MyDD / Courage Campaign Poll: Republicans Divided On Iraq, Accountability

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In an important development paralleling the Vietnam-era split in the Democratic Party base, a split is developing among Republican Party base voters around the war in Iraq and the credibility of Republican Party leaders who initiated the war. In post-election polling done by Courage Campaigns and in the Republican-leaning California 50th district, we found that only 19% of Republican voters believe that the Republican Party will hold Bush accountable for mistakes made in Iraq, versus 48% of Republican voters who believe that the Democratic Party will hold Bush accountable.

Other findings include:
  • 63% of Republican voters believe that Bush has made some or a lot of mistakes in Iraq. 24% of Republican voters believe that Bush has made ‘a lot of mistakes in Iraq’, and another 39% believe that Bush has made ‘some mistakes in Iraq’.
  • 34% of Republican voters believe that Bush has definitely or probably not told the truth about the situation in Iraq. 14% believe that Bush has ‘definitely’ not told the truth about the situation in Iraq, and another 20% believe that Bush has ‘probably’ not told the truth about the situation in Iraq.
  • 34% of Republican voters believe that Bush should probably or definitely be held accountable for the situation in Iraq. 19% of Republican voters believe that Bush should ‘definitely’ be held accountable, and 15% believe he should ‘probably’ be held accountable.
  • 48% of Republican voters believe that the Democratic Party is likely to hold Bush accountable for mistakes in Iraq, versus only 19% who believe that the Republican Party is likely to hold Bush accountable.
It is clear that a substantial minority of Republican base voters no longer trust their leadership on issues of war and peace, and that President Bush’s lowered credibility has lowered the credibility of Republican Party leaders in general. At the same time, without skillful exploitation of these vulnerabilities on the part of Democratic candidates, Republican candidates can hold on to their voters, as Brian Bilbray did in his special election victory. A previous polling memo showed that both withdrawal messaging or ignoring the war allows Republican candidates to solidify their voter base and depress turnout among independents.

Voters and likely voters in the bright red California 50th Congressional District believe that George Bush made mistakes with regard to the conduct of the war in Iraq, is not truthful about that war and that Democrats, not Republicans, are the only force that can hold him accountable.

This poll demonstrates clearly that the occupation in Iraq matters to voters and that progressive candidates have the obligation to assure that Congress will be in charge of holding the president accountable.

These stunning findings are from a new poll commissioned by the Courage Campaign, a non-partisan, progressive 527 based in Los Angeles, and, a progressive blog devoted to analysis and commentary on political campaigns and infrastructure. This poll was conducted as a follow-up to the polling memo the two organizations released on August 2nd, which examined reasons for Francine Busby's loss in the special election in the district. The poll was conducted from August 2nd-3rd by Wright Consulting, and surveyed 308 registered voters who participated in the July 5-26 Courage Campaign / MyDD poll. The poll has a margin of error of 5.8% for the entire sample, with smaller subgroups have a larger margin of error.

Full questionnaire can be found here:

Complete crosstabs can be found here:

For further information, contact Chris Bowers of MyDD at, or CJ Frogozo of the Courage Campaign at

Complete findings can be found in the extended entry.
This poll was a follow up to our first release on CA-50, Why Francine Busby Lost. At the end of that release, we indicated that we were conducting a follow-up poll to test a message of accountability on Iraq, rather than one of overt withdrawal. We speculated that oversight and accountability would test well with voters, since our first poll indicated that most of them believed Congress would be unable to create drastically new policy directions from the Bush administration no matter who was in charge. In that environment, we believed that it would be better to communicate to voters that you will stand up to Bush and hold both him and his administration accountable for those mistakes than it would be to propose new policy solutions. The results came back even more in favor of our hypothesis than we had anticipated. Matt will have more on this tomorrow. Please donate to the Courage Campaign today so that this work continues to be possible--Chris

Bush Has Made Mistakes--A Lot of Mistakes (Question #1)

While President Bush has had a difficult time admitting he has made any mistakes during his time in office, registered voters in the CA-50 hold a very different view. 53% of voters said that President Bush has made "a lot" of mistakes; 21% said he has made "some" mistakes, and 21% said he has made "a few mistakes." Only 3% said President Bush has made no mistakes, and another 2% were not sure. While partisans had very differing views on how many mistakes Bush has made, even 24% of Republicans in the district indicated that Bush made "a lot" of mistakes, and 39% indicated that he has made "some." 82% of Democrats and 60% of Independents said that Bush has made "a lot" of mistakes.

Bush Has Not Told the Truth On the War (Question #2)
Most residents of this conservative district also feel that President Bush has not told them the truth on the Iraq war. Only 41% of registered voters in this district believed that President Bush has either "definitely" or "probably" told the truth on the war in Iraq. By contrast, 55% of people surveyed said that President Bush has either "probably not" or "definitely not" told the truth on Iraq, with the largest percentage (32%) of those surveyed falling into the "definitely not" category. Again, this finding cuts across party lines, as a full 34% of Republicans and 61% of Independents do not think President Bush has told the truth on Iraq.

