The Public, the President, and the War in Iraq
This chapter reviews a selection of polling data on the president and the war to document the unprecedented partisan polarization in public attitudes these have jointly provoked, and to begin to explore some of the questions the data can be used to address concerning the formation, evolution, and consequences of mass opinion on the war. The public's unusually wide partisan divisions over evaluations of President Bush and his decision to force a regime change in Iraq are closely connected. Among Republicans of all stripes, but especially Christian conservatives, initial high regard for the president and trust in his honesty encouraged acceptance of his original case for war. When its premises proved faulty, they either missed that story or decided it was irrelevant and continued to support the war, accepting the administration's claim that it was integral to the war on terrorism and thus to the security of the US. Democrats tended to neither trust Bush nor appreciate his performance as president, so their support for the war depended crucially on belief in its necessity.
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