Upturn In Optimism About Iraq

Friday, December 02, 2005
A fellow I know who understands polling tells me that sometimes the raw numbers are less significant than the trends. If that is true, then the results of this Rasmussen Poll (which I was led to reading this piece on job numbers in Power Line) may be highly significant:

Confidence in the War on Terror is up sharply compared to a month ago. Forty-eight percent (48%) Americans now believe the U.S. and its Allies are winning. That's up nine points from 39% a month ago and represents the highest level of confidence measured in 2005.

Just 28% now believe the terrorists are winning, down six points from 34% a month ago. The survey was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday night following the President's speech outlining his strategy in Iraq.

The breakdown by party is particularly interesting because it shows an increase in positive views of the war even among Democrats:

Huge partisan divisions on questions dealing with Iraq remain. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Republicans believe the U.S. and its allies are winning. That's up from 64% a month ago.

Just 28% of Democrats believe the U.S. is winning while 45% of Nancy Pelosi's party believe the terrorists are winning. Even that is a more optimistic assessment than last month when just 19% of Democrats said the U.S. was winning.

One doesn't want to linger too long in admiration of the forthright identification of Democrats as "Nancy Pelosi's party" before one moves on to notice perhaps the most important trend:

Among those those [sic] not affiliated with either major party, 40% now say the U.S. and its allies are winning. Thirty percent (30%) take the opposite view. A month ago, unaffiliateds were evenly divided.

Readers of this blog (Ha ha...Are there any, really?) know that I am a fervent admirer of James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, which contends that ordinary groups of us human beings may, given the right set of circumstances, make better choices than a single expert (in whatever field) or even a group of "experts." Just take the last presidential election as an example.

So in my inexpert view, this last trend among people who identify themselves with neither party shows that the war is going far better than the mainstream media contend and, even more encouraging, the smokescreen laid down by the MSM is not having the desired effect.


Tara said...

Yes..there is a reader of this blog.I read your blog often..if not everyday.I just don't post comments because I am not a sharp wit.

Jamie Irons said...


Thanks! I'm honored.

And don't sell yourself short.



Rick Ballard said...

Hi Tara,

Honesty outweighs wit here. It is always a pleasure to hear an honest opinion, whether in agreement or in disagreement.


This piece returns us to the "weight" of the MSM. All the huffing and puffing and howling and scowling of the "opinion setters" is of little consequence when the truth cannot be suppressed.

I don't buy into the wisdom of crowds, primarily because I've watched such wisdom lead to some peculiar behavior. When does a crowd become a mob? What do you say of its wisdom when it heads off of a cliff?

The President can turn public opinion because he speaks infrequently (at leasst in comparison to his predecessor). The less that he speaks the more weight is given to his words - the more the MSM nitwits jabber, the more ephemeral the weight of each utterance.

Knucklehead said...


I just don't post comments because I am not a sharp wit.

I am not a sharp wit (dull twit would be closer) and I get to comment and post!

You are welcome to comment be you sharp, or a wit, or otherwise. Fire off a flare whenever it suits your mood. And thanks for being one (the one?) of our readers.

David Thomson said...

“even more encouraging, the smokescreen laid down by the MSM is not having the desired effect.”

I always remind people to be more concerned about polls focussing on likely voters. It really doesn't matter, on a practical basis, what the general public believes. Only actual voters matter.

Blogs like this one are a major thorn in the side of the leftist establishment. They attract a sufficient number of quality readers. These are not the type of citizens who rely mostly on the MSM. Furthermore, they are usually a leader (although this might surprise them) among their immediate crowd. Elections are usually won in the United States by small margins. President Bush beat Kerry by about three percentage points. The new media makes the difference.

"When does a crowd become a mob? What do you say of its wisdom when it heads off of a cliff?"

The British majority supported pacifist policies right up to the last minute leading up to WWII. The general public had no use for Winston Churchill’s warnings. No, the crowd is often wrong.

Knucklehead said...


I've always marveled at the swings and arrows of public opinion. What is so radically different over the course of the past month that would lead to a leap of 9% in public opinion about any question other that, perhaps, "Do you think it will be colder over the next few weeks than it is now?"

Re: optimism vs. pessimism about "Iraq" or the GWoT, perhaps people in general are sensing the sort of things that Charles Krauthammer and Gerard Baker write about today.

Jamie Irons said...

Rick and David,

Your objections are valid, and Surowiecki deals with them. The point of his book is definitely not that "The crowd is always right."

