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American Public Opinion on the Iraq War

Ole R. Holsti

Publication Year: 2011

"A substantial contribution to understanding the role of public opinion and the news media during the Iraq War. Equally impressive, it effectively puts the domestic context of U.S. policy in historical perspective, making the book useful to historians as well as to political scientists." ---Ralph B. Levering, Davidson College "American Public Opinion on the Iraq War sets out to chart against a detailed account of the war a nuanced assessment of how public opinion on the conflict evolved, the partisan differences that emerged, how the issue affected other areas of foreign policy opinion, and the limits of public opinion on policy. It succeeds at all of this, and it does so in a manner that is at once informative, inherently interesting, and exceptionally easy to read." ---Randolph M. Siverson, University of California, Davis Ole R. Holsti explores the extent to which changes in public opinion reflected the vigorous public relations efforts of the Bush administration to gain support for the war and the partisanship marking debates over policies toward Iraq. Holsti investigates the ways in which the Iraq experience has led substantial numbers of Americans to reconsider their nation's proper international role, and he assesses the impact that public opinion has had on policymakers. Significantly, Holsti places his findings in a broader context to address the role of public opinion and of the media in democratic governance.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. vii

List of Tables and Figures

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

When a prospectus for this book was sent out to external reviewers, one of them raised a very telling question: “What makes the author believe that the Iraq War will be finished by mid-2010?”We have now reached early 2011 and several observations are in order. The outgoing George W. Bush administration signed an agreement with the Nuri al-Maliki government in November 2008...

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pp. 1-6

Having entered into its ninth year in March 2011, the conflict in Iraq is now America’s third longest war, behind only the Vietnam and Afghanistan conflicts, exceeding in length even the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II. It has also established a record in another significant respect; it has generated far more surveys of public attitudes than any previous conflict. Political scientist...

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Chapter 1: Prelude: The United States and Iraq before the Iraq War

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pp. 7-23

During the quarter century prior to the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 the two countries had experienced almost the full gamut of relations, from being quasi allies to going to war against each other. Although the United States was officially neutral during the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War (1980–88),Washington in fact provided the Baghdad regime with vital material...

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Chapter 2: Public Opinion on the War in Iraq

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pp. 24-75

The American invasion of Iraq, buttressed by a much smaller contingent of British forces, began 26 months after the Bush administration took of‹ce. The president and three of his top advisers—Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the latter’s top deputy, Paul Wolfowitz-placed regime change in Baghdad at the top of their foreign policy agendas...

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Chapter 3: Partisanship

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pp. 76-100

The dictum that “politics stops at the water’s edge” is often attributed to Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI), one of the pillars of post–World War II American foreign policy. His thesis was that if foreign policy is to be credible, other countries must be persuaded that the United States is not divided by partisan differences that might lead to policy changes as the result of the next election,...

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Chapter 4: The War in Iraq: A Spillover to Other Opinions on Foreign Policy?

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pp. 101-129

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first American president to make use of the “new science” of public opinion polling as a tool in policy-making.He had witnessed how a young upstart pollster, George Gallup, had correctly called Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Republican nominee Alf Landon in the 1936 presidential election, whereas the established Literary Digest poll had confidently predicted...

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Chapter 5: The Impact of Public Opinion on Iraq Policy

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pp. 130-151

Not long after assuming the presidency, George W. Bush asked a top aide, “What’s all this NBC/Wall Street Journal poll b.s.?” Later Bush told Dee Dee Myers, press secretary for President Clinton, “In this White House, Dee Dee, we don’t poll on something as important as national security.” These statements echo claims he had made while campaigning for the presidency—that he leads...

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Chapter 6: Broader Issues Concerning Public Opinion

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pp. 152-182

It is time to step back from the vast volume of public opinion data to consider three questions arising from the Iraq War, the implications of which may extend beyond the conflict itself. Public opinion and foreign policy. How, if at all, does this case address broader issues about public opinion and the conduct of American foreign policy? Do the data on public opinion in the long conflict in Iraq give rise to findings...


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pp. 183-204


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pp. 205-216


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pp. 217-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027828
E-ISBN-10: 0472027824
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472034802
Print-ISBN-10: 0472034804

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 17 tables, 6 figures
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 762102068
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Public Opinion on the Iraq War

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Subject Headings

  • Iraq War, 2003- -- Public opinion.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 2001-2009 -- Public opinion.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
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