Some Republicans are experiencing this very politically convenient form of amnesia too but not as much as Democrats are. But then, this subject hasn’t become an ideological litmus test for the right like it has for the left.
I wonder what would happen if corrupt liar Hillary Clinton weren’t anchored to her 2003 position on Iraq by tons of video and news accounts. I mean, I know what would happen; she would claim she opposed the war vehemently from the moment word of an invasion was first breathed to her. What would happen in her mind, though? Would she convince herself that she really had opposed it from the start or would she know the truth? What you’re seeing in these numbers is more an artifact of human psychology and cognitive dissonance, I think, than of partisanship.
Not all of this is “amnesia,” mind you. Some of it must be attributable to younger voters, who came of age after the war had already gone sour, not remembering having a position in 2003 and defaulting to opposition in hindsight. You don’t go from 52/45 in favor to 19/65 opposed, though, because of an influx of twentysomethings into your voter pool. In fact, YouGov notes at the end of its summary that if you poll only voters age 30 or up, just 41 percent remember supporting the war in 2003 versus 49 percent opposed. The actual numbers across the population in 2003 a month before the invasion were 63/34. More than 20 percent of support at the time has fallen away due to selective amnesia and most of it is being driven by Democrats, who aren’t staked to Iraq the way Republicans are by having had one of their own order the invasion. Makes me wonder how people would reply if polled on whether they remember supporting gay marriage, say, 10 years ago. No doubt the number who do “remember” backing it would far exceed numbers at the time who actually did. Maybe the “memory” mechanism works this way: Democrats voted in 2008 for Obama, who was anti-Iraq from the start and who became pro-SSM in 2012, therefore they “remember” by transference being anti-war and pro-SSM further back than they actually were.
Or maybe they’re just lying to themselves, straight up. Take your pick.
Some interesting footnotes in this poll for Republicans too. If you’ve been wondering why Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were so reluctant to call Iraq a mistake, it likely has less to do with not wanting to insult Dubya and more to do with not alienating primary voters. Here’s what happens when you ask whether it was a “mistake” to send U.S. troops to Iraq in 2003:
Democrats and independents are strong yeses. Republicans? A strong no. If you refine the question further to ask if troops should have been sent knowing then what we know — the key caveat that Jeb Bush ignored when Megyn Kelly asked him about this — the results … don’t change much:
Ever since Jeb bumbled his own Iraq answer, Republican pols have begun answering this question in one of two ways. One, a la Tom Cotton, is to say that counterfactuals are stupid because of course we would have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight, just like FDR would have fortified Pearl Harbor if he knew Japanese planes were on the way. Well, here’s evidence that a clear majority of Republicans wouldn’t have canceled the decision to send troops, even knowing now that the WMD intel wouldn’t pan out.
The other way GOP pols have been answering the question is to focus on Iraq post-2008 instead — namely, why aren’t we playing any “knowing then what we know now” games with Obama’s disastrous decision to withdraw residual troops in 2011? Here’s what happens when you ask whether the U.S. made a mistake on that decision three years ago:
Even now, with ISIS degenerates rampaging across Iraq, more Americans still side with O in bringing the troops home. Maybe 16 more months of disaster will move those numbers, but you can see from this just how boxed in a hawkish nominee may be during the general election. Any move towards new interventions in Iraq will likely be received coolly.
Exit question: Or will it? How do you reconcile today’s YouGov results with other polls like … this?