Zogby has an unusual new poll on military attitudes toward Iraq.
The U.S. should pull out of Iraq "within the next year," said 72% of the 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq who were surveyed for a LeMoyne University/Zogby International project, which was published today. Just under a quarter - 23% - said U.S. forces should stay "as long as they are needed."
At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman told The Financial Times that U.S. personnel in Iraq are not unhappy about the way things are going in Iraq. That conclusion is “certainly not born out in our recruiting and retention statistics,” he said.
Columnist Nicholas Kristof, who previewed the poll today in The New York Times (available to Times Select subscribers), disagreed. He called the 72% result "one more bit of evidence that our grim stay-the-course policy in Iraq has failed."
Mystery Pollster dissects the poll mechanism:
Here is what I can say:
- The Center for Peace and Global Studies paid Zogby to conduct the study but otherwise played no role in conducting interviews or gathering the data.
- According to the procedure Zogby described, respondents were intercepted randomly (e.g. they were not self selected) at multiple locations throughout Iraq (e.g. not just in the so-called "Green Zone") and interviewed using a paper questionnaire that they filled out with the assistance of an interviewer.
- Zogby was willing to share the specific geographic locations where they collected data on the condition I not repeat them. I passed on the offer as my knowledge of Iraq and military operations there is cursory at best, but I have no doubt his offer was genuine.
- Zogby provided Nick Kristof and others reporting on the poll full details about his methodology on an "off-the-record" basis.
So in short, I can tell you that Zogby found a creative solution to the difficult problem of polling troops in Iraq, but I promised to say no more than that. I asked Zogby what advice he would offer data consumers who find this all puzzling. In this case, he said, "you have to trust me."
Well, okay. But for the military to overwhelmingly want out is pretty amazing. Even if we trust Zogby, the folks in uniform don't trust all the happy talk and 5 o'clock follies from this Administration. Welcome to the reality-based community.