So, as you probably have seen discussed on at least one other blog by now, Kevin Drum wants to know
why progressive bloggers who opposed the war before it began held that opinion. I actually hold a similar desire, and have for some time. However, instead of caring what pundits thought four years ago, I have always wanted to know why the American people either supported or opposed the war before it began.
I am not referring to opinion polls on whether or not people think the war was a mistake, whether or not we should withdraw troops, or whether or not people think the war is going well. Instead, I have longed for something that pollsters often appear loathe to do: ask the general public why
it supports or opposes the war, why
it thinks the war is going well or poorly, and why
people think we should escalate or withdraw. There have been hundreds of public polls asking the general public if it supports something, but basically nothing asking people why
they support or oppose something.
The absence of polling on public rationales is stunning, and it goes beyond Iraq. Outside of exit polls, people are hardly ever asked why
they support or oppose anything, just if
they support or oppose something. Wouldn't a richer view of public opinion take into account rationale, instead of just support or opposition? Since many other factors could be involved, such as the cost of a poll, I hesitate to immediately label the absence of polling on public rationale as "elitism." However, the lack of interest large news organizations show in commissioning polls (and large news organizations commission most polls) that ask the public why they hold position x, y or z, certainly makes me wonder if they even care why the public holds position x, y or z. Perhaps they would simply have their highly paid opinion journalists declare why the country holds opinion x, y, or z, rather than actually ask the public the public at large.
More in the extended entry.