Poll: 22% Believe Saddam Planned 9/11

The Wall Street Journal reports on a Harris poll showing that a substantial percentage of the American public is misinformed about major foreign policy issues.

Many Americans Still Believe Hussein Had Links to al Qaeda

Sizeable minorities of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had “strong links to al Qaeda,” a Harris Interactive poll shows, though the number has fallen substantially this year. About 22% of U.S. adults believe Mr. Hussein helped plan 9/11, the poll shows, and 26% believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. Another 24% believe several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis, according to the online poll of 1,961 adults.

However, all of these beliefs have declined since February of this year, when 64% of those polled believed Mr. Hussein had strong links to al Qaeda and 46% said Mr. Hussein helped plan 9/11. At that time, more than a third said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and 44% said several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis.

Currently, 56% of adults believe Iraqis are better off now than they were under Mr. Hussein, down from 76% in February. Nearly half of those polled say they believe Iraq, under Mr. Hussein, was a threat to U.S. security, down from 61% in February.

“Do you believe that the following statements are true or not true?”
(Total percentages saying “true”)

Base: All Adults

October 2004 February 2005 December 2005
The Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein. 76% 76% 56%
Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a serious threat to U.S. security. 63 61 48
Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda. 62 64 41
Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. 41 47 22
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. 38 36 26
Several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis. 37 44 24

* * *
“Do you believe that the following statements are true or not true?”

Base: All Adults

True Not True Not Sure Decline To Answer
The Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein 56% 16% 25% 3%
Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a serious threat to U.S. 48 35 15 2
Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda 41 33 24 2
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.s. invaded 26 50 22 2
Several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11 were Iraqis 24 42 31 3
Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 22 46 30 2

These results aren’t all that surprising; people are remarkably uninformed about politics, with substantial numbers unaware of who the Vice President or Secretary of State is, let alone foreign policy. Further, the trends are at least in the right direction.

For some of the questions, too, the wording is rather poor. Both, “Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda” and “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded” are technically true. While the modifier “strong” is subject to interpretation, that Saddam had al Qaeda links is certainly the case. And Iraq did have at least small amounts of chemical weapons that were found after the invasion.

I’m much more concerned with those who think that, “Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001” or that, “Several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis,” since there has never been any serious suggestion that those were the case.

Related Elsewhere:

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Public Opinion Polls, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Interesting. A while back, I saw some discussion of Bush’s rock-bottom, lowest-possible approval rating. They came up with 27%, which seems about right based on these poll numbers.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I think that’s probably about right. There is a hard core that will not change their mind about something regardless of evidence. Even Richard Nixon had something like that level of support at the time of his resignation.

  3. LJD says:

    So what’s the point? I’m sure 22% of Americans believe in Santa and the tooth fairy…

    “For some of the questions, too, the wording is rather poor.” Bingo. Polls are almost always created with a desired outcome in mind.

    The ugliness begins when some one attempts to associate those who believe that “the IRaqis are better off”, “Saddam had WMD”, or “Saddam was a threat” with those who believe that Saddam masterminded 9/11.

    Some will even expand these numbers to say basically that if you supported the war, you are a moron.

    Anderson- consider, in light of fluctuating job approval ratings, that an individual can be supportive of the President, yet not approve of his performance at a given time (or even subscribe to his entire platform, be blind to his shortcomings, etc.).

  4. Jack Ehrlich says:

    Well, outside of Czech intel which connected Atta to Iraqi intel officers prior to 9/11, I have found no evidence to the contrary, that Saddam was not connected to 9/11. One can draw ones own conclusion as to the glee displayed by Saddam after the attack.

  5. Anderson says:

    Jack, it’s called “proving a negative.”

    How can we prove that YOU weren’t connected to 9/11?

    How can a guy prove that his wife is faithful to him?

    Some things aren’t susceptible to “proof.” If you want to know the truth, you have to form your questions in a testable manner.

    LJD — you are of course correct that one can, and many do, support Bush in general while disagreeing with him. We have what I call “disjunctive politics,” in which at least as many people vote “not Y” as vote “X.”

  6. Honza Prchal says:

    I’d agree with the pollsters that Saddam’s links were strong to terrorism, but that his links to Al-Quaeda were opportunistic and inconsistent, though they certainly kept in touch in Prague, the Sudan, the immediate neighborhood and in Southeast Asia, but, like you I am aghast that the pollsters claim it as fact that he did not possess chemical weapons when not just precursor materials and tubs and barrels of toxins but actual ready to use shells were found on the ground.

    Further I am aghast that anyone in his right mind can say Iraqis are worse off with uncle Saddaam gone. That kind of magical thinking and disinclination to even acknowledge evil is the biggest reason why principled East European Leftists (as opposed to ex-Communist apparatchiks) have nothing to do with the doyenes of the Western Left.

  7. ken says:

    Further I am aghast that anyone in his right mind can say Iraqis are worse off with uncle Saddaam gone.

    On this one I think you should leave it to the Iraqies to judge. Polls show most of them feel that they are indeed worse off now than they were under Saddam. And given how the inexperienced idiots went to take over Iraq by the Bush administration botched up the whole thing and how the Bush administration turned Iraq into the central front for the ‘war on terrorism’ who can blame them? Would you want that done to you?

  8. kb says:

    “Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda” and “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded” are technically true.

    No they are lies.

    SH did not have weapons of WMD nor did he have ‘strong links’ to AQ no matter how often Bush,Blair and the rest bleat on about it.

    After all the US government claimed about WMD’s

    “It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”

    Claims about how they were ‘technically true ‘ don’t cut it.

    If he did where are they ? Where are the post 1991 WMDS ?

    Where are the links to AQ ?

  9. LJD says:

    Ken- 300,000 murdered under Saddam’s rule. More mass graves found all the time.

    Kb- Weapons of WMD? LOL.
    I won’t open the entire WMD can o’ worms, but Saddam was obligated to PROVE hid didn’t have WMD, because of the first time we bitch-slapped his army. Putting the responsiblity on the U.S. ignores the facts.

  10. Anderson says:

    LJD: Saddam was obligated to PROVE hid didn’t have WMD, because of the first time we bitch-slapped his army. Putting the responsiblity on the U.S. ignores the facts.

    Again, that can’t possibly be “proved.” How could Saddam have done that?

    Look at all the “explanations” we’ve seen for the missing WMD’s: they were destroyed, they were sent to Syria, they’re still hidden, etc.

    LJD, you can’t prove you don’t have WMD’s.

    Now, I concede that Saddam misplayed his hand badly by trying to act like he did have them, in order to keep the Iranians cowed. But even when he came clean (for Saddam), no one in the White House was listening … because WMD’s were an excuse, not our real raison de guerre. (Is that a real expression?)

  11. LJD says:

    For a start, he could have complied with the UN resolutions that he continually violated. He could have opened his doors to the inspectors, instead of playing games and shuffling them around the country. The sooner he convinced the world, the sooner he could have legally sold his oil and lifted his country and people out of their isolation. Unlike Saddam, I am not so obligated to prove my lack of WMD ownership.

    It’s interesting though, that you know so much about Saddam’s intent (to “cow” the Iranians). He couldn’t have possibly been f-ing with us because of his displeasure over being kicked out of Kuwait.

    WMDs were not an excuse, but one in many pieces of evidence presented to the UN and Congress in the case for war. Your use of French (surrender-monkey)is truly telling…