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FEATURE | summer 2006

The Ms. Poll
Women Lead Anti-War Sentiment

Ms. wanted to know not just how public sentiment stacks up about the ongoing war in Iraq, but how Americans feel about potential military action against Iran as well. Moreover, we particularly wanted to see whether a gender gap in anti-war attitudes exists. The polling was conducted May 19 through 22, with 1,023 adult respondents.

Iraq: Pull Out!

The responses reveal that while men and women share disappointment with the war, they differ in what they think should be done about it. Women are more likely than men to favor withdrawing troops from Iraq immediately or in the next year (55 percent of women, compared to 43 percent of men). In fact, a majority of men would favor taking as long as necessary to get out (39 percent) or increasing the troops (12 percent).

There is a gender gap for every group in support of troop withdrawal within a year, but it is greatest between moms and dads (65 percent to 46 percent), followed by younger women/younger men (62 percent to 45 percent), Midwestern women/Midwestern men (59 percent to 41 percent), blue-collar women/blue-collar men (58 percent to 41 percent) and older women/older men (49 percent to 40 percent).

Feminist women particularly stand out in their support for withdrawing troops immediately or in the next year, at 62 percent affirmative.

Iran: Don’t Go In!

Both women and men solidly oppose the U.S. taking preemptive, unilateral military action against Iran, with the largest opposition among women at 67 percent (compared to men’s 59 percent). Even among those who support military action, barely 13 percent “strongly” support it. Of women, those who are lower-income, Midwestern or un-married maintain the strongest anti- military stance, closely followed by older, childless, Northeastern and feminist women.

Instead of a preemptive strike, 48 percent of respondents would prefer that the U.S. negotiate with Iran using the United Nations and other countries to resolve differences on Iran’s nuclear program, while 30 percent support international diplomatic sanctions aimed at discouraging Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Even though the president of the United States has presented bombing nuclear sites as a possible option in Iran, almost no one in the U.S. agrees with that strategy. Only 7 percent would support bombing Iran’s nuclear development sites, and only 6 percent would want to send in the U.S. military to destroy the sites.

Women Started Sea Change

Polling by other sources has complemented and validated the Ms. poll results, showing that there has been a sea change in attitudes toward the president and his handling of the war in Iraq—with women leading the way. On the eve of the 2004 election, both male and female voters approved of the president’s performance on the war, giving the president significant advantages on terrorism, and voted the security issue. Currently, however, the American public is decidedly negative toward the president’s handling of the war, with nearly two-thirds (61 percent) saying they disapprove, according to a June survey by CBS News. But it was women who first felt more disgruntled about the war: In October of last year, according to a George Washington University Battleground survey, only 43 percent of women said President Bush would do a better job than the Democrats in Congress of dealing with Iraq—while 53 percent of men still held that view. Moreover, even as men have joined women on many measures of anti-war sentiment, a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll showed that women are significantly more likely to think the U.S. made a mistake in going to war with Iraq (63 percent to 55 percent).

Sources: Ms. magazine survey of 1,023 adults nationwide, conducted May 19-22, 2006 (margin of error +/- 3.1 percent); CBS News survey of 636 adults nationwide, conducted May 15-17, 2006; Washington Post survey, May 2006; George Washington University Battleground Survey, conducted October 9–12, 2005.