The South is known for its strong support of the military. Perhaps it’s that very support that has led to something one might not expect – growing opposition to the war in Iraq. Not only opposition matching national levels, but in some southern states even exceeding it.
An important new national survey by the Institute for Southern Studies and the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University shows that, “Southerners, after disproportionate support for the war early on, now doubt US policy in Iraq just as strongly as people in other regions of the country, and in some cases more so.”
Fifty-seven percent of Southerners believe the US “should have stayed out of Iraq,” compared to fifty-eight percent nationally. Thirty percent said the US should “withdraw completely,” compared to twenty-six in non-Southern states. Fifty-six percent of Southerners support a decrease or total withdrawal of US troops, compared to fifty-nine percent in other regions. (The 13 southern states for purposes of this poll include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.)
According to the Institute for Southern Studies, “The results signal a shift in Southern attitudes towards Iraq. As recently as July 2005, a Pew Center poll found fifty-three percent of Southerners believed using military force against Iraq was ‘the right decision,’ the highest level of support in the country.”
This survey comes on the heels of an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that reveals a similar shift among southern women: only thirty-two percent approve of President Bush’s handling of the war, compared to twenty-eight percent nationally. Further, three out of five southern women plan to vote Democratic in the midterm elections – an encouraging change from the fifty-four percent support George Bush received in 2004.
“The current Washington leadership has counted on Southern states as a bastion of support on Iraq,” said Chris Kromm, director of the non-partisan Institute based in Durham, NC., “but clearly that support is deteriorating.”