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A Rally Effect?

As is perhaps inevitable when there is a major news event such as the death of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Wednesday in Iraq, there has been a good deal of speculation about the political implications domestically here in the United States.

As I told the San Francisco Chronicle's Marc Sandalow Thursday, there is a reasonable hypothesis that President Bush's job approval rating will move up, and that attitudes toward the Iraq war will improve at least in the short term. I'm writing this on June 9; we should know if this hypothesis is borne out when we have new data at the beginning of next week.

Certainly Iraqi-related events such as the capture of Saddam Hussein and the first elections in Iraq resulted in at least modest rallies in public attitudes, lending credence to the prediction that something similar will happen in this case.

Every indicator we have suggests that the Iraq war is and has been the single most important national issue on Americans' minds at this point. It tops the list of the public's views of the most important problem facing the nation, and is the No. 1 priority that Americans want their government to address. Hence, if there is some sign of progress on the Iraq front -- as the death of al-Zarqawi will presumably be seen -- it is a reasonable assumption that broader attitudes may change as well.


Dr. Frank Newport is a Gallup Senior Scientist and the author of Polling Matters (Warner Books, 2004) and The Evangelical Voter.

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