An Unpopular War
By Anthony DiMaggio, ZNet, Aug 31, 2009
President Obama finds himself in a precarious position when calling for escalation of the war in Afghanistan. While this conflict is traditionally seen as the “good war,” American and Afghan public support appears mixed at best. There is good reason to suspect that the limited support for war that exists will evaporate after casualties on both sides increase and Afghanistan’s security further deteriorates.
A significant problem we run into when assessing the war is the tremendous lack of information available about Americans’ reasons for opposing war. Scholars note the tendency of polling firms to “socially construct” public opinion by refusing to ask questions about Americans’ moral challenges to U.S. foreign policy. Benjamin Ginsberg argues in The Captive Public that “polls generally raise questions that are of interest to clients and purchasers of poll data – newspapers, political candidates, governmental agencies, and business corporations…questions of no immediate relevance to government, business, or politicians will not easily find their way into the surveys. This is particularly true of issues such as the validity of the capitalist economic system, or the legitimacy of governmental authority, issues that business and government prefer not to see raised at all, much less at their own expense.”