He's worth reading.


Knucklehead said...

TmjUtah, at Three Rounds Brisk, is a guy I always liked to hear from but pay too little attention to these days. What has changed in Iraq (and the world in general) is nothing more than that things are better than they were 2.5 years ago. I suppose the only thing that really can account for the fact that 50% of the people can't see that is that 50% of the people are below mean intelligence. Was that too harsh?

Jamie Irons said...


Thanks. Those were great essays!


Jamie Irons said...


Was that too harsh?

One can never be too harsh in criticizing fools!



P.S. I've enjoyed TmjUtah, too.

Knucklehead said...


I'm pessimistic about the pessimists these days. A whole lot of people seem to want nothing more than to wallow in any mud they can find and then piss and moan about how muddy they are. So I enjoy it when I find the few examples of somebody noting that some mudholes are drying up.

OT, at least for your post, but while reading this AM I was going through the comments section of the Althouse post I linked to before.

I know there are some big fans, here at Flares of the Math Is Hard Crowd. For their amusement I offer the following comment I found at Althouse from "paulfrommpls":

I think you could take his words as implying that *most* people advancing better than the average is the only proper goal.

This was related to a discussion of the economic conditions here in the US at the moment. I'm not certain who the "he" is but I suspect it is Kevin Drum (can't find the Drum piece that is referred to in an earlier comment).

Regardless of who "he" is, and regardless of whether or not the statement is an accurate restatement of whatever whoever meant, one has to enjoy the remarkable innumeracy of whomever.

In a nation of nearly 300 million people with a workforce of roughly 150 million people, it is virtually impossible to have any scenario with "most people advancing better than the average". Having any such thing as a "goal" would be downright stupid. Identifying it as the "only proper goal" would be downright sadistic.

It is quite possible that the of all the problems facing our great nation, rampant and spreading innumeracy is the worst.

ambisinistral said...


Just post in the vicinity of one of my comments, you're bound to come off loooking good in comparison to the gibberish I come up with.

As for when crowds become mobs, I love the portrayal of crowds in the Simpsons -- basically the last person to give them bad advice always turn them into a lynch mob.

Knucklehead said...


the portrayal of crowds... basically the last person to give them bad advice always turn them into a lynch mob.

But... but... aren't we a nation of lynch mobs?

The Left has been running that schtick on us for so long they've apparently come to believe it. I find it amusing that crowds composed of Leftists are the most likely to run amok. Fortunately for the rest of us the Lefties are too dumb to tie useful knots (note how fond they are of loafers and sandals) so they can't turn into lynch mobs.

Syl said...


I love both pieces. In Baker's piece he hits the nail for me when he talks about shaking up the status quo. That has been the thought underlying my support for Iraq from day one...and out of that will hopefully come freedom for Iraq and hopefully for others.

His last paragraph I just have to quote because it encapsulates the fear of the outcome as well as the promise:

We have, surely, unleashed a violent fury of terrorism and guerrilla war that has a broader reach than Iraq or even the Middle East. But we have also unleashed the great virtue that in time will conquer these vices — not hope this time, though we could use some of that, but freedom. It would be a tragic mistake to cut our losses now, long before we have ensured that the virtue triumphs over the vices.

Skookumchuk said...

“even more encouraging, the smokescreen laid down by the MSM is not having the desired effect.”

I still think this was a pre-emptive strike, to offset any gains from a (just possibly)successful election and trial of Saddam, in which case we and the world would have powerful reminders of why we are there. The MSM may be confident that one or both will have at least some positive result - and started getting scared.

terrye said...

I think the fact that Iraq is keeping on keeping on has a lot to do with it.

After all, the pessismists have been promising mayhem and chaos and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis for years now.

I also think the fact that there is a possibility of a troop draw down makes people think there might really be some hope.

Bush getting out there and defending himself and his policy did not hurt either.

Rick Ballard said...

OK Jamie,

I ordered the book - Amazon paired it with Freakonomics which I've been wanting to read.

Lack of specific knowledge will still not forestall me from facile comment. Why should I be different?

The first critical poll won't be out until March. As promising as Rasmussen's shift looks I can think of a few events which could cause a downturn.

The absolutely cool thing about this is that it highlights the diminishing importance of the MSM. The sooner their irrelevance is generally acknowledged the sooner they will take their earned position next to the Dodo.

Knucklehead said...


