Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2002 / 22 Kislev, 5763
Women gone wobbly?
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Fom the out set, the War on Terror was sharply different from other U.S. military actions in the strong support it received from American women. Normally, men back military action by 10 to 20 points more than women do. But, after 9/11, women felt more endangered by terror and backed action against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden as strongly as men did.
But no more. The most recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows that women are much less likely to support military action against Saddam Hussein. The fear of terrorism, which motivated their backing for the invasion of Afghanistan, now works the other way as women are far more apprehensive than men about the possible escalation of terrorism in the United States that a war with Iraq might bring.
In a telephone survey of 1,000 voters last week, 73 percent of men but only 64 percent of women backed "U.S. military action to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein."
Asked if they worried that a war with Iraq "might lead to more terrorist attacks in the United States," 61 percent of women said they were "very concerned" by the danger while only 41 percent of men felt that way.
The key to Bush's efforts to mobilize a united front of support for a war with Iraq is to make clear to Americans there is more danger in leaving Saddam alone to develop new weapons than in attacking him now. Asked if they worried that there would be more terrorist attacks in the United States if we do not go to war with Iraq, 57 percent of women and 47 percent of men said they were "very concerned."
A host of surveys have found women were more affected by 9/11 than men were and their sense of personal danger to themselves and their families was more elevated as a result. Now, women appear to be whipsawed between their fear of doing nothing and letting Saddam build his bombs and their fear of retaliation if America attacks Iraq.
The administration strategy misses this concern of American women. By focusing on how the United States is acting multilaterally and minding our relations with the United Nations, it is doing a lot to appease the concerns of our allies, but not helping much with women voters at home.
To galvanize female support for military action, the administration needs to emphasize what would happen if Saddam is left unmolested. Bush's spokespeople, and the president himself, need to stress that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons. We must make clear that the central aim of our efforts to disarm him and/or depose him is to stop him from getting the bomb.
Nuclear weapons are in a class all by themselves. The damage they can inflict, the absence of effective countermeasures and the destabilizing effect on the global community make nuclear terrorism uniquely threatening. By lumping nuclear bombs in with other "weapons of mass destruction," perhaps Bush is having the unintended effect of making voters as afraid of what Saddam can do now as they are of what he could do in the future. Bush must make Americans, particularly women, fear the consequences of doing nothing more than those of invading Iraq at this time.
Bush has been masterful in not permitting a gender gap to
hamper his efforts to accumulate public support for his War
on Terror. But, now that signs indicate one may be opening
up, it's crucial that he take effective steps to close it before
it saps his majority of the ubiquitous support he will need
for military action.
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