Perhaps this lack of opinion is not really so odd -- except in a candidate who might suddenly find herself the President of the United States. Apparently her lack of views was really the default position for many people until U.S. soldiers started coming back from Iraq in body bags or maimed in body and mind.
David Moore, while working for the Gallup poll, designed an experiment in the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Conventional polling found substantial majorities of people in the U.S. in favor of the war -- something around 59 percent in favor, 38 percent against, and only 3 percent undecided. As a test, the pollster then asked each set a contrary question: for those in favor of an invasion, would you be upset if it didn't happen? For those against, would you be upset it the U.S. does attack Iraq?
The graphic shows the somewhat surprising result.
Moore concludes that the result shows the "the absurdity of much public opinion polling." And it does. In the interests of accommodating an interviewer, people express off-the-top-of-the-head opinions they have not seriously considered and which they only hold loosely.
I see a lot of lessons. This finding certainly reminds me that, because polls are taken seriously by the media and others who pay for them, I shouldn't horse around in answering them. (For unknown reasons, I get polled fairly frequently.) Even if I think the question is stupid, I should try to find a way to answer it so my response leans toward my actual opinion.
For the peace movement, we need to remember that when we're told public opinion is against us, we may really be seeing that people just hope that their leaders know what they are doing. Until they learned better from bitter experience, the public trusted the rulers enough to go to war. That trust having eroded, it will not be rebuilt easily. The peace movement didn't create the erosion, but we can built upon, encouraging skepticism about additional wars.
And for the pollsters, I throw back a question: if you knew that public support for the Iraq war was that soft -- why didn't you tell the world that most people really didn't have an opinion on going to war? War is irrevocable. When we figure out later that it was wrong, the dead are still dead. Pollsters' failure to put out their very lukewarm finding seems to verge on criminal when we contemplate the horrors this ill-considered war has unleashed.