Baker's final paragraph is a rather eloquent and elegant dismissal of two of the memes of the Let's Surrender Now and Get This Over With crowd.

The first is the "creating a million Bin Ladens" meme. Once one chooses to fight (and it is always a choice) one is guaranteed to increase the number of "troops" the enemy puts into the field. The best way to limit the number of Japanese soldiers in WWII would have been to "cut our losses" following Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, and the Phillipines. If we had chosen not to engage Japan would have been perfectly happy to have limited the size of their forces.

To defeat an enemy - to win a war - requires that you force that enemy to put his troops and leaders into the field so you can grind them up and, finally, leave him with nothing left but the inept cannon fodder.

The second, and IMO more important, meme that Baker dismisses is the "those people are not capable of peaceful, democratic government" meme. This one is based upon the "they want a Strong Man in charge" bigotry. Saddam was the Middle East and "Islamic World" Strong Man among Strong Men.

Saddam is taken down. Qaddafi shoved his fatigues back in the closet real quick. OBL, if he is alive, is slinking around in earthquake rattled caves somewhere. Zawahiri doesn't dare leave the office, Zaqari (or whatever the heck that madman's name is) will eventually be killed or dragged out of a hole.

Kill their "troops" and break the Strong Man model (their status quo). That's the strategery. Then building something else can begin.

Peter UK said...

Osama bin Laden is/was the product of a a confluence of unique genetic,social,economic and historical factors,Iraq will no more bring forth a "Million bin Ladens" than Waterloo brought forth a million Napoleons.
I thought this argument was settled in 1945.

Jamie Irons said...


Lack of specific knowledge will still not forestall me from facile comment. Why should I be different?

Lack of specific knowledge is what permits me to bloviate in my little fragment of the Great Blogosphere!

A little learning is a dang'rous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring!

What the hell did Pope know?


Jamie Irons

Knucklehead said...

As usual Wretchard has words worth reading on this topic. In his article he mentions Blackfive's article about the Battle of the Narrative which is also well worth reading.

Blackfive says that the results of fighting on the ground are foregone: what remains is the 'battle of the narrative'. But how do you win a 'battle of the narrative' except with words? Ironically the sheer success of the US Armed Forces in keeping the civilian population from a direct experience of war ensures they will only learn about it through vicarious means: network news, the major newspapers and magazines. Movies. And in that department the OPFOR has Blue radically outnumbered. Any rational observer calculating the correlation of words would have to say that in that battle, Blackfive's narrative hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell. The side with the most power over words has determined that Iraq is a defeat. And yet ...

The problem with using words to trump reality is that it wagers everything on a monumental bluff. The mesmerist must carry all before him or be humiliated. A King must be obeyed or lose the throne. There is no middle ground. Personally I think the repeated conjury of the master-spell of 'Vietnam' and the endless repetition of "we have been defeated" is a strained attempt to achieve what used to be accomplished effortlessly; almost as a background process. Now the spell is being used altogether too often to be convincing, like a lion-tamer who must repeatedly shout at the mountain of snarling flesh before him to sit down. One of the characteristics of the collapse of an illusion is the suddenness with which it comes. The Soviet Union; the EU superstate; the notion of an advanced, enlightened and progressive France, were like Atlantis separated from glory and oblivion by a single night and day. I would be careful about Vietnam because the '60s, like Vaudeville, may never come again.

Syl said...


Love the wretchard piece, as usual.

Made me think of the sudden embrace of Murtha by Pelosi, who just a few days previously had told him he stands on his own out there.

It's like she feels the force of her convictions begining to slip so she must, absolutely must, embrace the extreme in order to hold on.

And the more who embrace that cut-and-run extreme, the harder and farther they'll fall when our Iraq victory becomes obvious.

Buddy Larsen said...

re 'battle of the narrative' and the power of words: sometimes a few throwaway words can ring a person's head like the Bells of St Peters. one such phrase that keeps coming back to me has to do with the OIF "plan" and the hay that the JFkarrions make of the lack of a check-mark column stretching off into the future. If that plan has to be perfect or Bush is scum, then why not DO the plan, and go ahead and check-off "we win" NOW, so that the terrorists can sack up their beans and bombs and head on home to the goatery? But the wortds that come back are something like these: "After 911, Saddam represented an intolerable status quo. Whatever follows could be no worse than intolerable, because the situation was already intolerable." Plan, schplan. Just do it. If it gets us all killed, well screw it, at least we tried.