Bush Needs To Be Held Accountable, But Republicans Won't Do It (Questions #3 and #5)
Most importantly, by a clear margin of 57% to 34%, those surveyed felt that Bush must be held accountable for mistakes in Iraq, and only 17% of those surveyed felt that Republicans in Congress were likely to do that. By contrast, 61% believed Democrats were likely to do that. Even among Republicans, Democrats in Congress held a huge edge on this question, 48% to 19%. In the California 50th, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-2, these findings make it clear voters overwhelmingly view the Republican Congress as a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration, and as impotent when it comes to conducting their traditional oversight role on matters of national security. This issue alone might motivate swing voters who otherwise stayed at home in the Busby race to show up and vote for progressive candidates who demand accountability and oversight.

Commentary from Chris Bowers and Rick Jacobs

Chris Bowers of MyDD:
"Our first poll showed that the culture of corruption message did not work for Busby, that the district was not right-wing on immigration, and that the famous Busby "gaffe" did not swing the election. Instead, Busby lost because Independents turned out at low rates, and those who did turn out voted for third-party candidates. This follow-up, however, shows that communicating a message to hold the Bush administration accountable for mistakes in Iraq should find wide-ranging appeal. Even large numbers of Republicans believe that Bush has not told the truth, that he needs to be held accountable for his mistakes, and that a Democratic Congress is the most likely way that he will be held accountable. The key for challengers this year will be to focus on accountability, not policy fixes voters do not believe anyone would be able to enact."

Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign:
"The message is very clear. North San Diego County is very Republican by registration and heavily military by background. People do not trust George Bush on his conduct of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They believe that a strong opposition party, the Democrats, is the only viable means by which true oversight and thereby accountability can be injected into a bloated government run amok. This poll shows Democrats a clear path by which to talk about Iraq, to demand an independent oversight role similar to what Senator Harry Truman led in World War II. The people of San Diego country, more generally conservative than the nation as a whole, want answers. A new majority in Congress is their only path to those answers. It's not a laundry list of policy aspirations. It's not pointing fingers. It's adults in the room who will ask the tough questions."

Tags: CA-50, House 2006, Iraq, messaging, polling project, Senate 2006 (all tags)



Re: but the GOP's counter argument...

...would be that Dems want to impeach the President.  In other words, accountability is a good idea in theory, but practically speaking couldn't it be spun to be too extreme?

I'm just sayin'...

by sfluke 2006-08-14 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: but the GOP's counter argument...
I think a brilliant counter to that would be "Unlike Republcians, Demcorats know why to conduct oversight on important matters, unlike Republicans, who only seem willing to conduct oversight on somone's sex life."
by Chris Bowers 2006-08-14 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Follow-Up:

Americans are hungry for a Congress that will conduct actual oversight of President Bush, holding him and his administration accountable for these mistakes.

I can see House Democrats holding the Bush Regime accountable. But based on the behavior of Senate Democrats when they controlled the committees from 2001-2003, I see nothing but further coverups from them -- because about half have their own fingerprints all over Bush's and the GOP's mistakes, corruption, and agenda.

by Sitkah 2006-08-14 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Follow-Up:

We're starting to scare them though, we can keep them in line a little bit more than the last time. The Progressive Blogosphere was in its infancy in 2003... (well perhaps its toddlery?)

by MNPundit 2006-08-14 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Follow-Up:

Considering the fact that 22 Senate Dems have yet to support The Democratic Party candidate for Senate in CT, I see little reason to think that they are very afraid of the blogoshere or that they will govern as Democrats if given power.

by Sitkah 2006-08-14 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign 93921/4062

This poll confirmed my gut instincts.

by Hesiod Theogeny 2006-08-14 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign

would be that Dems want to impeach the President.  In other words, accountability is a good idea in theory, but practically speaking couldn't it be spun to be too extreme?

I'm just sayin'...

The Republicans are going to run against Nancy Pelosi, Ted kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Conyers. They will run TV ads saying: "Dem candidate X says he's for gun rights and for a strong foreign pllicy. But if he wins, he will be voting for extremist liberals in Congress, and their gay rights, pro terrorist agenda." Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And, it may well work.

by Hesiod Theogeny 2006-08-14 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Follow-Up:

The Republicans are going to run against Nancy Pelosi, Ted kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Conyers.... And, it may well work.

It will only work if Democrats are still afraid (for whatever inexplicable reason) to run against Bush.

by Sitkah 2006-08-14 01:05PM | 0 recs
OK, so how do we define accountable?

Is that enough, just say hold Bush accountable? I doubt that can stand by itself.

I can already hear the other side saying that means investigation and impeachment, if you don't provide some details on what accountability means.

My worry is it becomes too much of a negative theme. I'm convinced opinions of Bush are locked in place and only outside events or revelations can alter his favorable number.

Holding accountable is an interesting angle that sounds far superior to the typical MoveOn approach. But we need to find something succinct and memorable. I was checking that post by Chris regarding the Hispanic surveys and buried deep in the second PDF was a troubling aspect, indicating cut and run may be more effective than I estimated.

