March 1, 2006

On That Doggone ZogOn Poll

Hatched by Dafydd

Correction: see below.

Hugh Hewitt is all exercised about the new Zogby poll that leads off with the shocker-header:

U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006!! [Silly exclamation points added, of course, but are in keeping with the Zogby writeup. -- the Mgt]

Hugh seems to support the idea that this poll was deliberately skewed -- well, certainly Zogby's writeup was! -- and might even have been invented out of whole cloth. But we don't need to go anywhere near that far; and indeed, Occam's Razor warns us not to overreach for an explanation.

It does bring to mind an aphorism, however, aimed directly at liberals who plan on using this "data" in their crusade for immediate withdrawal: when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

I am quite certain that Zogby's strengthened all the "anti-war" findings and downplayed those that might be considered "pro-war," took great liberties in interpretation, and heavily weighted the sample to pre-select for specific results; such slovenly polling has been Zogby's stock in trade ever since the Bush administration began... and it shows in his poor prognostication: Hugh points us to an article on Cybercast News Service (which leans right) shortly after the 2004 election that highlighted Zogby's ludicrous "prediction" that Kerry would win 311 electoral votes, possibly including Virginia, thus winning the election in a landslide.

But in fact, in this case, I absolutely believe his poll results might be exactly correct... with one caveat, below. Here are the major results that Zogby announces:

  • Only 20% of the troops want to "heed Bush call to stay 'as long as they are needed'
  • 42% say the U.S. mission is unclear, "hazy"
  • A plurality believes most of the "insurgents" are native Iraqis, but they don't blame ordinary Iraqis for the violence
  • 90% think a major purpose of the war is retaliation for "Saddam's role in 9/11"
  • Most troops oppose using "harsh prisoner interrogation"
  • A plurality are satisfied with their weapons and armor

Stunned? Think the lizard is shedding his scales? What we all have to understand is that you can get any poll result you want -- provided you ask the right questions. The exact wording of the question matters; changing the wording even slightly can flip the results.

For example, consider the difference between asking, "do you believe the president has the right, all on his own, to spy on American citizens without a warrant?" -- versus asking, "do you believe the administration has the authority to intercept phone calls and e-mails from suspected al-Qaeda agents to targets in the United States?"

I put it to you that the first question would receive an overwhelming No response, while the second would receive an equally resounding Yes... yet the first can be spun into, "Americans strongly oppose the NSA intercept program," while the second would yield, "Americans strongly support the NSA intercept program."

That is why it is so critical that we learn the exact questions asked. I will now play a little game... I will construct a series of questions that are reasonable, seem to fit the context of the responses -- yet which could easily yield the exact result spread that Zogby reported, even among our military in Iraq. Ready?

  1. Should American forces remain at the current levels indefinitely, or should we begin drawing down our troops as the Iraqi Army grows more effective? If the latter, when do you expect we should start drawing down our forces? (Immediately/Six months/One year/Longer)
  2. Do you, personally, plan to stay "as long as it takes," even if that means years? Or do you hope to rotate out sooner than that? When do you hope to return home? (Immediately/Six months/One year/Longer)
  3. Has the long-term military strategy been explained to you, or are you only really familiar with your area of operation?
  4. Do foreign fighters constitute a majority of insurgents, or are the insurgents mostly Iraqis?
  5. Which of these are the major reasons for our military presence in Iraq? You may check as many as you wish: (To prevent Saddam Hussein from helping terrorists/To secure and remove any WMD/Because Iraq was in violation of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War/Because Iraq was firing upon our airplanes/Because Iraq was in violation of U.N. resolutions/Because Iraq played a role with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks/To stabilize the Middle East/To establish a democracy after the occupation)
  6. Do you believe we should interrogate insurgents using techniques banned by the Geneva Convention?
  7. Do you believe your weapons and armor are adequate to your mission, or would you prefer heavier weapons and thicker armor?


The first question would be interpreted by some soldiers as what they think we ought to do, come what may; by others as what ought to happen, assuming things continue on the path they're going now; and by other others as what they expect to happen.

Some will interpret "drawing down our troops" as a gradual reduction: "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Others will think it means yank everyone out precipitously.

Or alternatively, Zogby's analysis -- "Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay 'as long as they are needed'” -- could refer entirely to question 2, whether the individual soldier personally wants to stay that long, or whether he hopes to rotate home sooner than that.

Until and unless we see the exact wording, we have no way even to guess what individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines thought they were answering when they picked a timeframe.


As far as being hazy about the overall strategy... well, perhaps this comes as a shock to Mr. Zogby, but the military rarely briefs the grunts about overall strategy of each phase of a military operation.

They're briefed on their own piece of the pattern, probably more thoroughly today than at any time in our history. But I doubt the guys in the South are given a full briefing on the Anbar campaign, and those guys don't get a high-level lecture on exactly what we're doing in the Kurdish north. Since most members of the military are enlisted or junior officers, not flag-rank officers, most won't have been told by the military what the overall strategy is.

