[Media-watch] Bush supporters still believe Iraq supported al-Qaeda, had wmd - PIPA/University of Maryland Study - 21/10/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Oct 21 23:53:21 BST 2004

PIPA is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the 
Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), School of 
Public Affairs, University of Maryland.

Thursday October 21


  Bush Supporters Still Believe Iraq Had WMD or Major Program,
      Supported al Qaeda

      Agree with Kerry Supporters Bush Administration Still Saying This is 
the Case
      Agree US Should Not Have Gone to War if No WMD or Support for al Qaeda

      Bush Supporters Misperceive World Public as Not Opposed to Iraq War,
      Favoring Bush Reelection

      Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that 
Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue 
to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing 
them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had 
actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had 
at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all 
these points.

      Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was 
providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear 
evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters 
assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, 
incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here 
again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite 

      These are some of the findings of a new study of the differing 
perceptions of Bush and Kerry supporters, conducted by the Program on 
International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, based on polls 
conducted in September and October.

      Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "One of the reasons that Bush 
supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration 
confirming them. Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry 
supporters agree." Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters perceive the Bush 
administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or that Iraq had a major 
WMD program (19%). Likewise, 75% say that the Bush administration is saying 
Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Equally large majorities 
of Kerry supporters hear the Bush administration expressing these views--73% 
say the Bush administration is saying Iraq had WMD (11% a major program) and 
74% that Iraq was substantially supporting al Qaeda.

      Steven Kull adds, "Another reason that Bush supporters may hold to 
these beliefs is that they have not accepted the idea that it does not 
matter whether Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda. Here too they are in 
agreement with Kerry supporters." Asked whether the US should have gone to 
war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD 
or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should 
not have, and 61% assume that in this case the President would not have. 
Kull continues, "To support the president and to accept that he took the US 
to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive 
dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling 
information about prewar Iraq."

      This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information 
extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence--including 
polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently 
by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of 
Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose 
the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are 
evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry 
supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.

      Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people 
in the world would favor Bush's reelection; 33% assumed that views are 
evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent 
poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world 
found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 
Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.

      Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush's 
international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush 
supports multilateral approaches to various international issues--the 
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines 
(72%)--and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly 
assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced 
the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he 
favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he 
favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including 
labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, 
majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry 
supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on 
these issues.

      "The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information," 
according to Steven Kull, "very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 
9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush 
showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond 
between Bush and his supporters--and an idealized image of the President 
that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have 
made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be 
critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy 
positions that are at odds with his supporters."

      The polls were conducted October 12-18 and September 3-7 and 8-12 with 
samples of 968, 798 and 959 respondents, respectively. Margins of error were 
3.2 to 4% in the first and third surveys and 3.5% on September 3-7. The poll 
was fielded by Knowledge Networks using its nationwide panel, which is 
randomly selected from the entire adult population and subsequently provided 
internet access. For more information about this methodology, go to 

      Funding for this research was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers 

      For more information on the PIPA poll see:
      Report of Findings 
      Press Release 

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