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War in Iraq:

With John Zogby
President and CEO,
Zogby International

Thursday, April 10, 2003; 11 a.m. ET

How do Arab-Americans view the war in Iraq? How do Iraq's neighbors feel about the stability of the region in the wake of war? Has American support for Bush and his policies grown since the start of the war? How has the apparent fall of Baghdad changed the situation?

John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, was online Thursday, April 10 at 11 a.m. ET, to discuss support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Zogby International is an worlwide polling and market research group.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

John Zogby: Good morning. I am on board and I see a number of very good questions, so I am ready to begin answering.

Wheaton, Md.: How do you believe the images of cheering Iraqi citizens will change world perspective?

John Zogby: Good question. I do believe that many global citizens will be impressed by the fact that Saddam is gone and his terrible regime has ended. But here is where the real problems for the US really begin. For many in the rest of the world, this whole thing has been less about Iraq and more about the US and its role as superpower. Is the US going to impose a regime on the people of Iraq? Is this the US as liberator or the US as an imperial power? I think those question will have to be answered. There is no doubt that while many people will be happy for the people of Iraq, they will be equally wary of the US.

Gaithersburg, Md.: Do the polls follow how much time people spend watching the war? The stock market has already begun to shift focus. As people begin to shift there focus do you think support for Iraqi Freedom will decline? Do you ask people in the polls if they have domestic concerns?

John Zogby: Another good one. TV viewing has declined a bit. We do ask if they are watching closely and that has slipped. So too has the amount of time people are watching. A war is a much more dramatic event than an "occupation," thus -- like Afghanistan -- there will be more public focus on the economy, health care, etc. Those are the number one and two domestic concerns.

Albany, N.Y.: We Americans like to think of ourselves as being more sophisticated and enlightened than people living in the "Arab world" and could point to public opinion surveys which indicated that sizable numbers of Arab people believed that 9/11 was an Israeli plot and that thousands of American Jews were warned not to go to work that day. However, here in America, where we have free access to unprecedented amounts of information from countless sources significant numbers of Americans have the misguided belief that Iraqis were on the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. How do you account for this?

John Zogby: Just because there is a glut of information, it doesn't mean that most people are taking the time to absorb it. I think the Bush admin has done a good job in hammering away at the "linkage" of Al Quada with Saddam and in linking this campaign/war against Saddam to the war against terrorism. Repetition works -- thus, even canards become mantras if we hear them enough times

Washington, D.C.: This might be more philosophical; but in your "opinion" what makes people have different opinions? Are some opinions more accurate or closer to the truth?

John Zogby: Wow! What is the "Truth"? Perceptions are much more important in driving behavior than objective truth on the ground. Opinions get formed by different cultural, demographic, and social factors. While some opinions may be closer to the actual truth, actual truth is always debatable. It is like the 7 blind men and the elephant.
Sorry, I don't mean to be cynical but what people believe is much important a factor than what can be proven.

Maryland: Do you poll to learn the difference, if any, in how much time Americans spend watching war coverage vs. other nations?

John Zogby: Yes, we do. What we have found is that those who follow the war most closely and spend more time watching it in TV, are much more likely to favor the war and support the president.
Those who watch it least tend to be more opposed.

Washington, D.C.: What are your client's polling for? Specifically, are any of your business clients running polls related to the war and how it affects the marketplace or their products?

John Zogby: Yes. We have begun the process of polling on the impact of the war on the economy. American products are really taking a beating in the Arab and Muslim world. Just last year that was not the case.

Harrisburg, Pa.: As a political opinion expert, you must recall when President George H.W. Bush enjoyed immense popularity only to lose reelection, probably due to a weakened economy. There are signs of a weak economy along with a budget deficit. How much of a warning sign should the Bush Reelection people take from this, and how solid is Bush's base support?

John Zogby: I recall it well. This admin also is very aware of it. Thus, you will see this President traveling and talking about the economy because his father was seen as aloof about the economy (Remember his looking at his watch when a Virginian asked him a question in the debate in 1992?) This President is also fashioning himself as a compassionate conservative to remind people hard hit that he cares about them.

Arlington, Va.: In the months leading up to the war, many self-appointed spokespersons stood up to oppose the war on behalf of the Iraqi people. Do yesterday's events show that these individuals who claim to speak for the Iraqi people never bothered to ask the Iraqis what they want?

John Zogby: I am not sure yet. We really did not have access to the Iraqi people. This is complicated. Some (perhaps many) are cheering and happy to see Saddam go. But the Iraqis will be wary of any government. Arabs are highly individualistic and spiritual and entrepreneurial -- they won't just roll over to a new liberator. This will be a burden for the US.

Silver Spring, Md.: Will Bush receive a boost in his ratings now that Baghdad has fallen?

John Zogby: Absolutely. He is a victor. But the issue will be if he is able to hold on to the boost. He was not able to hold on to most of his post 9-11 appeal and was actually slipping back to being a 50-50 president.

