06/17/2014 05:33 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: Americans Skeptical Of Iraq Intervention


There's little support for renewed U.S. military involvement in Iraq -- but exactly how much depends on how you ask. More pollsters weigh in on the Eric Cantor debacle. And Americans are divided over the Oxford comma. This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

AMERICANS WARY OF IRAQ INVOLVEMENT - Emily Swanson: "Americans are wary of getting involved with the growing violence in Iraq, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. But the survey also finds that many are willing to support airstrikes if necessary to quell the violence there. Generally speaking, only 22 percent of Americans think the U.S. should get involved in the current situation in Iraq, the new poll shows, while 51 percent think the U.S. should stay out of it. Majorities of Democrats (59 percent to 16 percent) and independents (51 percent to 20 percent) said that the U.S. should not get involved, and even Republicans were more likely to oppose intervention than to support it, by 41 percent to 35 percent. But if that intervention came in the form of airstrikes, more Americans could be in favor. By a 48 percent to 30 percent margin, a plurality of respondents said they would support an airstrike campaign, which President Barack Obama is reportedly considering. A 52 percent to 29 percent majority also said they would support drone strikes." [HuffPost]

A longer question about Iraq... - PPP (D) asks a 137-word, multi-pronged question for Americans United for Change: "Which of the following statements better describes how you feel about the situation in Iraq? Here’s the first statement: ‘the renewed fighting in Iraq results from a dysfunctional Iraqi government , and is rooted in centuries of sectarian conflict that intensified enormously because of the invasion of Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction, that proved to be nonexistent. The United States should help stabilize the situation there by providing arms, supplies, and intelligence, but we should not send ground troops to fight in another Iraqi civil war.’ Here’s the second statement: ‘The renewed fighting in Iraq is a direct result of the fact that the United States withdrew our troops from Iraq before the job was done. The United States should provide whatever support is necessary to the Iraqi government including ground troops if that becomes necessary.’" Two thirds (67 percent) agreed more with the first statement, 20 percent with the second, and 12 percent indicated they were unsure. [PPP]

...gets a negative review from pollsters - Via Twitter, we asked pollsters for their thoughts on this question [@MysteryPollster]:

-MassINC's Steve Koczela: "Well, it asks which one 'better describes', which relieves some of the usual exhaustive / mutually exclusive requirement...Nonetheless, there is a lot of squishy ground and overlap in the topic. I prefer Q's 2-4...Skeptical of long [question] over phone. Does PPP have a "Go Back /Reread, I did not catch that"?"

-Emma White: "1) too long, with too many concepts, especially for IVR, and 2) slanted."

-U.K. market researcher Andrew Vincent: "Forget it. No one can hold all info from Q1 in their head to make informed choice."

-University of Virginia survey researcher Tom Guterbock: "Q1 on this survey is a mess. It's multi-barreled and doesn't capture full range of opinions, either."

-PublicMind pollster Dan Cassino: "Far too long, no sign of option randomization- can't imagine someone thought it was a good idea."

-Mellman Group's Skip Perry (D): "I've seen worse but it's definitely clunky, especially for IVR. Their dropoff rates must have been horrible."

-Anzalone Liszt Grove's Zac McCrary (D): "Very tricky thing to poll. At a minimum, I'd be concerned one option seems approx twice as long as the other."

-French survey researcher Bruno Jeanbart: "only 12% "not sure" ? Magical result..."

-Data scientist Sam Wang: "Note that the answer to Q2 gives results that are consistent with Q1. This suggests the long-question problem is not so bad"

-HuffPost data scientist Natalie Jackson, responding to Wang: "Or that Q1 biased the answers to Q2 as well."

PPP's Tom Jensen responds - via email: 'We frequently ask lengthier questions like this in our private client polling. You wouldn’t want to do 10 questions like this in an IVR poll but you’re alright doing a few...we usually advise clients not to do more than 4-5 longer questions of this nature in a poll. If people don’t give an answer after the response options have been read, the question repeats. This survey took an average of about 4 minutes for people to complete, pretty reasonable I think compared to 45 minute long live interview surveys. I think as more polls come out about what people want to see happen in Iraq they will similarly find that there is heavy resistance to sending combat troops and that there is little appetite for rehashing the policies of the Bush administration."

