in Louisiana Public Square!
the People is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions with primary
funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and additional
support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service.
Poll" Shows Americans' Views on Iraq, Trade
day-long "Citizen Deliberations" this weekend, Americans
from across the United States said they believed establishing
democracy in Iraq was less important than ensuring the country
has a stable government.
Also, they were strongly in favor of involving the United Nations or other countries
in the rebuilding of Iraq, and rejected the notion that the United States should
be able to unilaterally invade other countries that appear to pose a threat,
unless we have international support.
In Baton Rouge, though, participants' views diverged from the national
trend (results in side panel).
They expressed their views in a unique national/local experiment in civic dialogue
that took place Saturday in ten cities around the country. In each, a scientific
random sample of the community was invited to consider America's national security
and trade policies. And in each city a "control group" of citizens
who did not deliberate was asked the same questions. Altogether, 725 citizens
deliberated in the ten cities and their views were compared to those of 1580
respondents in the control groups and to their own pre-deliberation views.
The participants spent the day learning about issues related to America's role
in the world and discussing them among themselves and with bipartisan panels
of experts. At the end of the day, they were scientifically surveyed via a process
called Deliberative Polling. The results were released Sunday by MacNeil/Lehrer
Productions' By the People project.
Only 31% of the participants thought it was "absolutely or extremely important" that "a
democracy be established in Iraq" compared to 51% of the control group.
But more participants thought it was "absolutely or extremely important" that "a
stable government be established in Iraq, even if it is not democratic" (82%
of the participants compared to 72% of the control group). And 52% of the participants,
compared to 43% of the control group thought that "the war in Iraq has gotten
in the way of the war on terror." Furthermore, participants became significantly
less tolerant of the cost of the U.S. presence in Iraq over the course of deliberation;
only 38% of participants post-deliberation agreed that "by the time we leave
Iraq, the results will have been worth the cost in lives and dollars," compared
to 45% of the participants prior to deliberation.
Support for involving other countries and/or the UN in Iraq was very high among
both participants and the control group, with 82% and 75% respectively agreeing
that "the US should share its control of Iraq with other countries or the UN
in return for their sharing more of the military and financial burden." Similarly,
opposition to unilateralism as a general policy was high in both groups, with
56% of participants, and 50% of the control group rejecting the statement that "in
general, the US should be willing to invade other countries we believe pose a
serious and immediate threat, even if we don’t have a lot of international support."
On trade, the participants expressed deep ambivalence after deliberation. More
participants than members of the control group thought that NAFTA had helped
the American economy "a lot or somewhat" (39% of the participants compared
to only 21% of the control group). And 38% of participants supported free global
competition without special protections (such as subsidies) for American industries,
while only 28% of the control group did so. But participants were skeptical that
more free trade would bring more jobs. Only 43% of the participants compared
to 54% of the control group agreed that "on the whole more free trade means
more jobs, because we can sell more goods abroad."
By the end of their deliberations, the participants were dramatically more informed
than the control group. For example, 89% could correctly identify the parties
to NAFTA compared to only 43% of the control group; 59% could correctly answer
whether the WTO supported the US steel tariffs that President Bush had removed,
compared to only 43% of the control group; and 61% knew that we had an international
force of many countries in the first Gulf War, compared to only 41% of the control
Participants were generally representative of their communities in terms of gender,
race, income, religion and occupation. But they were more highly educated and
included fewer republicans. 84% had at least some college compared to 74% of
the control group and 28% said they were Republicans compared to 33% of the control
groups. Democrats comprised 37% of the participants compared to 34% of the control
groups and Independents were 27% of the participant and 27% of the control groups.
(9% of the participants and 7% of the control groups answered "no party
preference" or "other.")
Professor James Fishkin, Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at
Stanford University, said "these experiments offer a glimpse of democratic
possibilities--what our politics would be like if people became more informed
and talked to others who had different points of view. Instead of offering their
impression of sound bites and headlines, these citizens are working through difficult
issues, learning key facts and coming to an informed judgment. Their voices are
well worth listening to."
The Citizen Deliberations were sponsored by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions' By the
People project and a network of local and national organizations in Rochester,
NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Sarasota, FL; Baton Rouge, LA; Kansas City, MO; Minneapolis/St.
Paul, MN; Green Bay, WI; central Nebraska, San Diego, CA; and Seattle, WA.
A second round of deliberations is planned for October, just before the presidential
elections. They will take place in a much larger number of cities and involve
substantially more people.
BATON ROUGE RESULTS
became less tolerant of the cost of the war in Iraq, with the percent
who agreed that the war would be worth the cost in lives and dollars
decreasing from 56% to 48% (non-sig change). Support for multilateralism
in Iraq was high — at over 60% — both among participants and in the
control group, but it was lower than in most other locations. Support
for unilateralism as a general U.S. policy increased significantly
for participants post-deliberation, from 37% to 60%, and opposition
decreased accordingly (50% to 29%). This put the level of support for
unilateralism well above that for the control group (41%).
Participants were less dissatisfied
than the control group with the progress being made in rebuilding
Iraq; only 16% of participants thought the rebuilding was going
poorly, while 30% of the control group thought so. (Participants
were also more satisfied with the progress of rebuilding than
the control group — 68% versus 54% — but not significantly so.)
Participants were less concerned than the control group with
the establishment of democracy in Iraq (40% thought it was important,
compared with 59% of the control group). They were more concerned
than the control group that a stable government be established
in Iraq (85% versus 74%), but again not significantly so. However,
participants were significantly more in favor of U.S. promotion
of democracy generally than was the control group.
In contrast with most locations,
a majority of participants (and a plurality — 49% — of the control
group) did not believe that the war in Iraq had impeded the war
on terror (only 34 to 35% of participants thought it had).
Trade: Participants’ opinion
about NAFTA’s influence on the US economy improved somewhat over
the course of the deliberation, with the percent who believed
it had helped the American economy increasing from 23% to 48%.
This put the post-deliberation participants much more favorably-disposed
towards NAFTA than the control group, only 24% of whom believed
NAFTA had helped the US economy. Similarly, 38% of participants
supported free global competition without special protections
(such as subsidies) for American industries, while only 23% of
the control group did so. In contrast with most other locations,
participants in Baton Rouge also became less concerned about
the impact of free trade on jobs, with the percentage who disagreed
with the proposal that free trade creates jobs decreasing significantly
from 34 to 21%, putting the post-deliberation participants in
line with the control group, 18% of whom disagreed with that
statement. Post-deliberation participants were in fact more tolerant
of the WTO than the control group, with 42% disagreeing with
the statement that the US should obey WTO decisions that go against
it, as compared to only 27% of the control group.
made substantial knowledge gains and were significantly better
informed post-deliberation than control group members on a number
of items, both in the area of national security and in the area
of trade. The proportion of participants who were able to correctly
determine the general ideological position of the two major parties
on national security was 76%, as compared to only 54% of the
control group. 90% of participants correctly rejected the statement
that Iraq’s oil revenues were paying for the current occupation
and rebuilding of the country, compared with only 61% of the
control group. Furthermore, 47% of participants correctly identified
the WTO position on U.S. steel tariffs, as compared to only 14%
of the control group. And 85% of participants (versus only 31%
of the control group) correctly identified the countries that
are part of NAFTA.