CBS News, No-Fly Zone, nuclear war, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Pew Research Center, polls, public opinion, Quinnipiac University poll, Reuters/Ipsos, Russia, The Wall Street Journal, Ukraine, Ukraine invasion, Ukraine-Russia war, YouGovAmerica
We’re getting some clarity from the – always imperfect – polls on whether Americans support direct U.S. military involvement in the Ukraine war, and the news is mostly good. Specifically, strong majorities currently reject “boots on the ground” and even the more limited no-fly-zone proposal for fear of risking nuclear war with Russia.
In other words, we know more than we did a little more than a week ago, when the Reuters news organization and the Ipsos polling concern asked respondents their views on the no fly zone, but didn’t mention the nuclear war thing in their question. That’s about as smart as asking someone whether they’d take medicine A to cure disease B without mentioning that medicine A could cause an even worse disease C.
Even weirder, the Reuters article describing the survey’s results actually pointed out this crucial omission. Just for the record, though, Reuters and Ipsos weren’t the only examples of polls completely ignoring vital context, as this YouGoveAmerica post makes clear.
But it seems that pollsters are displaying a learning curve – even in the foreign policy field in which, as the above linked RealityChek post shows, they’ve been especially clueless.
For instance, the YouGovAmerica outfit followed up its first ditzy survey on the No Fly Zone with another that – unlike its initial soundings – defined the idea (without naming it) rather than asking if people support it “without a definition.” What a concept! And once respondents were presented with the fact that American pilots shooting at Russian military planes, support fell support fell substantially.
A similar YouGov exercise for CBS News yielded much more opposition to the No Fly Zone. When it was simply mentioned by name, it enjoyed 59 percent to 41 percent backing. When respondents were told this would mean “U.S. forces might have to engage Russian aircraft, and be considered an act of war by Russia,” the results more than flipped. Sixty two percent opposed the idea and only 38 percent favored it.
Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center found that Americans opposed the United States “taking military action” in Ukraine “if it risks a nuclear conflict with Russia” by 62 percent to 35 percent – a margin much wider than that in the YouGovAmerica poll.
Also this week, the polling center at Quinnipiac (Conn.) University mentioned that a No Fly Zone “would lead NATO countries into a war with Russia.” Opponents prevailed over supporters by 54 percent to 32 percent.
Interestingly, much more public caution was displayed concerning the question of whether the United States “should do whatever it can to help Ukraine, even if it means risking a direct war between the U.S. and Russia” or “do whatever it can to help Ukraine, without risking “such a direct war. The don’t-risk-war option won out by 75 percent to 17 percent.
I’ve found less information on an early March Wall Street Journal poll (including on the phrasing of the questions), but it, too, revealed meager support for direct U.S. military involvement in Ukraine. Only 29 percent of respondents backed the N0 Fly Zone, and only ten percent would “send U.S. troops” to the country.
So why did I say at the outset that the polling news was only “mostly good”? Because in my view, the shares of Americans reportedly willing to risk nuclear war over Ukraine are still alarmingly high – in the 30s and 40s percents, except for the Wall Street Journal poll. It makes me wonder whether the mere mention of nuclear war is enough to show the full potential magnitude of these positions. Maybe respondents should have to watch, for example, this movie, too.