Recent Veterans Most Supportive of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars; Networks Tout Anti-War Sentiment
Both ABC and NBC on Wednesday used a new Pew Research Center poll of military veterans to claim that, as ABC news reader Josh Elliot put it, 'one-third of those who've served in Afghanistan and Iraq now say the wars were not worth fighting,' while NBC's Tamron Hall told viewers 'one-third of U.S. veterans believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting.'
But that's not really what the poll found. Pew surveyed 1,853 veterans, including 712 whose service took place after September 11, 2001. They found 50% of the post 9/11 veterans thought the war in Afghanistan was worth it, and 44% who supported the war in Iraq — percentages significantly higher than both the general public and veterans who served in earlier conflicts or pre-9/11.
Pew did not break out the opinions of the 336 veterans who actually saw service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they accounted for only about half (47%) of the 'post 9/11' group, so ABC was just incorrect in claiming this was the sentiment of those 'who've served in Afghanistan and Iraq.'
Asked to rate the wars together, 34% of post 9/11 veterans said they were both 'worth it,' vs. 33% who said they were both 'not worth it.' As might be expected, 24% of this group were split, either saying Iraq was worth it but Afghanistan was not, or vice versa.
One finding in the poll that did not make it onto either morning news show: While a majority of the general public still approves of Barack Obama as commander-in-chief, a majority of these veterans do not. Pew reported:
Post-9/11 veterans give lower ratings than Americans overall to the way Obama is handling his duties as commander in chief—44% of those veterans approve and 47% disapprove, compared with a 53%-39% positive tilt among the general public. The views of pre-9/11 veterans are similar to those of post-9/11 veterans: 40% approve and 51% disapprove of the way the president is handling this aspect of his job.
Here's how ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today handled the poll in their 7am news updates, followed by more of what Pew actually reported:
JOSH ELLIOT: Friday now marks ten years since the start of the war in Afghanistan and a new poll this morning shows the toll on veterans. One-third of those who've served in Afghanistan and Iraq now say the wars were not worth fighting. And a majority say the U.S. should focus less on foreign affairs and more on domestic issues.
TAMRON HALL: One-third of U.S. veterans believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, according to a Pew Research opinion poll out today. The nonpartisan group surveyed veterans who served after 9/11 and also found 37% say they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. But 96% say they're proud of their service.
From the Pew Research Center's poll of veterans:
50% of post-9/11 veterans say the decade-old war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting and 44% view the 8 1/2-year-old conflict in Iraq the same way — approval levels that are nine and eight percentage points higher, respectively, than among the general public. Post-9/11 veterans also assess these wars somewhat more favorably than do veterans who served prior to the terrorist attacks a decade ago.
Post-9/11 veterans are more apt than the general public to say the military operates efficiently — 67% vs. 58%. A majority (54%) of post-9/11 veterans think people generally get ahead in the military based on their hard work and ability, though veterans who served before 9/11 are more likely to say this (63%). By comparison, Americans overall are split 48%-48% on whether people generally get ahead in their job or career on the basis of hard work and ability.
Patriotic sentiment runs far stronger among post-9/11 veterans, 61% of whom say they are more patriotic than most other people in the country, than it does among the general public (37%). Among pre-9/11 veterans, 55% say they are more patriotic than most other Americans.
Those who have served since 9/11 — for whom a part of their mission has been to try to rebuild social, political and economic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq—are much more likely than the general public (by 59% to 45%) and veterans who served in earlier eras (also 45%) to view such noncombat 'nation building' as an appropriate role for U.S. armed forces....
Post-9/11 veterans give lower ratings than Americans overall to the way Obama is handling his duties as commander in chief — 44% of those veterans approve and 47% disapprove, compared with a 53%-39% positive tilt among the general public. The views of pre-9/11 veterans are similar to those of post-9/11 veterans: 40% approve and 51% disapprove of the way the president is handling this aspect of his job.
- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.