Public Opinion on Iraq 22

Thanks to the ever excellent Blairwatch for pointing me towards this recent MORI poll:

Polling Data

Do you approve or disapprove of the way the prime minister, Tony Blair, is handling the current situation with Iraq?

———————–Approve———–Disapprove————–Don’t know

May 2007…………….17%………………..77%……………………6%

Jan. 2003…………….26%………………..62%…………………..13%

Sept. 2002…………..43%………………..49%…………………..11%

Do you approve or disapprove of the way the president of America, George W. Bush is handling the current situation with Iraq?

———————–Approve———–Disapprove————Don’t know

May 2007…………………9%…………………85%…………………6%

Jan. 2003………………..19%………………..68%………………..13%

Sept. 2002………………30%………………..59%………………..11%

Which, if any, of the following statements comes closest to your own view about the war in Iraq?

I supported the war and I support it now 11%

I supported the war but do not support it now 22%

I did not support the war but I support it now 3%

I did not support the war and I do not support it now 61%

Source: Ipsos-MORI

Methodology: Telephone interviews with 961 British adults, conducted from May 11 to May 13, 2007. No margin of error was provided.

Which result is quite astonishing, given the almost complete absence of anti-war voices from broadcast media. Also interesting how opinion polls on Iraq are virtually unreported in the media, given that such public opposition to a war this country is fighting is an extremely rare phenomenon.

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22 thoughts on “Public Opinion on Iraq

  • Randal

    "I did not support the war and I do not support it now 61%"

    I think some are being a little generous in their own interpretations or recollections of "did not support", here.

    From memory, support for attacking Iraq was generally below 50%, but not always by all that much, prior to the attack. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, support surged to, I think, a bit over 50% for a while on the basis of the misguided "must support the troops at war" idea. That surge in support helped to give vital aid and comfort to the warmongers at a critical time, politically.

    I may be wrong, but that's my recollection, without digging into the old opinion poll results.

    It is my view that we need a concerted effort in this country to change the discourse to better recognise the crucial difference between legitimate defensive warfare on the one hand, and wars of choice on the other. The former imposes some moral obligation upon citizens to support the troops, whereas imo the latter do not.

  • Craig


    I agree there is a lot of selective memory in that answer. But the important thing is they have learnt their lesson, do not support the war now, and are evidemntly ashamed they ever did.


  • Chuck Unsworth

    It's as well to define 'support' for the war. There are other factors at work here.

    Support for the troops (as evidenced in the USA, for example) does not equate to support for the principle of regime change. Nor, clearly, is any credence to be placed on the charade of WMD.

    Again, support for the troops does not mean support for the politicos who made – and continue to make – such disastrous decisions.

    The real reasons for the move to war have yet to come out and be properly understood by the majority. But I think it's clear that there is no longer any moral certainty as to the decision to initiate the wars in Iraq or, indeed, Afghanistan.

    The rising and overwhelming criticism of Blair and Bush is in fact a condemnation of their particular actions and positions. That is a different matter altogether.

  • peacewisher

    Here are some statistics, published in The Guardian, and reported on the BBC website on 21st Fwebruary 2003, that's about four weeks before the attacks started:

    52% AGAINST the war

    29% FOR the war

    In the same article, Blair is quoted in one or his biggest lies:

    "There is no rush to war…"

  • johnf

    I think the need to support the troops swayed a lot of people after the outbreak of war. It was felt it was being disloyal to them to oppose the war.

    But before the war the vast majority of people, as I remember, were against it.

    I live in a rural area, a supposedly conservative one, and opposition was solid. On the marches opposing the war (before it started) on the trains up from the West Country there were as many Telegraph readers as Guardian readers.

  • Randal

    johnf, peacewisher, Chuck, Craig

    Your comments have spurred me on to do the basic research I should have done before commenting in the first place (rather than relying upon my memory) 🙂

    Here's the Guardian/ICM "war tracker" poll, covering August '02 to Oct '04:

    What the page does not give is the error margin for these polls, which I imagine might be several percent.

    The key figure is those who said they "approve", and the figures started at 33% and fluctuated between 29% and 42% until March 2003.

    At the crucial time, and very conveniently for the government, the figure soared to 54% for 21-23rd March 2003, and then stayed broadly around or above 50% until the end of 2003 (with a brief dip to 38% in September). A particularly despicable peak of 63% was achieved for 11-13 April 2003.

    As a reminder of the key highlights of the timeline, the Commons vote was on March 18th, bombing was intensified on the 19th with the "Shock and Awe" atrocity following on the 20th. The invasion proper followed. Baghdad was publicly regarded as captured following the "Saddam statue" staged event on 9th April (perhaps explaining the 63% approval peak).

    The decline between July (51%) and September 19-21st (38%) 2003 probably reflects the gradual confirmation that the WMD lies were just that, with Blix coming out on September 18th, together with the gradual realisation that resistance was continuing, albeit at a very low level, and that the occupiers were laughably incompetent.

