Poll Shows Drop in Military Support for Bush

A new poll by the Army Times Publishing Company, to be released Monday, shows a drop in support for President Bush and his conduct of the war in Iraq. The poll was sent to thousands of active duty military subscribers of the publisher's newsweeklies, including the Army Times. Debbie Elliott speaks with senior managing editor Robert Hodierne.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

In Iraq today, the new year began with at least 12 car bombings, eight of those in Baghdad alone. No one was killed; 20 people were injured. Elsewhere, two bombings targeted Americans; six civilians were hurt in those two incidents.

Back stateside, President Bush wrapped up his Texas vacation with a visit to wounded servicemen and women at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He spent some time with 50 of the injured and their families and awarded nine Purple Hearts.

A new poll suggests eroding support for President Bush and his Iraq policy among members of the military's professional corps. The poll, by the Army Times Publishing Company, comes out tomorrow. Army Times has no formal tie to the armed services, but the newsweeklies it publishes are widely read by military personnel and their families. For the past three years it has polled thousand of its subscribers about morale and support for the war. To talk about the results, we're joined by Robert Hodierne, senior managing editor of the Army Times Publishing Company.

Hello, sir.

Mr. ROBERT HODIERNE (Senior Managing Editor, Army Times Publishing Company): Hi there.

ELLIOTT: For the first time, your poll showed only a bare majority of those surveyed supporting the president's conduct of the war. How significant was the drop?

Mr. HODIERNE: Well, it's down 9 points, from 63 percent approval last year to 54 percent approval this year, and that's a pretty steep drop for this population.

ELLIOTT: What does that tell us?

Mr. HODIERNE: I think it tells us that the people that we survey, who tend to be the more career-oriented people in the military, are starting to have some misgivings about how well it's going and whether or not their commander in chief has it exactly right.

ELLIOTT: What was their approval rating for President Bush overall?

Mr. HODIERNE: Their approval rating for Bush overall was at 60 percent compared to the last Gallup Poll of 40 percent in the civilian population.

ELLIOTT: So it's still significantly higher.

Mr. HODIERNE: Oh, yeah. These people, you know, tend politically to be way more conservative than the general population. They're way more Republican than the general population; 60 percent of our sample professes to be Republican.

ELLIOTT: Tell us a little bit more about your typical subscriber and how you went about doing this poll as well.

Mr. HODIERNE: We took the names of all the people who subscribed to our papers that we believed are active-duty military people and drew 6,000 of those names at random. What we find when we do this poll--and we do it every year--is that our readers tend to be a little older than the military as a whole, they tend to be slightly higher in rank and more likely to be people who are making a career out of the military. Our poll does not reach very many of the first-termers, the 19- to 24-year-olds who are in their first term and the ones who bear the brunt of combat. But if you're looking for what the core, the professional heart of the military, the careerists think, our poll is the best you're going to be able to find.

ELLIOTT: One of the things that you're reporting is for the first time more than half of respondents said they had deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you explain that?

Mr. HODIERNE: Well, in the first year of the war, many of the people in our population, the older, more career-oriented people, hadn't rotated through Iraq yet or Afghanistan. And as the war has dragged on, more and more of them, now a majority of them, have been to one of those two countries at least once, and a bunch of them have been there multiple times.

ELLIOTT: What do you think is causing the shift of opinion on how the troops feel about the success in Iraq?

Mr. HODIERNE: Two thousand, one hundred and eighty casualties probably has something to do with it; folks looking at their third tour, many of them realizing that they're probably going to have to serve a fourth tour in Iraq and I think perhaps some disenchantment with their civilian leadership. All across the board when we asked them, you know, `Does President Bush have your best interests at heart? Does the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, does the military leadership have your best interests at heart?' there was a drop, but the Congress just was cut right in half. They're deeply annoyed at Congress. We're not sure quite why, whether or not they feel Congress hasn't been as generous with them as they should be or whether they're upset because of some members of Congress calling for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq.

ELLIOTT: Robert Hodierne is the senior managing editor of the Army Times Publishing Company.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. HODIERNE: My pleasure.

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