NY Times' Stolberg uncritically quoted GOP strategist's claim that public does not support withdrawal

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

In a January 9 article, New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg uncritically quoted an assertion by an anonymous Republican strategist that "the public is not for immediate withdrawal or even a quick withdrawal, but they're not for the status quo." The Times further quoted the strategist as saying, "I think they [the president's advisers] feel as if the public is more likely to support the president's position," an apparent reference to Bush's call for an increase in troops in Iraq. In fact, available polling shows that a majority of Americans support some type of troop withdrawal while only a small minority support an increase in troops, facts that the Times did not include in its article:

  • A CBS News poll released on January 8 reported that 59 percent of respondents support a decrease in troops in Iraq or removing all troops from Iraq, while only 18 percent support an increase in troops (conducted January 1-3, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent).
  • A CNN poll (conducted December 15-17, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent) reported that 53 percent of respondents support a withdrawal either immediately or within a year, while only 11 percent support sending more troops to Iraq.
  • A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll (conducted December 8-11, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent) reported that 52 percent of respondents think the United States should withdraw troops from Iraq on a "fixed timetable," while only 12 percent support sending more troops to Iraq.
  • An ABC News/Washington Post poll (conducted December 7-11 with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent) reported that 52 percent of respondents think the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq should be decreased, while only 17 percent think the number should be increased.

Additionally, a Gallup poll released January 9 shows that 61 percent of the public opposes a "temporary but significant increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq."

From Stolberg's January 9 article in The New York Times:

Despite Mr. Bush's insistence that he does not govern by polls, the White House is acutely aware that a vast majority of the American public disapproves of the job Mr. Bush is doing in Iraq. But advisers to the president believe that the public is willing to give Mr. Bush another chance -- especially if he puts forth a policy that is heavy on specifics.

The president's advisers are also mindful of polls showing that while the public wants the situation to improve in Iraq, it does not necessarily favor immediate withdrawal.

"They're going to cast it as a choice between withdrawal and surge," said one Republican strategist close to the White House. "The public is not for immediate withdrawal or even a quick withdrawal, but they're not for the status quo. I think they feel as if the public is more likely to support the president's position, which is putting a stake in the ground in Iraq and saying were going to try to win."

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