Did George W. Bush Persuade the Public on the Iraq War?

Ezra Klein’s new piece on presidential persuasion is stimulating a lot of debate.  I’ll have more to say.  But let me make one small point in response to Kevin Drum’s critique.  Drum writes:

I also think that Ezra doesn’t really grapple with the strongest arguments on the other side. For one thing, although there are examples of presidential offensives that failed (George Bush on Social Security privatization), there are also example of presidential offensives that succeeded (George Bush on going to war with Iraq).

Drum doesn’t cite any public opinion data.  In this case, the data fails to support his argument.  In the run-up to the beginning of the Iraq War, public support for the war did not increase.  It polarized along party lines, just as happened with Social Security privatization.  Here is a graph from Gary Jacobson’s book:

Although there was a brief rally effect right at the war’s outset, support among both Democrats and independents actually decreased in the months preceding the war.  This is not a case where presidential rhetoric successfully persuaded the public.

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About John Sides 27 Articles

Affiliation: George Washington University

John Sides is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at George Washington University.

Professor Sides studies political behavior in American and comparative politics. His current research focuses on political campaigns, the effects of factual information on public opinion, citizenship laws and national identity, and measurement equivalence. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, American Politics Research, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Communication, Political Studies, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Legislative Studies Quarterly. He helped found and contributes to The Monkey Cage, a political science blog.

Professor Sides received his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, 2003.

Visit: John Sides Page

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