The Public Interest

Defining the “peace party”

James Q. Wilson & Karlyn Bowman

Fall 2003

ABOUT one-fifth of Americans strongly opposed the war in Iraq. Surveys taken in December 2002 showed that 15 to 20 percent of the public resolutely opposed the war three months before it began, and the numbers remained about as high in April 2003 after the war had been underway for a couple of weeks. While the level of support increased after the war began, the onset of fighting did not budge the war’s strongest opponents. This “peace party” became known to the American public through antiwar protests and demonstrations, but media coverage of these events did not tell us much about the composition of this group. Who makes up the peace party? How many Americans have joined its ranks? And how do their numbers compare with antiwar groups from past military conflicts?

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