A majority of Americans held at least one of three false
perceptions about the war in Iraq, according to a recent study, and
these contributed to popular support for the war.
The study, by the Program on International Policy Attitudes,
also linked the misconceptions with TV news — especially Fox.
Frank Davies, writing for Knight Ridder Newspapers,
reports that the three main delusions were: (1) weapons of mass
destruction were found in Iraq, (2) clear evidence shows Saddam
Hussein worked with 9/11 terrorists, and (3) populations in foreign
countries backed the war or were divided in their support. As
Davies notes, no WMDs have been found. Intelligence agencies have
not found evidence Saddam worked with al-Qaida. Gallup polls showed
majority opposition to the war in most countries.
The study showed that 60 percent of Americans held at least one
of these fallacies to be true between January and September of this
year. Importantly, the study found that the misperceptions
correlated greatly with the respondent’s primary news source.
Eighty percent of those who relied on Fox News and 71 percent of
those who relied on CBS believed at least one of the mistaken
perceptions. Comparably, 47 percent of those who said they relied
on newspapers and magazines and 23 percent of PBS viewers or
National Public Radio listeners held at least one of the three
falsities to be true.
The Bush administration played a key role in the misperceptions,
noted the director of the Program on International Policy, and the
White House’s propaganda was aided by what one researcher called,
‘stenographic coverage of government statements’ without much
attention to accuracy.
Altogether, these misunderstandings had a high correlation with
support for the war. While less than a quarter of those who had
none of the misconceptions supported the war, those who believed
one of three misconceptions showed 53 percent support, those with
two of three showed 78 percent support, and those with three of
three showed 83 percent support of the war.
— Joel Stonington
Caf? Utne: Is TV news dumbing us down? Discuss