    Not sure what accounts for the recovery in support after September.

    The key point, in terms of bolstering the position of the warmongers at the crucial time, was that rise between 14-16th March (38%) and 21-23 March (54%). I think that is accounted for by two factors:

    (i) The propaganda lies put about by the Blair regime ("45 minute" type scaremongering, laughable "unreasonable veto" argumentation, etc).

    (ii) The idea, following the Commons vote, that we were now committed to war and we therefore had to support the troops.

  • Randal

    Appears from elsewhere on the ICM site that the error margin (95% confidence) should be about 3%.

  • peacewisher

    Thanks for your analysis, johnf.

    Another reason for the change from 38% to 53% would have been the inexplicable change of mind of Charles Kennedy, who spoke well at the 15th February demonstration. Whilst Bush, Blair, and Aznar were making their plans in the Azores, Kennedy was speaking at the Spring Libdem conference. He came up with that great line… "support our troops".


  • Randal

    I'd forgotten about the Lib Dems' failure at the crucial time (I was on the big not-in-my-name march, although I didn't hear any of the speeches).

    It's likely Kennedy's "support the troops" error did have some influence. It's easy to forget, given their small representation under our frst-past-the-post system, that the Lib Dems do speak for around 15-25% of the voting population, and some of those might well have allowed themselves to be influenced by Kennedy's stance.

    Kennedy's error in concluding that we should support the war because of a duty to support the troops was twofold. First, as Chuck pointed out above, supporting the troops really means not opposing the politicians who want to misuse them by throwing them into a wrongful war of aggression.

    Second, imo, the duty to support the troops arises from the fact that they are putting themselves in danger on our behalf. This only, imo, applies when they are fighting in a genuinely defensive war, and not a war of choice that actually amounts to the politicians using war as a tool of national policy. Now, there are undoubtedly occasions where the line is somewhat blurred, and there is room for legitimate disagreement about whether a particular war is defensive or not, but that certainly didn't appply to the invasion of Iraq.

  • peacewisher

    Sorry, Randal. I should have directed that last post to you – apologies.

    By making that speech on 16th March, Charles Kennedy ruined some of his own arguments for when he made his speech in parliament a couple of days later on 18th March. But he still should have been heard.

    I watched the debate open-mouthed – MPs were shouting like animals and the speaker did nothing. Democracy died that day, for me.

  • peacewisher

    Moving rapidly forward to the current statistics, an EDM was presented by John McDonnell late in 2006, for an immediate withdrawl of British troops. To date, that has been signed by only 12 Labour MPs, and 14 MPs in all. Out of how many… 650?

    That is 4.5%!

    Assuming that the 77% of those currently disapproving Blair's handling want the troops to be brought home asap, that is quite a discrepancy.

    See what I mean about democracy?

  • Chuck Unsworth

    'As Chuck pointed out above, supporting the troops really means not opposing the politicians who want to misuse them by throwing them into a wrongful war of aggression'

    To be fair – and for clarity – that's not quite what I meant, although I might agree with that interpretation.

    The great clamour for support of the troops – from all countries involved in the wars – is because, understandably, none of us wish to see our children (or parents) dying or suffering in any way. The belief is that support of all kinds will ensure their continuing safety and speed their return home.

    The separate, and more pivotal aspect, of the legality, advisability, morality, feasibility of such wars is a radically different matter. It's clear that very many people now feel that they have been deceived by their political leaders, that these wars were started on false pretexts.

    However they also believe that they must continue to support their troops. There's a realisation, too, that withdrawal will lead to further casualties, both during that period and no doubt long after the last soldier has left the theatre of war.

    Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is 'winnable'. The very best that can be achieved is an orderly withdrawal and the imposition of a government which may or may not survive. No one has dared to frame what 'winning' these wars actually might mean. When the cretinous, grandstanding Bush proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" he was either deliberately lying or he simply failed to understand what he was mouthing. Take your pick.

    One of the fine aspects of America and Britain is that in times of danger the civilian populations nearly always support their armed services. But eventually that support wanes, particularly if the costs (of all types) seem too high and/or if moral certainty is eroded. We are now at that point.

    If one were to look at the statistics for support for most wars over the last hundred years one would note the initial surge, followed eventually by prolonged decay. The longer the war goes on, the greater the reduction in support.

    What I would not like to see is a descent into direct vilification of the troops themselves, as witnessed at the end of the Vietnamese War. That was the result of the (partially successful) anti-war campaign, and led to permanent scars on the psyche of the American people. [Incidentally and for comparison one might care to look at civilian attitudes as manifested in Australia and New Zealand at that time.] It is essential that wars are believed to be 'just causes'. Without that buttress morale (hence, public support) will always crumble.

