment that those at the Times are flummoxed that the public is not responding the way they expect to all the bad news they've been reporting."