October 22, 2003

How the Poll Results on Iraq Were Manipulated

Fascinating story. Zogby, although a Republican
pollster, is also an Arab-American. Here is provides a
glimpse into how poll data is skewed and cooked for
the propapunditgandists, etc.

James Zogby: It is disturbing that the AEI and the vice president could get it so wrong. Their misuse of the polling numbers to make the point that they wanted to make, resembles the way critics have noted that the administration used "intelligence data" to make their case to justify the war.


Published on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 by the Arab
How the Poll Results on Iraq Were Manipulated
by James Zogby

Early in President Bush's recent public relations
campaign to rebuild support for the US war effort in
Iraq, Vice President Cheney appeared on "Meet the
Press." Attempting to make the case that the US was
winning in Iraq, Cheney made the following

"There was a poll done, just random in the last week,
first one I've seen carefully done; admittedly, it's a
difficult area to poll in. Zogby International did it
with American Enterprise magazine. But that's got very
positive news in it in terms of the numbers it shows
with respect to the attitudes to what Americans have

"One of the questions it asked is: 'If you could have
any model for the kind of government you'd like to
have' - and they were given five choices - 'which
would it be?' The US wins hands down. If you want to
ask them do they want an Islamic government
established, by 2: 1margins they say no, including the
Shiite population. If you ask how long they want
Americans to stay, over 60 percent of the people
polled said they want the US to stay for at least
another year. So admittedly there are problems,
especially in that area where Saddam Hussein was from,
where people have benefited most from his regime and
who've got the most to lose if we're successful in our
enterprise, and continuing attacks from terror. But to
suggest somehow that that's representative of the
country at large or the Iraqi people are opposed to
what we've done in Iraq or are actively and
aggressively trying to undermine it, I just think
that's not true."

In fact, Zogby International (ZI) in Iraq had
conducted the poll, and the American Enterprise
Institute (AEI) did publish their interpretation of
the findings. But the AEI's "spin" and the vice
president's use of their "spin" created a faulty
impression of the poll's results and, therefore, of
the attitudes of the Iraqi people.

For example, while Cheney noted that when asked what
kind of government they would like, Iraqis chose "the
US... hands down," in fact, the results of the poll
are actually quite different. Twenty-three percent of
Iraqis say that they would like to model their new
government after the US; 17 .5 percent would like
their model to be Saudi Arabia; 12 percent say Syria,
7 percent say Egypt and 37 percent say "none of the
above." That's hardly "winning hands down."

When given the choice as to whether they "would like
to see the American and British forces leave Iraq in
six months, one year, or two years," 31.5 percent of
Iraqis say these forces should leave in six months; 34
percent say a year, and only 25 percent say two or
more years.

So while technically Cheney might say that "over 60
percent (actually it's 59 percent) ... want the US to
stay at least another year," an equally correct
observation would be that 65.5 percent want the US and
Britain to leave in one year or less.

Other numbers found in the poll go further to dampen
the vice president's and the AEI's rosy
interpretations. For example, when asked if "democracy
can work well in Iraq," 51 percent said "no; it is a
Western way of doing things and will not work here."

And attitudes toward the US were not positive. When
asked whether over the next five years, they felt that
the "US would help or hurt Iraq,"50 percent said that
the US would hurt Iraq, while only 35.5 percent felt
the US would help the country. On the other hand, 61
percent of Iraqis felt that Saudi Arabia would help
Iraq in the next five years, as opposed to only 7.5
percent, who felt Saudi Arabia would hurt their
country. Some 50. 5 percent felt that the United
Nations would help Iraq, while 18.5 percent felt it
would hurt. Iran's rating was very close to the US',
with 53. 5 percent of Iraqis saying Iran would hurt
them in the next five years, while only 21. 5 percent
felt that Iran might help them.

It is disturbing that the AEI and the vice president
could get it so wrong. Their misuse of the polling
numbers to make the point that they wanted to make,
resembles the way critics have noted that the
administration used "intelligence data" to make their
case to justify the war.

The danger, of course, is that painting a rosy picture
that doesn't exist is a recipe for a failed policy.
Wishing something to be can't make it so. At some
point, reality intervenes. It's a hard lesson to
learn, but it is dangerous to ignore its importance.

For the administration to continue to tell itself and
the American people that "all is well," only means
that needed changes in policy will not be made.

Consider some of the other poll findings:

Over 55 percent give a negative rating to "how the US
military is dealing with Iraqi civilians." Only 20
percent gave the US military a positive rating.

By a margin of 57 percent to 38 . 5 percent, Iraqis
indicate that they would support "Arab forces"
providing security in their country.

When asked how they would describe the attacks on the
US military, 49 percent described them as "resistance
operations." Only 29 percent saw them as attacks by
"Ba'ath loyalists."

When asked whom they preferred to "provide security
and restore order in their country," only 6 . 5
percent said the US. Twenty-seven percent said the US
and the UN together, 14 . 5 percent preferred only the
UN. And the largest group, 45 percent, said they would
prefer the "Iraqi military" to do the job alone.
There are important lessons in all of this. Lessons
policy makers ought to heed if they are to help Iraq
move forward. What the Iraqi people appear to be
telling us is that they have hope for the future, but
they want the help of their neighbors more than that
of the US.

That may not be what Washington wants to hear, but it
ought to listen nevertheless. Because if policy makers
continue to bend the data to meet their desired
policy, then this hole they are digging will only get

Copyright: Arab News C2003


Posted by richard at October 22, 2003 10:17 PM