President Bush, Polls and Iraq

On the eve of the President’s press conference to buck up America with regards to Iraq, the pollsters are busy trying to set the table for their spin. First, we have this from CNN/USA Today:

As Bush prepares to address the nation Tuesday to defend his Iraq policy, just 40 percent of those responding to the poll said they approved of his handling of the war; 58 percent said they disapproved. . .
The lone bright spot for the president in the poll was his handling of terrorism, which scored a 55 percent approval rating, compared to just 41 percent who disapproved.

Then, we have this from ABC/Washington Post:

As President Bush prepares to address the nation about Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans do not believe the administration’s claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency, but a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country.
The survey found that only one in eight Americans currently favors an immediate pullout of U.S. forces, while a solid majority continues to agree with Bush that the United States must remain in Iraq until civil order is restored — a goal that most of those surveyed acknowledge is, at best, several years away.

Further, ABC/WaPo continues that

So far, continuing spasms of violence in Iraq are competing with regular declarations of progress in Washington. Few people agree with Vice President Cheney’s recent claim that the insurgency is in its “last throes.” The survey found that 22 percent of Americans — barely one in five — say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker, while 24 percent believe it is strengthening. More than half — 53 percent — say resistance to U.S. and Iraqi government forces has not changed, a view that matches the assessment offered last week in congressional testimony by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John P. Abizaid.

But Chrenkoff, the erstwhile updater of the “hidden” news going on in Iraq, makes the point that

Putting aside the discussion whether the insurgency in Iraq is getting worse, or better, or has stayed pretty much the same, the problem with those sorts of questions is that they contrast the opinion of Administration officials who have access to a broad range of detailed, and sometimes classified information, with the opinion of the average Joe and Joanne, formed from reading newspapers and watching TV. And if just about the only news coming out of Iraq in the mainstream media are suicide bombings and more American bodybags – as opposed to security successes – it will be very difficult for the majority to ever have a positive feeling about the situation in Iraq.

For contrast, he points to Col. Brad MacNealy, whose actually been to Iraq, in the rubble, on the streets, not holed up in some hotel in Baghdad.

There are a lot of good and positive things going on there that the national news media just won’t tell you about, so I’m here to tell you what’s really going on over there and not what you hear on the television or read in the newspapers. They’re not putting the true picture out there, so don’t believe everything you see on TV.

So, setting the reality vs. the media portrayal aside (you know, perception is reality…), what explains the seeming difference in the two aforementioned polls? Here’s a theoretical comment from a theoretical person on the street: “Well, in an ideal world in which ideal wars are fought, in which it is possible to make no or few mistakes, President Bush has fallen short and I disapprove (CNN/USA Today) of his handling of things and don’t have a lot of confidence in his plans because he hasn’t told me of any (or at least, I haven’t heard them much). Nonetheless, we are now in Iraq and we have to see it through. Again, I’m not as optimistic as the Administration seems to be–after all, our men and women are dying every day–but we can’t cut and run and give our enemies a victory.” In short, yes it’s tough, but we’re Americans, we don’t quit. If only our politicians would be so unbending.
[Cross-posted at Ocean State Blogger.]

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.