DEM POLL FOUND CANTOR ALREADY VULNERABLE IN 2012 - Harrison Hickman (D): "Commentators are wrong in suggesting that the problems that resulted in Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary loss were new or that they were confined to the Republican primary electorate. In reality, Cantor's weaknesses were obvious two years ago in our poll of likely general election voters in Virginia's 7th Congressional District for Democratic candidate Wayne Powell….Cantor's weakness among Republicans caught our eye at the time. Even in the polarized general election environment of 2012, Republican identifiers were reluctant to support the Majority Leader on key dimensions. Only 65% of Republicans and only 55% of conservatives had favorable opinions of him. Only two-thirds of Republicans wanted to re-elect him….Republicans overwhelmingly (57% to 22%) thought he was more interested in national politics than issues facing the district. Less than 50% believed he would do the right thing for the district when it conflicted with the national Republican agenda." [HuffPost]

WAS POLLING MISFIRE ON CANTOR PART OF A PATTERN? - Kristen Soltis Anderson (R): "The last few years have regrettably made the phrase 'Republican pollster' less a job title than a punch line. From the 2012 election, where many in the GOP were stunned by the Obama campaign’s victory, to the 2013 closer-than-expected Virginia gubernatorial race, all the way to the present, Republican polling as of late has been a much-maligned sector of the campaign-industrial complex, and not without reason.…. Do we really know how to decide who is and isn’t a 'likely voter'? The way many pollsters do their research has been to call people off of a list of registered voters, calling only those who typically vote in elections like the one in question….The reality is that the electorate is changing. In 2012, many Republicans thought there was no way that turnout among groups like African-Americans or the young could possibly keep pace with 2008. They were wrong….This isn’t just about one political consultant or one high-profile miss. This is about the future of polling, analytics, and what we can (and can’t) know about the people who might cast votes. If polling data are supposed to tell us the story of what’s going on in an election, we need to make sure that story isn’t just a fairy tale." [Daily Beast]

MISTRUST OF GOVERNMENT CAN HELP SHAPE OPINIONS ON ACA - Dan Hopkins: "[T]he public’s disapproval of Obamacare considered as a whole points to Americans’ broader relationship with the government, and our unwillingness to trust that it can accomplish what it sets out to do….To test how trust influences public opinion, I fielded a survey using GfK’s nationally sampled online panel in late 2011 with colleagues at Georgetown University….I randomly assigned people to two groups. The first was a control group: It provided a baseline for how people’s trust in government relates to their attitudes toward Obamacare. The second group I primed with an anti-government argument to test if distrusting rhetoric might affect the relationship between trust in government and attitudes about Obamacare….For the respondents who read the senator’s argument about trust, the relationship between their trust in the federal government and health care attitudes nearly doubled as compared to those who hadn’t read the argument." [538]

TUESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-PPP (D) finds Kay Hagan (D) gaining against Thom Tillis (R) in North Carolina, and Al Franken (D) up big in Minnesota. [PPP NC, MN]

-Andrew Kohut says persistent attitudes on ACA, economic conditions and President Obama's job approval are pointing to a Democratic "drubbing" in the 2014 elections. [Pew Research]

-Michael Barone notes the disconnect between Americans' opinions on foreign policy, and their approval of President Obama on the issue. [RCP]

-Drew DeSilver explains why data on mass shootings can be hard to find. [Pew Research]

-Carroll Doherty demonstrates that different measures lead to different conclusions about which political party is more to blame for increases in polarization. [Pew Research]

-Cantor pollster John McLaughlin (R) objects to references to past polling misses in Politico coverage of VA-07 mishap. [Politico, McLaughlin letter]

-Nate Silver argues that Eric Cantor's defeat was unrelated to population shifts. [538]

-Andrew Gelman urges the news media to cut back on horse-race polls. [WashPost]

-Just 19 percent of Americans are paying close attention to stories on Benghazi. [Gallup]

-Christopher Ingraham maps guns stories against libraries and museums. [WashPost]

-Americans are split on the Oxford Comma. [538]