Closeness to Troops Boosts Support for War — but Not By Much
by Michael Dimock, Associate Director, Research, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Nationwide, more than a quarter of adults in America (27%) say they have a very close family member or friend who has served in the current military effort in Iraq or Afghanistan. As one might expect, those with close contacts tend to be more supportive of the Iraq war and President Bush’s policies with regard to it. <p >But the differences between those who are closely connected to someone who has served and those who are not are relatively modest. Even among the closely connected, concerns about the war and America’s policies are widespread. For example, people with a very close friend or family member who has served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are more likely to say things are going well in Iraq than are those who lack such a contact (45% vs. 31%). But majorities in both groups (52% and 66%, respectively) say things are not going well. <p >Similarly, among Americans who do not know anyone who has served, just 22% approve of the president’s handling of the situation in Iraq, while 70% disapprove. Among those closely connected to someone who has served the president’s standing is better, but even here only 36% approve while 59% disapprove.<p >And when it comes to the current conflict in Washington over including a troop withdrawal timetable in this year’s war appropriations bill, the Democratic position is favored across all groups, though by a significantly smaller majority among those with a very close friend or family member who has served (53%) than among those who do not know anyone (64%).
To a large extent, the differences in opinion between those who are and are not closely connected to a servicemember reflect a sizeable partisan difference – 32% of Republicans have a very close friend or family member who has served, compared with just 18% of Democrats. This disparity in party identification explains much of the difference in opinion over Iraq between those who do and do not know someone who has served, though even when party affiliation is taken into account those with very close connections to the ongoing conflicts tend to be slightly more supportive of the Iraq war. <p >Party is not the only factor linked to having a very close friend or family member who has served. Fully 38% of Americans ages 18-29 say they have a close connection to someone who has served – twice as many as among Americans ages 65 and older (19%). And connections to someone who has served are most common among people near the middle of the socio-economic spectrum. In particular, Americans who have attended, but not graduated from college are more likely to have a very close friend or family member who has served than are those with a college degree or those who never attended college. Similarly, people with household incomes between $20,000 and $50,000 are the most likely to have a very close connection to someone who has served. <p >A substantial regional difference is also evident – 31% of Americans living in the South have a very close friend or family member who has served, compared with 21% of those living in the Northeast. Religiosity is a factor as well – nearly a third of Americans (32%) who attend religious services weekly are closely connected to someone who has served, compared with 19% of Americans who seldom or never attend religious services. <p >Of the 27% of Americans who are very close to someone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 19% say it is a family member, while 8% say it is a friend or someone else they are very close to. Whether or not the person is a family member is not related to attitudes about the war or America’s policies in Iraq.
April 18-22, 2007
Q.62 Do you personally know someone who has served in the current military effort in Iraq or Afghanistan, or not?
IF ‘YES’ (1 IN Q.62), ASK:
Q.63 How close would you say you are to this person? Would you say you are…(READ) [IF VOL: "Know more than one person" PROMPT: Thinking about the person you are closest to... How close would you say you are?"]
BASED ON TOTAL: 62 Yes 27 Very close 25 Somewhat close, OR 10 Don't you know this person all that well? * Don't know/Refused (VOL. DO NOT READ) 37 No 1 Don't know/Refused 100
IF ‘VERY CLOSE’ (1 IN Q.63) [N=388]:
Q.64 Is that a close friend or a close family member?
28 Friend 60 Family member 1 Other (VOL.) 11 Both (VOL.) 0 Don't know/Refused 100
Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 1,508 adults, 18 years of age or older, from April 18-22, 2007. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.