March 3, 2006

That Doggone Zog Blog Hog Slogs Along

Hatched by Dafydd

In the last soggy chapter of the Zogby poll of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, we speculated on what the actual questions were that spawned those awfully peculiar answers. Today, we have a treat: John Zogby was Hugh's phone-interview guest (until the Zog zig-zagged away, hanging up on Hugh); but before departing, the Zogster e-mailed the questions and responses to the show. Radioblogger -- a.k.a., Hugh Hewitt's producer "Generalissimo" -- has posted them on his site, and the world can now see the meagre steak lurking beneath the very loud and insistent sizzle.

Note, this will be a long post, because I will pepper these questions with commentary, backtalk, and sassy opinion. So we're going to spoiler-up here, diving into the undisclosed location beyond the Slither....

A reminder: you can grab the pdf for the questions and complete responses (not cross-tabbed, alas) from Radioblogger. Indulge your masochistic tendencies and read the whole thing. You'll be glad when you've finished.

From here on, all of the questions and extras from Zogby will be encased in blue italics. This doesn't mean I won't use normal italics myself in some of my jottings... but you'll be able the tell the difference, I guarantee. Unless you're brown-blue colorblind.

I have no idea how this will come across on RSS.


Thank you for agreeing to participate in this survey. Please circle the response that corresponds to the correct answer or is closest to how you feel. Please note: All responses will be kept anonymous and confidential.

1. Which of the following best describes your service?

1. Regular Army 2. Marines 3. National Guard 4. Reserve 5. Other/not military

2. What is your age?

3. Which of the following best represents your race or ethnic group?

1. White, non-Hispanic
2. Hispanic
3. African American
4. Asian
5. Pacific Islander
6. Middle Eastern
7. Other/mixed
0. Refuse

4. Is this your first, second, or third tour of Iraq ?

1. First 2. Second 3. Third or more 0. Refuse

5. How many months have you served in Iraq?

1. Less than 6 2. 6-12 3. More than one year 0. Refuse

6. Gender (Observe. Do not ask.)

1. Male 2. Female

Please proceed to page 2 of the questionnaire.

No comment necessary. This is just demographic information that tells us little. Now we get to the meat.

The Mission

7. Which one of the following best describes your understanding of the U.S. mission in Iraq?

1. Very clear
2. Somewhat clear
3. Somewhat unclear
4. Very unclear
5. No understanding
6. Not sure

This is an odd question to begin with, in my opinion. The adjective "clear" is so unclear (subjective) that it probably means something different to each respondent. 57% thought it was clear or somewhat clear, 19% found it somewhat unclear, and only 23% were befuddled. By an interesting synchronicity, 25.8% were on their first tour in Iraq... I'm sure there's no connection.

Please rate the statements in questions 8 through 14 as reasons for the Iraq invasion, using the following scale:

1 - Not a reason
2 - Minor reason
3 - Major reason
4 - Main reason
5 - Not sure

8. To remove weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from Iraq

92.3% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason."

9. To remove Saddam Hussein from power

68.4% "Main reason" or "Major reason."

10. To establish a democracy that can be a model for the Arab world

73.8% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason." Isn't this more a goal of the civilian reconstruction authority, rather than the military mission?

11. To stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq

76.3% "Main reason" or "Major reason." Again, this is clumsy phrasing. The word they should have used was "harboring," not "protecting." Even so, it's clear the troops got it.

12. To retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks

85.5% "Main reason" or "Major reason." I don't think I mentioned this in the previous post, but another critical factor to examine in a poll's questions is the order they're presented: the order of the questions is the second most determinative factor behind the questions themselves.

In Zogby's incredulous commentary, this response was interpreted in a way designed to make the soldiers seem like ignoramuses:

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

By first discussing the troops having "no understanding" of the mission, then immediately sequeing into the mission being mainly "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” Zogby makes it sound like the soldiers are so benighted, they actually think the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Iraq.

But in reality, look at the actual order the questions were asked: first the soldiers are asked about Saddam Hussein "protecting al Qaeda in Iraq" -- and then immediately, they're asked the amazingly ambiguous question about "Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks." The soldiers were thus primed to think of "Saddam's role" being his harboring of al-Qaeda -- and being an accessory after the fact by giving al-Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan sanctuary in Iraq.

The pollster made it even more explicit in an article published in Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's newspaper. About that finding, Zogby said:

“We were surprised by that, especially the 85 percent [figure],” Zogby said. “Clearly that is much higher than the consensus among the American public, and the public’s perception [on that topic] is much higher than the actual reality of the situation.”

The "actual reality?" Of what? There is no question that Zogby is trying to push the idea that the troops think Saddam Hussein, not Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, pulled off 9/11; that is what he wants us to believe. But his question didn't ask that, did it? It spoke only about Hussein's "role" in 9/11, without specifying what that role might have been: accessory before or after the fact.

There is no reason at all to conclude the soldiers thought Saddam ordered 9/11; all they have to think is that Saddam was in cahoots with al-Qaeda before or even after 9/11, and they would answer this question as they did.

Zogby has been around a long time. He knows all about question order. It's hard to imagine that he and his pollsters were unaware of this confusion. Which means it might be... oh, let's not go there.

13. To secure Iraqi oil supplies

79.2% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason."

14. To provide a long-term base for U.S. troops in the Middle East

88.1% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason." Blah, blah, blah.


15. How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?

1. They should withdraw immediately
2. They should withdraw within the next six months
3. They should withdraw within six to twelve months
4. They should stay as long as they are needed
5. Not sure

51.4% say "immediately" or "next six months;" 72% say within "twelve months.'

This question was the lede in Zogby analysis -- U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006 -- and in some of the stories about the poll. The implication is obvious: morale is low! the soldiers want to go home! they don't believe in the mission! they think we're losing, losing, losing!

