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.
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.
(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.
- James H. Joyner, Jr., “Saddam and al Qaeda,” TCS, June 18, 2004.
- James H. Joyner, Jr., “Iraq and Jihadist Terrorists: A Review Essay,”Strategic Insights, III: July 2004.
- Henry E. Brady, James S. Fishkin, and Robert C. Luskin, “Informed public opinion about foreign policy: the uses of deliberative polling.” Brookings Review, June 22, 2003.
- Ã¢€œPublic Opinion and Foreign Policy: Bridging the GapÃ¢€ T.I.S.S. Conference Report.
- Counting the Public In – Presidents, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy, Columbia University Press.
- Democracy Now, “Poll: U.S. Public Uninformed of Iraq Issues,” April 27th, 2004.