Poll overplays impact of Tony Blair’s interview on WMDs

The Politics Home Phi100 poll is not as illuminating as one might hope.

The response of Politics Home’s elite Phi100 panel to Tony Blair’s Iraq interview at the weekend appears to have yielded some interesting results, but just how illuminating they are is unclear.

In answer to the question “do you think you would have supported the war … [even if] there were no WMDs”, 58 per cent were against and 37 per cent in favour. This does not appear to be that surprising but when split along party lines, the left-right split is plain to see.

Whereas 54 per cent of right-aligned panelists would have supported the invasion regardless, only 29 per cent of those aligned to the left would have, against 65 per cent opposed – with the Liberal Democrat aligned, just as their MPs in the 2003 vote, 100 per cent against.

What is not known, however, is what the panelists thought at the time: whether they were against the war in 2003 and are still against (highly likely); whether they were for the war then and are now against; and whether they remain in favour of the war. It is also unclear by what criteria the panelists would have decided the validity of the war then and now.

It therefore seems that Politics Home’s presentation of the poll – under the headline “Mr Blair, we don’t agree” – may lack justification.

Without knowing the panelists’ answers to the same question six years ago or even before the weekend it might appear unfair to conclude that Blair’s recent interview would have changed people’s views. It is entirely possible, given the prevailing mood and left-right split at the time, that the exact same people would have given the exact same results on the eve of war, overplaying the significance of the non-discovery of Saddam’s WMDs.

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