By Louise Dodson, Chief Political Correspondent, Canberra (Age, March 12 2003)
Victorians are the most opposed of all Australians to sending troops to fight in a US-led war against Iraq, a poll has found.
As John Howard spends the final days before a United Nations Security Council vote on Iraq trying to persuade Australians to back his support for the Bush administration, the poll reveals the size of his task.
Just as the prospects for strong UN backing for military action against Iraq are dimming, the poll shows that Australians overwhelmingly want a war to be sanctioned by the UN, with rising disapproval for a US-led attack.
Fifty-nine per cent of Australians disapprove of sending armed forces to a US-led attack on Iraq, but in Victoria 68 per cent are against it. Overall, 32 per cent approve of a war but only 24 per cent of Victorians support it.
The poll of 1000 Australians was conducted from March 1 to 8 by the Labor Party's pollsters, UMR Research, for the company Hawker Britton.
It shows that if a war against Iraq is sanctioned by the UN, 64 per cent of people would approve while 31 per cent would disapprove. Victorians are the least likely to approve of even a UN-sanctioned war, with 39 per cent against and 55 per cent in favour.
The poll shows that the number of people disapproving of a US-led strike is increasing. In a poll in November 2002 by UMR Research, 51 per cent were against an attack.
The poll shows that the issue of war against Iraq is becoming more of a political issue with a greater number of Labor voters opposed to a US-led military conflict and far higher numbers of Coalition voters supporting UN-backed action.
Hawker Britton managing director Bruce Hawker said the poll showed Australians were now more decisive about the issue of war with Iraq. He said the poll showed the number of people who were unsure had halved from 8 per cent to 4 per cent compared with the November poll.
Of those disapproving of a US-led attack, 75 per cent were Labor voters compared with 33 per cent who were Coalition voters. Eighty-two per cent of Coalition voters approve of a UN-sanctioned conflict compared with 55 per cent of Labor voters.
Those most likely to disapprove of a US-led war were people living in cities rather than rural areas - 63 per cent compared with 54 per cent; female rather than male - 63 per cent to 55 per cent - and aged 40-49.
Rural dwellers were slightly more likely to approve a UN-backed conflict than city dwellers - 66 per cent compared with 62 per cent.
The pollsters found the threat of terrorism in Australia was having very little effect on the lives of people.
In November UMR Research conducted fieldwork into whether warnings about terrorism on Australian soil had resulted in people changing their planned activities. Ninety-two per cent said it had no effect on planned activities.