But as I noted last time, the real question here is never answered: why do the troops think we should withdraw in twelve months, six months, or immediately? It is because they think we've already lost -- or because they believe we've won, and they take the president at his word that "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down?" By "withdrawal," do they mean everyone out, or do they mean drawing down the force level?

The Stars and Stripes article linked above raised this same point:

But Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, said troops who say the U.S. should withdraw could be concerned for their own safety, or they could be optimistic about progress so far, or they could simply be opposed to the idea of operations in Iraq.

“You have to pick apart each servicemember’s thought process to understand what that means,” he said. “I think this is about personal circumstances, and not proof there is a higher rate of troops who desire departure.”

What Zogby really needed to ask is whether the troops think the mission has been successful or not, and (as Hugh Hewitt suggested) how high their morale is; that would have told us the why. As it is, we can only infer the why by looking at the next question:

16. According to recent polls, about half of Americans favor a rapid withdrawal and half favor an open-ended occupation of Iraq. Which do you believe best describes the motives of those favoring rapid withdrawal?

1. They are unpatriotic
2. They are not aware of the need for U.S. troops
3. They believe that continued occupation will not work
4. They are against use of the military in preemptive war and "nation building"
5. Other
6. Not sure

51.6% say because "they are unpatriotic" or because "they are not aware of the need for U.S. troops."

Well! Either 22% or more of our troops think that they, themselves, are unpatriotic or unaware -- or else when they answered question 15, they meant we should start withdrawing because we've won... and therefore, it's not a "rapid withdrawal." (The only other possibility is that they believe that a withdrawal within six months is not "rapid," which seems unlikely, given that soldiers know how long it takes to put a force in or withdraw it... even John Murtha said it would take six months!)

I think what is really happening here is that a lot of our soldiers believe that we're going to be able to start drawing down the force -- not rapidly, not precipitously, but according to plan -- over the next six or twelve months. And frankly, I believe that timeline is precisely what the Bush administration is planning. Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle-Boat Cruise tonight: our soldiers have the same understanding on the ground that the Pentagon planners have back in Arlington, VA.

Could that be because the senior officers consult the grunts and actually take their opinions seriously?

The "Insurgency"

The insurgency has at least tripled the number of attacks on US troops over the past two years., but despite this there have been political and economic advances. Based on your experiences in Iraq, please rate statements 17 through 24 using the following scale:

1 - Definitely false
2 - Mostly false
3 - Partly true, partly false
4 - Mostly true
5 - Definitely true

17. Ongoing attacks on our troops have made me negative about the Iraqi people.

80.3% say "definitely false" or "mostly false."

18. The insurgency consists mostly of discontented Sunnis with relatively few (no more than 5%) non-Iraqi helpers.

75.9% say "definitely true," "mostly true," or "partly true, partly false." As we mentioned before, many troops are aware that "insurgent" doesn't include terrorist; thus, many of the respondents are thinking of Sadr and his Mighty al-Mahdi militia. But even if they are not, I think most folks understand that foreign terrorists like Musab Zarqawi may call the shots, but most of the low-level terrorist flunkies are disaffected Iraqis.

But I note that Zogby accounts for "non-Iraqi helpers" and for "discontented Sunnis"... what about Iraqi Shia? Is he even aware that most of the Iraqi militants are Shiite, not Sunni... particularly those Iranian-supported Sadrites infiltrating the southern police departments and the Interior Department? I guess not!

19. If non-Iraqi terrorists could be prevented from crossing the border into Iraq the insurgency would end.

65.9% of the troops say "definitely false" or "mostly false" -- I reckon the soldiers know what Zogby doesn't.

20. To control the insurgency we need to double the level of ground troops and bombing missions.

52.9% say "definitely true" or "mostly true." This is the only point where I disagree; but again, the question is so clumsily framed that we don't know whether they're saying we should double our presence -- or just that if we wanted to "control the insurgency," that's what we would have to do... so therefore, it's better to leave it to the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Security Force (police).

Can't tell; the obvious follow-up question would have been, "do you believe we should double our forces in Iraq now?" Given the response to question 15 about "withdrawal," I think it highly unlikely a majority would say yes to this.

Rules and Measures

These are mostly just no-brainers:

21. Infrastructure in Iraq (roads, water, electricity, health care) improved greatly over the past year.

Mixed: 34.9% say "definitely false" or "mostly false;" 31% say "definitely true" or "mostly true."

22. The Department of Defense has provided adequate troop protection (body armor; Humvee plating, munitions)

Leaning towards true: 29.6% say "definitely false" or "mostly false;" 43.6% say "definitely true" or "mostly true."

23. It is legitimate to use white phosophorus or napalm-like inflamants against insurgents?

70.2% say "definitely false," "mostly false," or "partly true, partly false."

24. It is standard and appropriate military conduct to use harsh and threatening interrogation methods on possible insurgent prisoners if they could have information of military value?

65.2% say "definitely false" or "mostly false." Which is correct. For them. CIA interrogators may follow different rules.

Thank you for taking time to complete the survey.

Taken all in all, the only allegedly shocking results -- the withdrawal question and the reasons-for-the-invasion question -- turn out, upon inspection, to be soap bubbles: all surface with no weight. This is why I predicted last time that "I absolutely believe his poll results might be exactly correct"... given that the respondent answers the question he is asked, not the question he should have been asked.

I close with my conclusion from last post, because it turns out my instincts were correct: this is a "valueless poll."

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.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Zogbytown."

[Note, I made a correction on the prevous Zogby-poll post to note that Zogby's brother, James Zogby, is an Arabist, not an Islamist.]

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 3, 2006, at the time of 4:12 AM

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