Polls and pundits

OPINION polls are often a true indication of things to come, but they can sometimes be way off the mark as it happened in India recently when the Congress party, which had been dismissed by pundits as trailing far behind the BJP, romped home victorious.

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Published: Sat 26 Jun 2004, 10:53 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Oct 2022, 10:59 AM

The pollsters ate humble pie and their forecast lay like so much hair on the salon floor. But opinion polls cannot be wished away. Now, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll rating on President George Bush and Senator John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, the once formidable lead that Bush had over Kerry is slowly being eaten away by "public anxiety over increasing American casualties in Iraq and doubts about the long-term consequences of the Iraq war. According to the polls, "seven in 10 Americans now say there has been an `unacceptable' level of casualties in Iraq." With just 4 days to go before the US hands over power to the Iraqi interim government, the poll indicates that Americans are "coming to a mixed judgment about the costs and benefits of the war."

Whether the US succeeds in implanting a democratic regime in Iraq or fails, there will be far-reaching consequences. Wars have unintended and unforeseeable consequences and despite what the US political pundits believe, events cannot be controlled and mastered. It would be presumptuous to predict what will take place in the post-Hussein era, but what is clear is that things will never be the same as before the war - nor will they take shape according to the blueprint drawn by the victors.

That Iraq will play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the November ballot is a foregone conclusion. However what at this point still hangs in the balance is which way the voters will swing. The US is today evenly divided on who next should lead their country, with 48 per cent opting for Kerry and 47 per cent hitching their wagon to the falling Bush star. Americans are also sharply divided over whether the war contributed to the long-term security of the country, "with 51 per cent saying it has, a new low in Post-ABC polls. Three in four say the conflict has damaged the image of the US throughout the world, and a majority believe the war has not improved prospects for long-term peace and stability in the Middle East."

The poll also revealed that eight in 10 Americans support the transfer of power from the US-led coalition to an interim Iraqi government on June 30. Nearly half - 48 per cent - said it should be Iraqis who should have the final say over the presence of US troops in Iraq, while just as many say it should be the Americans.

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