Public uninformed on Iraq

Kari Petrie

As one of the top issues in the upcoming presidential election, it seems everyone has an opinion on the United States’ involvement in Iraq.

The issue of Iraq will be a part of the foreign-policy debate tonight between President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry. But political analysts say the public isn’t very knowledgeable about the subject, even though the issue could affect how people vote in November.

“I don’t think there’s a clear understanding, on the part of the public, of what all this means,” said Tim Penny, co-director of the Humphrey Institute Policy Forum and 2002 Independence Party gubernatorial candidate.

Penny said the public is not well-informed on the issue because it is not getting first-hand information.

“It’s an issue that people are viewing through the prison of the nightly news,” he said.

Larry Jacobs, political science professor and political analyst, said it’s hard for people to get information, because they are not experiencing the events.

But Jacobs said the level of polarization between the candidates disturbs the public’s ability to objectively come up with their own views on Iraq.

Jacobs said 45 percent of people still think there is a connection between the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Saddam Hussein.

“But the president has said this is not the case,” he said.

Journalism sophomore Melissa Milne said she thinks some people have a good handle on what is going on in Iraq.

But she said a lot of college students base their opinions on what they see on television.

Adam Oling, a senior studying genetics, said he has “no clue” about what is going on in Iraq, but that it seems to be “pure chaos.”

“I know people are dying,” he said.

It’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of the Iraqis or U.S. soldiers, he said.

“We have it pretty easy,” Oling said.

Draft possibilities

Reinstating the military draft has become an issue because Democrats have started talking about it, Jacobs said.

Last week, Kerry raised the possibility that Bush would reinstate the draft if re-elected. Bush administration officials have repeatedly said it will not be necessary, because today’s military is composed of professional soldiers and volunteers.

Still, Jacobs said, he thinks it is unlikely.

“No politician wants to be associated with reinstating the draft,” Jacobs said.

Penny said that in his experience, there has never been much interest in reinstating a draft.

“I doubt that Congress would do that,” he said.

Instead, the military will try to recruit more with signing bonuses and other perks, Penny said.

“We’ve had an all-volunteer force for 20 years now, it seems to be working reasonably well,” he said.

The new president

No matter who takes office, the situation in Iraq will probably not change immediately, Jacobs said.

There is “no chance” Kerry or Bush will pull out troops any time soon, he said.