Yes, it’s apparently true: 63% of Republicans still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded it in 2003. That, according to a remarkable new survey on foreign policy attitudes of self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and independents that was noted by Dan Drezner in his foreignpolicy.com blog today and released by the main researcher, Benjamin Valentino at Dartmouth College. The detailed poll (65 questions), which queried a total of 1056 respondents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.18%, was conducted by YouGov from April 26 to May 2.
It covers quite a broad range of topics and regions, but I was predictably most interested in the questions about the Middle East, particularly Israel. There was only one question (Q46) which dealt directly with Iran; to wit, “if Iran produces a nuclear weapon, how likely do you think it is that Iran would use its nuclear weapon against Israel.” Overall, 69% of respondents said it was either “very likely” (42.2%) or “somewhat likely” (26.9%) — a rather dramatic demonstration of how effective Israel and the Israel lobby have been in shaping public opinion here, given that U.S. and Israeli experts generally agree that such an attack, while possible, would be highly unlikely. An impressive 64.5% of Republicans — or slightly more than the percentage who believe Iraq had WMD — consider such an attack “very likely”; 24% “somewhat likely.” The comparable figures for Democrats are 30.5% and 31.5%, respectively.
A rather surprising finding came in response to a question (Q50) that explicitly linked U.S. support for Israel with terrorist attacks against the United States: “How strongly do you agree or disagree with the the following statement? ‘Current U.S. military, economic and political support for Israel angers many Muslims and makes terrorist attacks against the United States more likely.” About one quarter of all respondents — including both Democrats and Republicans — “strongly agreed” with that statement. More remarkable: another 41.3% of Republicans said they agreed “somewhat” with the proposition. That was more than the 37 percent of Democrats who took that position. Altogether 63% of respondents either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that such linkage exists.
If that finding should cause some heartburn over at AIPAC headquarters, I’m sure they were reassured by other findings, although it’s clear that Republicans are considerably more committed to Israel than Democrats or independents.
Asked what is “America’s most important foreign ally” (Q21) three of ten (30.4%) Republicans cited Israel, second only to Great Britain (47%); only 12% of Democrats identified Israel, although it still placed third on their list behind Great Britain (50.6%) and Canada (16%). Independents also rated Israel (17.5%) second behind Great Britain (47%). Even more remarkably, when asked (Q20) to identify with which, in a list of countries, Washington has a “formal treaty that pledges the United States to help defend,” Israel was the most frequently cited by Democrats (52.2%), Republicans (64.7%), and independents (56.2%). Despite the presence on the list of NATO allies, Israel was the only country that was cited by majorities in each political category.
Respondents were also asked (Q49) how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the proposition, “The United States depends on the support of Israel to protect vital U.S. interests in the Middle East.” Altogether, a 52% percent majority said they either agreed “strongly” (17.5%) or “somewhat” (34.8%). But there were significant differences between Democrats and independents on the one hand (about 47% agreement) and Republicans on the other (71% agreement).
Asked whether they thought that pro-Israel lobby groups have” either “too much,” “too little,” or “about the right amount of” influence (Q52), 28.1% of all respondents opted for “too much.” There was also a significant partisan gap on this question: nearly 38% of Democrats and 35% of independents said “too much”, while only 13.5% of Republicans agreed. Indeed, 26.4% of Republicans said “too little”, compared to only 7% of Democrats and 10% of independents. More than a third of all respondents said they didn’t know. Another question worth a look asked whether the respondent’s elected representatives were “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable towards Israel than I am” with predictable results (Q51).
The “why do they hate us” question was also posed, as respondents were asked which statements come closest to their view about terrorism: “Terrorists attack the United State mostly because they hate America’s values” or “Terrorists attack the United States mostly because they hate America’s foreign policies.” Predictably, nearly 71% of Republicans chose the former; only 21.3%, the latter. Among Democrats, a plurality of 44.4% chose the latter, while independents were roughly evenly split.
There’s also a lot of interesting data about attitudes toward military intervention, including with respect to Syria, and toward Washington’s European and East Asian allies which you should explore on your own.
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