  • peacewisher

    Dear Chuck

    The great clamour to "support our troops" is usually a propaganda move to confused those who are against a particular war, but wouldn't want to be perceived as "supporting the enemy". Brits and USAns are brought up to be Patriotic and will always respond. sometimes this is admirable; at other times not.

    "Support our troops" is a simplistic argument, but it is cleverly and emotionally put, and it is clear that people like yourself and Charles Kennedy were taken in hook, line, and sinker.

    No one is supporting the troops more than those who are clamouring for the government not to start a war and send them into harms way.

    Anyway, Charles Kennedy capitulated before the war had even started. What was the point of going on that famous demonstration and speaking passionately about the Un, etc., if you then support our troops in breaking International Law?

    Why was Charles so quiet about that? There was clear support in the military for refusing to follow illegal orders.

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Peacewisher, with respect that is nonsense. It is silly to construe my earlier comments with a support for the war. You make the serious mistake of equating my observations with what I might wish to happen. Those are two entirely separate matters. I can't answer for Mr Kennedy, who is big enough to look after himself.

    You say that Britons and Americans are brought up to be patriotic. Can you name any nation or nationality where this is not so? In my view Nationalism is the status quo.

    As it happens I strongly opposed the move to war, and that will be gleaned from my various postings here and elsewhere, both now and at the time. But my opposition was based on the views that a) the causes were morally indefensible, b) there was no real evidence or justification, and c) that these wars were unwinnable. In the event that has proved to be so.

    However you do highlight one important matter and that is the question of whether British and American forces should be present in these theatres of war at all. Given that all troops are, ultimately, individually responsible for their actions and given that there is apparent doubt about the legality (and/or morality) of these actions, where does that place these (our) people?

    As to legality, the 'best advice' has been that the war in Iraq is legally justifiable, but one might question whether this is really so. Certainly many of the British military have expressed considerable unease. However, they continue to operate on the basis of loyalty to the Queen, whose Government has issued the orders. That is a constitutional dog's dinner, of course.

    Finally, I'd certainly agree that blind patriotism is a double-edged sword. The question might be "is this action in our nation's best interests?". And that opens Pandora's Box.

  • Craig

    I knew Charlie Kennedy as a student, and have a distinct soft spot for him. As a leader I'd take Charlie drunk over Ming sober, any day.

  • peacewisher

    I joined the Liberal Democrats because of Charles Kennedy and his principled stand against the war.

    But, like all politicians except Tony Benn, he has let me down.

    I'm sorry, Chuck, if you think I was categorising you as "for the war". It was quite clear from your earlier postings that you were against.

    However, against is against. It means being against soldiers/sailors/pilots going into a soverign country and killing thousands on innocent people.

    It should be a no brainer – against the war, against the soldiers doing warlike things.

    I'm really sorry to be so blunt about it but that is the way I feel. Kennedy was obviously got at.

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Peacewisher, I take your clarified views as they now stand.

    My position differs slightly, in that I do think there are occasions when war is justified. These two wars clearly are not. The appalling losses of civilian lives in these theatres that you mention are harrowing and disgusting.

    But let's also be clear that most of those casualties are not being inflicted by British troops (although one might venture that American troops appear to be responsible for substantial numbers). A large number of deaths and injuries are the direct result of factional warfare. I suspect we could discuss the root causes and solutions endlessly.

    My concern about the wars being 'unwinnable' arose from the knowledge that the costs (of all sorts) to Britain (and I'd guess, America) would ultimately become unbearable. And that was coupled with real scepticism as to the strategic approach. Well, here we all are…

  • peacewisher

    Thanks for the continuing dialogue, Chuck.

    We agree on most things here.

    One thing we may disagree on is the morality of invading a country that is not a threat to us. It was US and UK forces that pulled apart Iraqi society and unleashed the waves of violence, and they (or those that told them to attack) MUST bear ultimate responsibility – because if they hadn't attacked, 655000 (mostly civilians) wouldn't have been killed.

    You seem to suggest that there is an argument for supporting the troops of an army invading another country that isn't a threat. Under these circumstances, that argument only applies if you support mass murder, I think.

    Another no brainer?

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Peacewisher, I should have thought that my position on invasion without justification was clear enough from my high moral (and, yes, somewhat pompous) tone!

    But you may care to consider the word 'threat' rather carefully. Definition of 'threat' anyone? WMD? Or something rather more subtle – like loss of energy supplies, for example. Where might that place other countries, such as Russia for example? And one should remember that America is substantially a net importer of oil. Economic threat – and warfare – rages…

  • John Pankiw

    Why hasnt any media source done a research piece on whats happening to Iraqs oil? I have yet to see a single one in over 2 years…make me wonder about all that free press nonsense.

    John Pankiw

  • Craig


    Good question. I haven't seen much either. I believe the Iraqi parliament is still refusing to pass the new US-drafted oil law, but I'm open for correction.

Comments are closed.