- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2005

Negative press coverage of the war in Iraq in recent weeks has emphasized rising pessimism among the American public about the conflict. But a new survey found that 56 percent of the public thinks that efforts to establish a stable democracy in the country will succeed.

The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press — which also plumbed opinions of journalists, university presidents and others in academe, diplomats, government officials, religious leaders, members of the military, scientists and international security specialists — revealed a marked disconnect between the perceptions of the general public and many of the so-called opinion leaders.

When asked whether they thought democracy would succeed in Iraq, only 33 percent of the journalists agreed that it had a chance. The number was even worse in academe — 27 percent of respondents thought the effort would succeed. Among the military, however, the number stood at 64 percent.

“The media and academia have always been more to the left, so how they report these things is not necessarily the way the country sees things,” said Charles Gravely, 56, a real estate executive from the District.

Meanwhile, close to half of the American public — 48 percent — think the decision to take military action in Iraq was the right one.

“I put my trust in the people in charge of our defense,” said Haley Praytor, 21, an intern from Lindale, Texas.

The survey found a spectrum of opinions between the opinion leaders.

Among journalists, 28 percent thought the decision was justified. The number was 21 percent among the academic elites and 49 percent in the military.

The public is evenly divided on whether the war in Iraq has helped or hindered efforts to combat terrorism, 44 percent thought the conflict has helped the effort and the same number thought it has hurt. In the press, 68 percent said the war had hurt the effort, and 22 percent said it had helped.

In the academic world, the numbers were 75 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Among the military, it was 47 percent and 45 percent.

The war in Iraq “has definitely helped indirectly,” said Andrew Reese, 33, a software sales representative from Arlington. “It has probably kept other countries from committing terrorist acts in the U.S.”

The survey also found that the public’s view of the United Nations has soured since March.

Overall, 48 percent of Americans felt favorably toward the United Nations, down from 77 percent in 2001. The approval ratings of the United Nations dropped by 11 points since March alone.

The survey found that 54 percent of Americans think that the United States should cooperate fully with the United Nations, down from 67 percent in 2002. And 32 percent thought the United States should “go its own way in international matters,” up from 25 percent three years ago.

President Bush’s approval ratings have grown tepid — but have not tanked — among Americans. Overall, Mr. Bush garners a 40 percent favorability among the public, with 52 percent disapproving of him and 8 percent “unsure.”

However, 52 percent approve of his efforts to fight terrorism, and 86 percent say defense against terrorism should be a top foreign policy priority, followed by the protection of American jobs (84 percent) and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (75 percent).

Only 24 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Bush’s immigration policies, but 51 percent say reducing illegal immigration should be a top foreign policy priority.

The survey, which addressed “America’s Place in the World,” was conducted in two phases. It polled 2,006 adults between Oct. 12 and 24, and 540 members of the press, academia and the other five demographic groups from Sept. 5 to Oct. 31. The margin of error ranges from three to five percentage points.

The complete results can be viewed online at http://people-press.org.

c Shepherd Pittman contributed to this report.

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