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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 3, 2003

Poll shows Hawai'i favors war only with U.N. support

 •  U.S., Britain develop inspections strategy
 •  Poll (opens in new window): U.S. military action against Iraq, support and opposition

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i residents overwhelmingly back military action against Iraq, but only with the full support of American allies and the United Nations, according to The Honolulu Advertiser Hawai'i Poll.

The poll, conducted over six days ending Thursday, found that 73 percent of Hawai'i residents support a U.S. attack on Iraq if it is launched with international cooperation. Twenty-two percent oppose military action under those conditions, and 5 percent expressed no opinion.

Support for an attack falls off dramatically, however, when people are asked if they would back military action by the United States alone or with only one or two allies. Just under 40 percent support U.S. military action with the support of some allies but not the United Nations, and fewer than one-third think the United States should act against Iraq alone.

"It would be better not to have any war at all, but at least if the United Nations and other countries support us, it's easier to believe that it's really necessary," said poll respondent Mildred Akeo, a 60-year-old retired school health aide who lives in 'Ewa Beach and whose opinion echoed those of many interviewed.

The statewide telephone survey of 603 residents is the most comprehensive recent look at Hawai'i's attitudes about a war. The Hawai'i Poll was conducted by Ward Research of Honolulu and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The Hawai'i Poll numbers are similar to what people are saying across the country, although Hawai'i residents are less inclined to support military action against Iraq, with or without the backing of the U.N.

A recent Newsweek poll found that 81 percent of Americans back military action "if the United States joined together with its major allies to attack Iraq, with the full support of the United Nations Security Council," the same question the Hawai'i Poll asked residents.

As in the Hawai'i Poll, the national numbers drop off quickly when people are asked about supporting a U.S.-led war with one or two allies (40 percent support) or with the United States acting alone (31 percent support).

By comparison, an ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted Thursday, Friday and Saturday found that 51 percent supported military action even if the United Nations is opposed.

In Hawai'i, support for military action against Iraq with the backing of major allies and the United Nations is strong in nearly every demographic group.

Among the findings:

  • More women are opposed to any war scenario than men. Nearly twice as many women as men are opposed to an attack even with the support of the United Nations.
  • Opposition to all war scenarios was highest among people aged 18 to 24 and those older than 55. In fact, the highest proportion of those opposed to a war in which the United States acted alone — 73 percent — was registered by those over 55.
  • Twice as many Republicans as Democrats would support an attack on Iraq without allied or U.N. support. The gap between Democrats and Republicans is much smaller in scenarios where the United States has some outside support for an attack.
  • Those who have an active-duty military member in their household are much more likely to support an attack on Iraq under any circumstance, compared to those who do not have an active-duty military member in the household.

"Many of the patterns in this Hawai'i Poll data parallel findings from national surveys," said Rebecca Ward, president of Ward Research. "Across the country, support for war with Iraq is more likely among men than women, and more likely among Republicans than Democrats."

Ward said the level of opposition among those 55 and older also tracks with national surveys that show older Americans are less likely to approve of military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The bulk of those respondents come from the generation that lived through conflicts ranging from World War II to Vietnam.

Interviews with poll respondents suggested apprehension on the part of many people who are concerned that an attack by the United States alone could damage relations with other countries.

"We have to make sure the rest of the world is with us on this," said Holly Hoopii, a 23-year-old Kaimuki resident studying information technology at Kapi'olani Community College. "In case the war doesn't turn out very well, we don't want the whole world to hate us."

Hoopii, who said she supports a war only with U.N. backing, said there's a feeling among those she knows that President Bush "may be jumping the gun" on pushing for military action in Iraq before U.N. weapons inspectors complete their work or full details about Iraqi violations are released.

In recent weeks, several U.S. allies have either said they don't support a war or urged the Bush administration to give inspectors more time to uncover the truth about Iraqi weapons. Despite the opposition, Bush officials said the United States is prepared to take military action on its own in a matter of weeks if that becomes necessary.

That didn't sit well with many of the poll respondents.

"The administration is very suspect in terms of what information they've given us about those weapons," said Richard Grable, 72, a retired probation officer who lives in Kailua and would endorse a war only with U.N. backing.

The Hawai'i Poll found that Bush's State of the Union speech on Tuesday had only a slight influence on Hawai'i opinions. There was a slight uptick of 3 percentage points in support for military action with U.N. backing among those polled before and after Bush's speech, but the amount falls within the poll's margin of error.

"I didn't hear anything in the speech that would change my mind," Grable said.

Margaret Kauai, a 40-year-old maintenance clerk from 'Ewa Beach, said she has many relatives who served in the military and a nephew on active duty in the Air Force. She also said she thinks it may be necessary for the United States to take action against Saddam, even if it means doing it alone.

"We're probably going to end up doing it on our own anyway," she said. "You hope the others would support and back us, but if they don't, then we stand alone. We need to do what we need to do."

Those who support military action under all three scenarios said others are being naive.

"Unless you think the president and his people are scoundrels, you have to trust them," said Walter Haskins, 71, who lives in Ka'anapali on Maui. "I can't believe people think they can make an intelligent judgment on this. They're going on emotion. I don't believe any president would play politics with something as important as this. Of course, they can't tell us everything they know without compromising some intelligence sources."

Those who oppose military action under any circumstances are equally vehement.

"There are better ways to accomplish this than war," said Charlotte Herzog, a hotel security dispatcher at a Waikiki hotel. "People I work with in the hotel are terrified that a war will scare away tourists and hurt our economy. I don't understand why Bush is so gung ho to blast Iraq but willing to try diplomacy with North Korea. Of course once you start a war, we've got to support our men and women who are doing the fighting. I just hope and pray it doesn't happen."

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5460.