Silver Spring, Md.: How has Bush and his approval rating held up through all this?

John Zogby: Same reply as previous.

Washington, D.C.: Sorry this is off topic, but have you been doing any of your famous political polling yet for 2004? I know it's early but I can't believe that there aren't people willing to pay for these polls yet. Thanks.

John Zogby: Oh, we are out there, for sure. We have polled Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Missouri, and NY. Virtually a different Demo leader in each state. One theme is emerging thus far (and could change): Democrats may want an anti-war, populist to lead them. So what may work for them in the primaries may be wrong approach for the general election. Right now -- Howard Dean is the flavor of the month. Kerry slipped during his convalescence and we all waiting to see if he hurt himself with his call for a "regime change" in DC. Gephardt does well with labor and Lieberman is the centrist candidate.

Washington, D.C.: How do you compare the response of Iraqi Americans to this conflict as compared to other Arab Americans?

John Zogby: They are both split. Not all wanted this war. While there is little or no love for Saddam, there is a sense of having had Arab soil and people violated.

Cumberland, Md.: What does your polling suggest about US support for the UN and for France?

John Zogby: Three years ago, the UN had a 70 percent + favorable rating. Today that is down to 52 percent. Significant slippage. But 69 percent say that the UN is relevant.
France is taking a beating in public opinion. Its favorable are way down and Chirac has just a 18 percent favorable rating himself.

Cumberland, Md.: There is a story that some Iraqis (in Basra I think) had run Al Jazeera reporters out of the country over the Kuwait borders because of the stations Pro-Saddam bias. Do you think that Al Jazeera will take any sort of "credibility" hit over their pro-Saddam bias in the war?

John Zogby: I don't think so. They are still a breath of fresh air for Arabs who are used to seeing pro-government TV. Actually Al-Jazeera tries to represent a broad spectrum of Arab views and its common denominator middle is significant from the US' common denominator.

Washington, D.C.: Do you see the prospect of a massive realignment of the American Jewish community to the Republican party, especially with Bush's strong support for Israel?

John Zogby: I think that American Jewish voters remain basically liberal. In fact, most opposed the war before it began. I think there is also considerable consternation among American Jews toward the Bush administration's coziness with Sharon and with the Religious Right. I think you will continue to see a 75-25 pro-Demo split.

Silver Spring, Md.: Recently, Huillary Clinton called for a new approach by Democrats to find issues that resonate more with the electorate. How accurate do you think her concern is?

John Zogby: Right on the mark. Last year the Democrats complained that their message was being crowded out by Bush's talk of war. What message?

Washington, D.C.: How important do you see finding Weapons of Mass Destruction to public opinion both in the US and abroad?

John Zogby: The early euphoria has begun but I think it will be problematic if credible evidence of WMD is not found -- especially overseas. Here, too. The objectives of this war have continued to be liquid. If WMD are not found there could be a backlash in this country. After all, we do have casualties.

Quebec, Canada: Why do Arabs feel so strongly about creating a Palestinian state in the historic land of Israel but refuse to allow statehood for Copts, Kurds, Berbers, Assyrians and all other people illegally occupied by Arabs? Is this not hypocrisy?

John Zogby: Sure there is an element of hypocrisy. But understand that the Palestinian issue of something larger -- the perception of a repeated series of betrayals and humiliations in the course of the last century. I have discovered that it is not entirely about politics -- the issue of the Palestinians is in the Arab bloodstream.

Cumberland, Md.: Have you done any polling on the "roadmap" for Mideast peace? What is the view on Israel settlement incursions into Palestinian land?

John Zogby: Well I have not polled the specific concept of the new blueprint -- but the elements have been out there for years. Solid majorities feel that the settlement of the Israel-Palestinian dispute is the key to peace in the region. American majorities oppose the settlements -- so too do most American Jews.

Silver Spring, Md.: Pursuant to your remarks on Hillary and the Democrats, what issues do you think may have resonancy?

John Zogby: Social Security, prescription drugs, the future of 401ks and the market, and public education. The Democrats will have to come with new ideas that are not merely a sum of the programs favored by the Dem special interests. They need to look at partial privatization of SS -- a good way to appeal to younger voters. They cannot simply be the party that opposes vouchers and simply wants to spend more tax money on schools. And the only value that Democrats score big on over the Republicans is tolerance. They cannot continue to shut out pro-life Democrats.

Silver Spring, Md.: Since Abu Dhabi TV provided almost ALL of the live coverage yesterday, doesn't it make sense to give them credit. Especially since it would offer a Mid-East alternative to Al Jazerra?

John Zogby: In the interests of full disclosure, Abu Dhabi TV is my client. I think they do a very good job covering the war and politics.

Alexandria, Va.: Are there any countries that support the US with a majority?

John Zogby: None that are significant to poll. I think that the Brits now support the war (because of supporting their troops). Otherwise, not even Canadians support the war.

John Zogby: I have enjoyed this and look forward to joining you again. Please visit our website at www.zogby.com

© 2003 The Washington Post Company