Propaganda built Iraq war support

A majority of Americans enjoy several misconceptions about the war in Iraq, according to a recent study. The authors of the study say those perceptions were a large part of the popular support for the war early on. The study found three very commonly held erroneous beliefs: 1. American forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 2. We have clear evidence that Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists. 3. Residents of foreign countries either backed the Iraq invasion or were evenly split between support or opposition. In total, 60 percent of Americans held at least one of those views in polls taken between January and September of this year. The opinion surveys were done by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, based at the University of Maryland in College Park, and the polling company, Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif. Steven Kull, director of the Maryland program, said: “While we cannot assert that these misperceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions.” The polls covered 9,611 citizens and had a margin of error from 2 to 3.5 percent. Figures showed on the issue of weapons being found in Iraq, 33 percent of Fox News viewers believed it to be true, 23 percent of CBS viewers, and 20 percent of NBC and CNN viewers. On the issue of linking Saddam to the 9-11 attacks, 67 percent of Fox viewers accepted that claim along with 56 percent of CBS viewers and 49 percent of NBC’s audience. CNN’s percentage was 48. The truth is that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq even though 1,300 searchers are still looking. There is no evidence Saddam Hussein had any connection with al-Qaeda or any link to the attacks of 9/11, and Gallup polls found a majority of foreigners against the war. The false impressions were correlated with primary news sources of those holding the mistaken views. Some 80 percent of Fox News viewers and 71 percent of those relying on CBS held at least one of the false views. Newspapers and magazines were primary sources for 47 percent of those polled, and 23 percent said they got most of their information from PBS or National Public Radio. Kull said there are many reasons for the misperceptions. They noted the lies of the Bush administration and the fabricated intelligence leading up to the war. For instance, President Bush said last May: “We found the weapons of mass destruction…and we’ll find more as time goes by.” The administration has continually muddied the waters of public opinion. Last month, Bush said there was no evidence Saddam was involved in the attacks on New York and Washington. That came just after Vice-President Dick Cheney suggested a link. In a television interview, Cheney described Iraq as “the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.” Kull cited some instances where television and newspapers gave major coverage to reports that WMDs had been found in Iraq, but only scant coverage when those reports were discredited. Among people holding one of the three beliefs, 53 percent backed the war. Those holding two of the views supported the war by 78 percent, and those holding all three views showed 86 percent backing the war. By contrast, only a quarter of those who did not hold these views were for the war.

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