That means their only method of finding out is the same way we do: by reading or watching the MSM, by listening to talk radio, and by reading blogs. But our boys and girls over there are probably somewhat busy... and I'll bet they don't have a lot of time to do any of those. So it's actually amazing to me that as many as 58% think they have a pretty good handle on our strategy. I'm sure that number would have been less than half that during World War II!


And of course most of the "insurgents" are Iraqis... because the Secretary of Defense has carefully drawn a distinction between native insurgents, like the Sadrites, and foreign terrorists, like Musab Zarqawi. This is a no-brainer: the troops just answered the way they had been taught (and I'll bet Zogby used the word "insurgents," too -- since that is the word he used in his writeup).


Some of our troops probably believe that Saddam Hussein was specifically complicit in 9/11; others (including myself, though I'm not a "troop") believe Iraq was in bed with al-Qaeda in many ways and may even have known about the 9/11 attack in advance, and are therefore accessories. Some might read "9/11" and mentally translate that to "terrorist attack;" since Iraq has, indeed, attacked us using terrorism. Or it's possible that the Zogby question didn't even specify the 9/11 attack, but just referred to al-Qaeda or terrorist attacks. We don't know, because John Zogby won't tell us.


All of the above is why I consider this poll worthless: not because it was paid for and undertaken on behalf of the Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies; not because Zogby is a notorious liberal and Bush-basher; not because his brother James Zogby is an even more notorious Arabist; and not because Zogby might have just made the whole thing up (I think that is extraordinarily unlikely). [This paragraph contains a correction; James Zogby is an Arabist, not an Islamist; he is a Maronite Christian... but he is the founder and president of the Arab-American Institute.]

It is valueless because, without knowing the exact questions, the order in which they were asked, the demography of the respondents, the time period during which the poll was conducted, and what background information they gave or asked commanders to give, we have no context by which to understand what the responding military personnel meant by their responses.

Until Zogby is more transparent and forthcoming, there is no point in dwelling on this silly poll... though I agree with Hugh that it will be the lead story for at least a week in the Antique Media. When it comes up in conversation, all you need do is fix the liberal who cited it with a steely gaze and ask, "what were the exact questions they asked, please?"

When he admits he has no idea, you say, "then just like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you can't possibly know what the answer '42' means, can you?"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 1, 2006, at the time of 6:42 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Excellent post, Dafydd. I linked from Zogby “poll” needs big grains of salt

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 1, 2006 9:15 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

In the light of the demohacks highjacking the Port issue into what they have, and the continued Katrina bs, I am starting to frankly look at the WH as an enabler of the kind of bogus flasehoods Zogby is peddaling. He is doing nothing more than what the NYT and the MSM does daily in their reporting: try to convince us to allow the dems to lead America - into selfinflicted defeat.
The enabling in this comes from the WH not figuring out how to lead effectively or not caring to. So what if W is not running for office again? He is still running the friggin' country. So what if there is an anti-American bias in the editorial offices of basically the entire media? Lincoln ahd worse. W frankly relies too much on the bolgosphere to fight his fights for him, and he is putting the Republican majority in Congress at risk. If the dems take back the House, bet on two items of biz: impeach Bush and abandon Iraq. W may not like it, but the only way through this is to lead. Leadership does not get caught pants down on part operating deals. Leadership does not let Zogby get a free news cycle of promoting his lies. Leadership in fact helps keep the idiots on the left from getting so far out of reality in the first place, keeping them from being so radicalized and credible.
When W lets himself be seen leading, he is inspirational and effective. When he is unengaged, he appears to not give a hoot.
This is what Zogby is making himself a fool over: he is filling the perceived vacuum with his fantaises.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 1, 2006 10:56 PM

The following hissed in response by: punslinger

Leadership is a good overall word. I would like more specific suggestions.

How about a government sponsered pro-defense, pro-USA, pro-western civilization television network? Since the country seems to be split in half, this would of necessity be a pro-Republican network . Upside: might work. Downside: very expensive, can't force anyone to watch it, almost assuredly to be attacked as un-American, propaganda, unfair to Democrats, waste or misuse of taxpayers money, unconstitutional.

A national newspaper? Radio network? Same response.

Radio addresses? Wait, President Bush already does that. Television addresses? Speeches? Does that also. Networks clip tiny soundbites to spoonfeed to the public.

Planted articles and manufactured news? Hard to pull off consistently, major fallout if caught. Pravda would be an example a somewhat successful effort.

Administration attacks on lies and distortions in the media? I like the idea, seems to me that they are already doing it. Should it be more? or less? What is the effectiveness?

The other side has a highly effective propaganda machine that can lie seemingly without consequence. We have limited ourselves necessarily to the truth as we see it. Truth will not out by it's lonesome. There is serious effort required over a long period of time.

You all have been following the story of the WOT since 911. Thats four years and we have yet to come up with anything much different than was used by Roosevelt during WWII.

That is, besides the internet and blogs and talk radio by folks who care.

The above hissed in response by: punslinger [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2006 3:06 PM

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