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Iraq Support Split Along Racial Lines

by Joseph Carroll, Gallup Poll Assistant Editor

It's been a year and a half since the United States and its allies invaded Iraq. Saddam Hussein waits to stand trial, Iraqis control their own government, and American casualties continue to mount as insurgents clash with U.S. forces. Against this complex backdrop, Americans remain divided in their opinions about the war, with support varying sharply along racial lines. An aggregate of Gallup Poll data* since the beginning of the year shows that a majority of blacks oppose the war with Iraq. In contrast, most non-Hispanic whites support it.

Since the war in Iraq began, Gallup has asked Americans two separate questions gauging the public's support for the war: "In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?", and, "All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?" To closely examine racial differences in opinion about the war, Gallup combined the results of its polling on support for the Iraq war each time it has been measured this year -- a sample that includes nearly 18,000 interviews with U.S. adults.  

These data show that, over the course of this year, Americans have been slightly more likely to support the war than oppose it. A slim majority of Americans, 51%, feel that the war in Iraq was worth it, while 47% say it was not worth it. Likewise, 51% of U.S. adults say it was not a mistake to send troops into Iraq, while 46% say it was a mistake. 

Blacks Oppose War in Iraq

The results on these two questions look far different when analyzed by race. When asked whether it was a mistake to send troops into Iraq, three in four blacks (76%) say it was a mistake to send troops, while only one in five (20%) say it was not a mistake. In contrast, 42% of non-Hispanic whites believe it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq, while a majority, 56%, believe it was not. 

A similar pattern emerges among the responses to the "worth going to war" question. Only 18% of blacks interviewed by Gallup in 2004 say it was worth going to war in Iraq, while 79% say it was not worth it. Among non-Hispanic whites, a majority (56%) say the war in Iraq was worth fighting and 42% say it was not.

Blacks' higher opposition to the war is partly due to fact that blacks overwhelmingly affiliate with the Democratic Party, and Democrats have shown low levels of support for the war this year. The aggregated data show that 70% of blacks identify themselves as Democrats, while 24% say they are independents and only 6% consider themselves Republicans. By comparison, partisanship is more evenly distributed among non-Hispanic whites, with 39% saying they are Republicans, 32% identifying as independents, and 29% saying they are Democrats.

This does not mean, however, that partisanship is the sole explanation why blacks show such low levels of support for U.S. military action in Iraq. Even when controlling for partisanship, blacks are still less likely than non-Hispanic whites to support the war in Iraq -- black Democrats are less likely to support the war than are white Democrats, black independents are less likely to support the war than are white independents, and even among the relatively limited sample of black Republicans, the data suggest far less support for the Iraq war than is evident among white Republicans.

It is unclear why blacks are so much less likely to support military action in Iraq than are whites. But the current pattern of racial differences are not without precedent -- blacks were less likely than whites to favor military action against Iraq before the war began, and blacks were also less likely to support the 1991 war with Iraq.

*Results for the "mistake to send troops to Iraq" question are based on telephone interviews with 6,582 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted January-September 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. For results based on the sample of 5,193 non-Hispanic whites, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. For results based on the sample of 690 blacks, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Results for the "worth going to war" question are based on telephone interviews with 11,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted January-September 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. For results based on the sample of 8,638 non-Hispanic whites, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. For results based on the sample of 1,168 blacks, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Gallup


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