Central Ohioans support even an extended war

The Columbus Dispatch – April 6, 2003

* WBNS-TV (Channel 10), which joined The Dispatch in commissioning the poll, will further examine central Ohioans’ attitudes about the war at 11 tonight.

The U.S. blitz to Baghdad took only two weeks, but a new poll shows a majority of central Ohioans would support a year’s worth of military action to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power — even if it means hundreds more American casualties.

“Let’s go in and get it taken care of,” said poll participant Kevin Meadows, 42, of Grove City.

“I think President Bush is doing exactly what he’s got to do,” the flight-simulator technician and Army veteran said. “He said they would stay there as long as it takes.”

Fifty-five percent of poll respondents say they’d stick with the war for at least a year, and 19 percent more wouldn’t shy from the prospect of several more months of fighting.

The results mirror those of a national poll by Princeton Survey Research Associates for Newsweek magazine.

The local poll indicates that six in 10 would support the war even with the additional casualties. Nearly half say they’d stay on board even with thousands of U.S. dead and wounded.

South Side resident Carol Denney thinks all Americans, whether or not they agree with the invasion of Iraq, need to back President Bush and U.S. military forces.

“Not that we like war,” said Denney, 57, another respondent, “but our troops are over there and their lives are in danger every minute.”

Support for Bush’s handling of the Iraq crisis — now voiced by two-thirds in the poll — jumped 15 percentage points since a similar survey about a month ago.

“I think folks are committed,” said Martin D. Saperstein, president of Saperstein Associates, the Columbus firm that conducted the poll for The Dispatch and WBNS-TV (Channel 10).

“There may have been some reluctance getting in, but now that we’re at war they are committed to it and want to see it carried to completion.”

Saperstein expressed surprise that backing for the war would remain strong even at the prospect of thousands of casualties.

“To go from fewer than 100 (now) to thousands, something really catastrophic would have to happen,” he said.

The telephone poll of 303 Columbus-area adults conducted Wednesday and Thursday has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points. Other types of error can occur in any opinion poll.

Even those initially against the war hesitate to be critical.

“Now that we’re there, I don’t know how we can turn back,” said Dan Mahoney, 50, a Victorian Village resident who did not support the invasion.

Like many other poll respondents, the respiratory therapist at Ohio State University Medical Center said his opinions have been evolving with the war developments.

Most of those taking part in the survey did not buy into the hand-wringing in some quarters about whether the Bush administration had miscalculated the strength of the Iraqi resistance.

“The thoughts that they’ve been underestimated is coming out of a lot of media people and not the military,” said Dale Everett, 59, a closing agent for mortgage loans who in the early 1960s served four years in the Air Force refueling in-flight bombers carrying atomic weapons.

“As far as things are going right now, I am very happy with the way the president’s running things, and these kids (soldiers) who are at the point of the spear are just tremendous,” the North Side resident said. “They have to exercise exceptional control over what they are doing because they are very conscious of winning over the Iraqi people.”

Respondents are almost evenly divided over whether the Bush team miscalculated the support of the Iraqi people for Saddam, which complicated the drive toward Baghdad for U.S.-led forces.

“I had the impression they’d go in, bada-bing, bada-boom, a couple of weeks, and they’d be out,” said Sharonda Turns, 29, a homemaker from Columbus. “They didn’t count on the kind of resistance we’re getting.”

She opposes the war and Bush’s motivation for it.

“He didn’t have U.N. support,” Turns said. “He went in there gung-ho without waiting to do it the right way. There’s a lot of things we need to straighten out here in our own country before we go to the next country and tell them what to do.”

As in most national polls, the local survey showed that women, Democrats and blacks have the greatest misgivings about the war.

Bill Kavinsky, 33, a Columbus warehouse worker, said he supports it but also questions the president’s motives.

“I feel he’s finishing off what his father started and couldn’t finish,” Kavinsky said.

“I never thought it was going to be an in-and-out thing. But I would hope it would only last a couple months or so.”

Conversely, Obetz resident Crystal Lowe, 32, says Bush didn’t attack Iraq soon enough.

“When they bombed the Twin Towers, we should have retaliated. We wasted time with the U.N. It would have been justifiable then.”

The delay, she said, is costing more lives and will mean more problems on the home front and around the world.

Lowe, a single mother of five boys, works temporary jobs, so she is particularly worried about rising unemployment rates, taxes and medical costs.

“The more this war goes on, the more money it costs us. That’s money we don’t even have.”

Another respondent whose opinions are heavily influenced by Sept. 11 is Linda Dunkle, 56, a grandmother of 16 who lives on the Hilltop.

Before the terrorists struck, she had never donated blood or even voted.

But since 9/11, she has been overwhelmed by a wave of patriotism and now feels an insatiable need to show her support for the Iraq war and U.S. troops.

She has dyed her hair red, white and blue and gotten a U.S. flag tattoo on her leg with the inscription, “Never forget 9/11.”

A large flag flies from her van and yellow ribbons and signs supporting U.S. troops decorate her yard. She also has been making compact discs of patriotic songs for relatives and friends.

Dunkle believes that Saddam, if not involved in 9/11, could back a similar attack against the United States.

“I really don’t care about their oil, but I do care about terrorism,” she said. “And I believe if we don’t do something now, in 10 or 20 years my grandchildren will be going off to war.

“I think it’s so important to be patriotic right now. My daughter’s boyfriend says I’m too patriotic, but I say, ‘How can you be too patriotic?’ ”