The Iraq War and the Loss of Republican Dominance in National Security

By Goble, Hannah; Holm, Peter M. | Political Research Quarterly, June 2009 | Go to article overview

The Iraq War and the Loss of Republican Dominance in National Security


Goble, Hannah, Holm, Peter M., Political Research Quarterly


For decades, Americans have trusted the Republicans over the Democrats to handle national security issues, by a wide margin. Over the Bush presidency, that gap has disappeared. The authors explore the causes and consequences of this loss and suggest several new avenues for research on issue ownership. Findings indicate that Bush's handling of the Iraq war has played a decisive role in diminishing the Republican Party's reputational advantage on national security. This has had significant electoral repercussions both for the president and his copartisans in Congress.

Keywords: issue ownership; electoral behavior; political parties; policy performance; Iraq war; George W. Bush

Democrats also may have a residual disadvantage going into 2008 - a long-standing disposition among voters to view Republicans as stronger on issues involving national security. Without question, Bush has done serious damage to the Republican brand in this arena. But, with me nation waging two wars and terrorism still a threat, that underlying sentiment might be one of the reasons G.O.P. candidates appear competitive at all.

-Jay Carney 2007

Looking back four years after the invasion of Iraq, striking changes in American public opinion have occurred. President George W. Bush has not enjoyed majority approval of his handling of foreign policy since the end of his first term. Approval of his performance on the Iraq war fell below 50 percent well before the 2004 elections and dipped to barely 25 percent in early 2007. Even on terrorism, Bush has not enjoyed majority support for his performance since mid-2005. When asked which party would better handle the war in Iraq, Americans have expressed more confidence in the Democrats than the Republicans since at least the end of 2005. With regard to handling national security policy and the war on terrorism generally, the gap between the two parties has effectively closed to zero.

The magnitude of these changes is enormous. Republican dominance on national security issues had been sustained for twenty years or more; the Democrats had not enjoyed a public opinion advantage in this area since at least the end of the Cold War, and almost certainly since the end of the Vietnam War.1 Throughout the 1990s, the Republican Party maintained a 25- to 40-point advantage over the Democrats in public trust to handle national security problems. Yet by the 2006 elections, this gap had all but disappeared in polling data - though it is unclear whether this new arrangement is durable or only temporary.

Has the Iraq war cost the Republican Party its issue ownership over national security? What has this loss looked like? And what are its consequences, both for President Bush and for his copartisans in Congress? This article provides initial answers to these questions and uses this arresting case to spur development of the literature on issue ownership. Existing work is surprisingly modest on questions of ownership loss, the drivers of such loss, and the linkages between policy performance and issue reputations. Although this article cannot resolve all of these questions, we suggest some potential answers and lay out questions for future research.

We find that the Republican Party is no longer the more trusted party to handle national security and that roughly 65 percent of its loss of public confidence on this issue can be attributed to Bush's performance on Iraq. Through the end of 2006, this loss was heavily concentrated among Democrats and Independents; Republican partisans, though somewhat reduced in number since 2002, remained highly likely to express trust in their own party to handle national security. Further, this ownership loss negatively affected both President Bush and Republican congressional candidates in the 2004 and 2006 elections, even after controlling for contemporaneous performance evaluations, partisanship, and a battery of relevant covariates.

Issue Ownership, Presidential Performance, and the Vote

Petrocik's (1996) theory of issue ownership suggests that parties sometimes enjoy fundamental advantages on particular issues such that they can reap electoral rewards by priming the public to vote on the basis of those issues (also see Budge and Farlie 1983; Petrocik, Benoit, and Hansen 2003/2004). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Iraq War and the Loss of Republican Dominance in National Security
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.