[Reader-list] Majority want bombing pause

Shohini shohini at giasdl01.vsnl.net.in
Wed Oct 31 08:48:52 IST 2001

Majority want bombing pause 

Exclusive poll shows support for war cooling - 54% say halt attacks and
allow aid convoys into Afghanistan 

Alan Travis
Tuesday October 30, 2001
The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk> 

British public support for the war against the Taliban has dropped by 12
points in the past fortnight and a majority now believe there should be a
pause in the bombing to allow aid convoys into Afghanistan. 
The sharp drop in support revealed by today's Guardian/ICM poll confirms
Tony Blair's fears that the reality of modern warfare and reports of
mounting civilian casualties have already led to a wobble in British
It provides clear evidence that there has been a significant change in the
mood of the country towards the war and explains why ministers have spent
the last weekend trying to shore up public opinion and why the prime
minister is to appeal to the nation to "keep its nerve" in a major speech
Although the prime minister will take comfort from the fact that nearly
two-thirds say they approve of military action, the prime minister will be
alarmed by details of the survey, which show that support among women has
slumped by 17 points from 68% to 51%. Only a bare majority of women now
approve of military action against the Taliban. 
It is a similar picture among older voters, with support among the over 65s
dropping from 71% to just 54% in the past fortnight. The slide in support
for military action is least marked amongst men, where backing for the war
has fallen by only six points from 80% to 74%, and among the young, down
from 73% to 64%. 
But it should be noted that while positive support for the war has cooled
somewhat, this has not necessarily translated into anti-war feeling. 
Those opposed to military action have risen by only four points in the last
fortnight from 16% to 20%. The largest growth has been among humanitarian
sceptics, with don't knows rising by eight points to 18%. 
This is shown most clearly by the clear majority who agree with the
statement that there should be a pause in the bombing campaign against the
Taliban to allow aid convoys to go into Afghanistan. 
A majority of 54% believe this should happen, with 29% saying that the
bombing campaign should continue without pause. 
When viewed against the 62% support for military action, this suggests that
the clear motive behind those who back the calls for a pause in the bombing
is humanitarian rather than outright anti-war reasons. 
Among women there is overwhelming support for a pause (59% to 19%) but
opinion among men is closer, with 49% in favour of a pause and 40% opposed. 
Further evidence that it is a humanitarian inspired wobble in public opinion
rather than outright opposition to the war is shown by the results to the
question on attitudes towards sending British troops into Afghanistan to
take part in the fighting on the ground. Some 57% backed the decision
announced on Friday for a small force of British commandos to be sent to
Some 29% disapproved of this decision, showing that there is only a small
gap in British public opinion between attitudes to the bombing campaign and
to use of British troops on the grounds. 
A final question about public confidence in the government's ability to deal
with a major outbreak of anthrax, smallpox or other public health threat,
produced mixed results. A substantial minority, 44%, replied they were
either not very confident (29%) or not at all confident (15%) that the
government could cope. 
A bare majority, 51%, said they were either very confident (12%) or fairly
confident (39%) that the authorities could deal with it effectively. 
ยท ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged over 18 by telephone
between October 26 and 28. Interviews were conducted across the country and
the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. 

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