A majority of high school seniors support military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power and believe that President Bush is "too anxious to go to war" according to a poll released by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center at Hamilton College and Zogby International.
"The poll shows that even before Monday night the President had convinced most of these 17- and 18-year-olds that forceful action is warranted against Saddam Hussein," said Dennis Gilbert, professor of sociology, who designed and analyzed the poll with his Hamilton College students. "Like many adults, they feel the president is acting precipitously."
Two thirds of high school students would approve of the U.S. taking military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Gilbert explained this proportion has barely budged in the last two days. From the earlier polling sessions to the Monday-Tuesday sessions the percentage supporting military action rose from 65 to 67 percent, a statistically insignificant change.
In the pilot for the poll, Hamilton College student researchers had an opportunity to ask some open ended questions. "I was struck by the association between patriotism and support for the president's agenda," said Alexander Webb II, a Hamilton College student from Northborough, Mass. "Some people I talked to seemed to think they'd rate lower on patriotism if they didn't support the president."
Webb said, "On the question about the draft everyone seemed to give the socially acceptable response, (giving answers they think they should.) But then, these kids never had to live through a draft."
The poll found that 72 percent of high school students say they would be offended by someone who talked while the national anthem was being played and 59 percent were offended by someone who refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. Stephanie Valle a Hamilton student from Ballston Lake, N.Y. said, "I was surprised by their patriotism – to learn that they were moved by the flag and offended if someone talked during the national anthem. One student told me about (talking while the National Anthem was playing) 'that's disrespectful. You just don't do things like that.'"
Valle was also struck by the importance high school students attach to serving in the military and voting. "They think that's more patriotic than displaying the flag or singing the national anthem."
The Hamilton College researchers, with the polling firm by Zogby International, surveyed 1,001 high school students from across the U.S. to learn their opinions on issues of patriotism and war. Polling and analysis continued though Wednesday, March 19, and these up-to-date results were released at a press conference in Washington, DC.