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I just watched the CBS game show Power of 10 hosted by Drew Carey and was shocked by one of the poll results. For those of you who don’t know the show, basically the show polls people ahead of time and asks them how they feel about a certain question or issue. Then a contestant has to guess, within a range, how people responded.

The show makes a point of telling us that the polls are national and do not reflect any one area of the country or segment of the population. I cannot verify that of course, although the website does assure us the polls are conducted by a professional polling organization. (See note below.)

Tonight, the last question was about Iraq. The poll taken asked a supposedly national sample whether the U.S. should stay in Iraq to “finish the war.”

The woman contestant was asked what percentage basically said “yes we should stay to finish” and she answered kind of low, giving a range of about 16-36%. (I may be off a point or two.) The New York City audience reflected a similar sentiment.

Carey, wanting to help, made a big point of reminding her the poll is national and does not reflect the local (more liberal) New York audience that was guiding her toward a low number. But she decided to stay where she was anyway and locked in her answer.

And when the answer was revealed, we learned that Carey was right to worry that she wasn’t going to win – but the reason she lost was the answer was ONLY 11%. That’s ELEVEN percent of the respondents in this country think we should stay in Iraq and finish the war. Even I was surprised.

Again, I understand this is just a game show and many factors go into polling, where just a tiny shift in wording can lead to vastly different numbers. But what is clear here is the concept of wanting to “finish the war.”

I also know this is CBS, which is not the most left-wing place on the tube. And I believe Drew Carey is not especially left-wing either. So I have to admit I smiled to see Carey deliver the poll result on CBS that showed this country, by a huge margin, is not behind our government’s public framing of why we are still in Iraq: “to finish the job”. I could have sworn Carey wanted to fall into the earth as he read the results.

Does this prove anything? No. Of course not. But I think it does give us a loud message. There is a clear and widespread dissatisfaction with our war policy and with this weird idea of “finishing the war” when no one in the current administration can even tell us what that really means.

“Finish the war” are just words that are part of a marketing campaign. Words they’ve chosen that convey a feeling more than fact. Words that sound good with no substance behind them. Words that continue to be used to sell the war and continue us down a road we aren’t even sure is on any map.

And a silly (but fun) TV show just told us the administration has no clothes.

Post Script: Just had an after-thought. Can’t help wondering whether CBS will get a friendly call in the night about the way they phrase the questions they ask in the name of entertainment. I think someone at the White House might still have their number from the time they got that call about Dan Rather and his piece on Bush’s military service. Oopsy.


Note: From the CBS/Power of 10 Website

Where do we get these numbers?

Survey data for Power of 10 questions is collected and processed by an independent public opinion research firm, Rasmussen Reports, LLC.

Specific survey questions are determined by Power of 10 and submitted to Rasmussen Reports. Respondents are selected on a completely random basis through a process designed to insure an appropriate geographic distribution throughout the country. The reported results reflect the overall United States population in terms of age, race, gender, political party, and other factors. “