The Hispanics were asked what concerned them most about each party, given a choice of many sentences describing a current issue. That Democrats "cut and run endangering the lives of our troops in Iraq" had by far the highest number, at 52. The second highest number was a 44 also regarding Democrats, that cut and run would threaten Hispanics. The Republicans had many high numbers but nothing above 43.

So I'm convinced we'll hear plenty of cut and run this fall, regardless of the polls indicating a majority favor withdrawal. We need a simple and effective counter for that phrase.

by jagakid 2006-08-14 03:21PM | 0 recs
Whoops, I missed the first two comments

Which addressed this issue, that accountability could be defined to the extreme by Republicans.

by jagakid 2006-08-14 03:25PM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Poll: Republicans Divi
The millions spent by or on Busby's behalf never touched this message. It was all culture of corruption. That didn't work.
by Chris Bowers 2006-08-14 03:23PM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Poll: Republicans Divi he_1971_strate.html

This is not as simple as saying "peace" or "out now." We are talking about changing tactics, not changing aims. When you're losing a game, or a trial, or a business, or a nation, you look at what's not working and you change tactics so you have a chance to win.

A refusal to change tactics means defeat. Republicans refuse to change tactics. They refuse to even consider a change in tactics.

Let's put it in a way any red stater can understand. The Republicans are a football coach running a Wishbone when there are 250-pound linebackers with speed on every other team who can stop that play.

Even Darrell Royal (the legendary Texas Wishbone coach) will tell you what you have to do when that happens.


And if you got to change quarterbacks to pass, change quarterbacks.

by Dana Blankenhorn 2006-08-14 04:27PM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Poll: Republicans Divi


The fact Busby didn't, or most Dems now don't, get this point is the point. We don't understand we can stand up against this guy Bush, including the 'Magician' Rove, and his people. And succeed. That's the point we're making for '06 midterms. Busby didn't stand directly against Bush. Busby lost. Further, Lamont did, against Joementum. And won. So did Tester. Against ultimate DC insider Morrison. Further, three incumbents, including a Rep, went down last week. In primary elections, not generals. There's rumbling in them 'thar hills, amigo.

Overall, these findings are important, in my view. Very important. Our data support a broader, and deeper, understanding of what's going on right now. It's a more aggressive understanding, much more, and very favorable to our side if our campaigns get it. Our community at MyDD and the Courage Campaign have thrown down the gauntlet to DC. Now, the execution of that aggressive strategy is the ultimate point for 2006. They've been told, in no uncertain terms, and with data. Will they get it? And execute it? Or not? We will watch what they do, from here on out, knowing our approach is defined. And the insider establishment has received it. We've done out part, by golly. We will see. Won't we?

by Sun Tzu 2006-08-14 04:31PM | 0 recs
rural perspective: Iraq is a base issue

I work for Al Weed in the VA-05. He has been a strong critic of the war since day 1 of his 2004 campaign, and this district holds the city with the highest military recruitment rate in the country. What I've found, from the thousands of phone calls I've made, is that most voters (including republicans) around here, think we need to bring the troops home, but they're not going to vote on it. They don't think a congressman can change it, or they're not confident enough in their opinion to vote on it.

Looking back at the poll we ran, I found the same thing. The Iraq war question very rarely changed anyone's votes, despite the level of agreement with Al's position. The issues that did change people's votes, (and the issues that people bring up about 95% of the time on the phone) are health care, gas prices and jobs. These are food-on-your-families issues.

That said, it is clear that Iraq is a huge factor in this year's political landscape, but aside from being a symbol for change to independent/undecided voters, it's mostly a base issue, energizing ours and depressing theirs.

by msnook 2006-08-14 06:36PM | 0 recs
Speaking of Fighting and Winning

Good news!  We got CNN's Chuckster to a) apologize for his Lamont=Al Qaeda comment, and to b) interview Ned Lamont today!

Keep the pressure on!  We win when we fight!

by Phoenix Woman 2006-08-15 07:31AM | 0 recs
Re: MyDD / Courage Campaign Poll: Republicans Divi
We've ordered campaign signs with the name of the candidate, "for US Congress" and the words "I'm for ACCOUNTABILITY" across the top.  I want these in peoples yards.  We're running ads (on cable) introducing the pharmacist candidate as a proponent for health care reform. ""But first," the ad continues, "we need to force President Bush to revise his IRAQ strategy." "Continuing with the same failed  "stay the course" and the lack of accountablilty only piles-up the bodies of maimed or killed Americans, twenty-three thousand, so far.  The American people have other priorities than to prop-up the ambitions of a failed war president. The war profiteering must end... Corporations with excessive profits must either give the money back, or face jail for treason. Americans will no longer stand for this callious disregard for life. You said "Bring-it-on," I say fix-it or get-us-out!!""  
Now, all we need is the $25K for a cable ad buy.
by bubbleboy 2006-09-23 07:09PM | 0 recs


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