President Bush's address to the nation last week failed to move public opinion in support of his plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and left Americans more pessimistic about the likely outcome of the war.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, more than 6 of 10 people back the idea of a non-binding congressional resolution expressing opposition to Bush's plan to commit an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.
But we shouldn't be surprised by this. As I pointed out back in February 2005 in the context of President Bush's push for private accounts in Social Security, the evidence indicates that presidents and political elites can rarely move public opinion significantly in their direction through PR campaigns. But the myth of the bully pulpit persists because journalists are generally ignorant about political science or quantitative evidence more generally.
[Note: Presidents can raise the salience of an issue by putting it on the public agenda, but it's much harder to change people's minds about it.]