|THE PEOPLE'S VOICE|
June 15, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Our second look at public opinion and Kosovo, and to Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Andy, overlay your-- you have a new poll, that you have just finished -- overlay your poll findings over what we just heard those folks say in Denver.
ANDREW KOHUT: Well, if I had had the good judgment to ask our representative sample, are you proud of this action, the Albright quote, I think we would have gotten a yes and a no. Our poll suggested people are glad that we did what we did, are glad that we made the effort, but they have mixed view of whether we're successful or not. In fact, they're not sure whether we've been successful or not. If you look at the overall numbers support for the air war rebounded from 52 percent back up to 62 post -- post the peace settlement. But when we asked people did we achieve our goals, it's a very mixed rating. 46 percent say yes. In fact, we have a slide on this.
JIM LEHRER: We put up the wrong slide a minute ago. We got ahead of ourselves. Here's the one we want.
ANDREW KOHUT: 46 percent say yes, 40 percent say now. And the Gallup Poll has a comparable question where they say, does this represent victory, and 40 percent of Americans say yes. So, while there's a general view we did the right thing in trying this, and the air war was the right thing to do, there's still significant questions as to whether we achieved our goals and whether we're there.
JIM LEHRER: Now, to the question, in fact, that the first slide was out of place on, which was the US participation in the peacekeeping force. Folks are in favor of that.
ANDREW KOHUT: That's a strong measure of support, 56 percent favor, 37 percent oppose. ABC has the similar results, so does CBS. All of the polls, unlike support for ground war, all of the polls support peacekeeping. Now, that's quite different than four years ago in 1995 or 1996 when we went into Bosnia when the public was divided, sharply divided over peacekeeping. So there has been kind of a change in thinking about what our -- how much participation we should be involved in with regard to these humanitarian conflicts.
JIM LEHRER: Could that be a shift in -- I mean, a real shift in the way we see our role in the future, this new era we're in?
ANDREW KOHUT: Well, it could be a learning process. I mean, the American public saw these pictures, saw what happened in Bosnia. And now when we ask people, do we have a moral responsibility to do something in Europe when one country or one group commits genocide against another, 60 percent say yes about the same percentage who support this notion. This is very different than the response we had to Bosnia a while ago. It represents a change.
JIM LEHRER: And particularly as the folks in Denver represented, the idea that if we can keep the peace, be peacekeepers, without jeopardizing any American lives, that's the new wrinkle, right?
ANDREW KOHUT: That is the new wrinkle and that's where the public's concerns are. 40 percent say we're very worried that we may incur casualties in peacekeeping, far less concern about cost. Only 20 percent say we're very worried about cost. And people see this as an inherently stable situation. And that's what troubles them. Only a third in the ABC/Post survey, for example, say that peace will be maintained. And people worry that the deal isn't really done and that we are still in harm's way. Yet, there is -- there is considerable support for peacekeeping.
JIM LEHRER: What is -- did you ask any questions about President Clinton?
ANDREW KOHUT: President Clinton did not get a boost. His, as you may know, his approval ratings went counsel down in May as the war seemed to be not going very well as the accidental bombings became widely known. His ratings slipped from the 60 percent level, which we've saw for so long during impeachment to the mid 50's. He did not get some big jolt that brought him back up into the 60's. So there's no sense that there's triumph. The American public is not triumphant over this as we were triumphant at the end of the Gulf War and other military conflicts.
JIM LEHRER: And remind us on that. I mean, President Bush got a tremendous lift, very famous lift in the polls as a result of the Gulf War, did he not?
ANDREW KOHUT: Well, he went to 90 percent one year before he was turned out of office, I might add, but he did go to 90 percent.
JIM LEHRER: But historically through the polls, in the polls, when something good happens in an overseas way, the President usually gets a big kick out of it, doesn't he?
ANDREW KOHUT: The President, particularly in the Cold War era, would always get a boost if he did something that was a success. But this is not the Cold War era and this is not in the views of Americans a clear success.
JIM LEHRER: And that's the difference here.
ANDREW KOHUT: That is the difference. And we do see a somewhat better evaluation for his handling of foreign policy. But the bottom-line indicator approval is still 55, not 60 or 62, what it was for so long during the impeachment time.
JIM LEHRER: And I'm interested in what you say, you passed over a moment ago, that the -- on your poll the people feel that we have a moral responsibility to stop genocide, is that right?
ANDREW KOHUT: Yes. And that's quite a different response than we had. We're feeling our way through -- the American public is feeling its way through the post Cold War era. That's clear. And they weigh very carefully both -- what we should achieve and what the costs are. And this American way of war, the woman in Denver referred to it as this new way of fighting a war, Americans feel comfort in that. They don't feel any embarrassment in not getting casualties. They worry about casualties.
JIM LEHRER: As long as there's a good result.
ANDREW KOHUT: As long as there's a good result.
JIM LEHRER: And for a good purpose.
ANDREW KOHUT: And for a good reason, which isn't to say we won't take casualties. I mean, prior to the Gulf War the American public -- the average American said about 10,000 casualties. That's very different from this situation.
JIM LEHRER: Absolutely. Andy Kohut. Thank you very much.
ANDREW KOHUT: You're welcome.