Friday, October 22, 2004

The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters

I've already forgotten where I first saw "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters," (PDF) but I see a number of other sites have picked up on it already. There's a quick summary over at Winning Argument, and there's this inflammatorily-named post on Boing Boing, which quotes and links to an article that requires registration. Very briefly, what it says is that most Bush supporters are misinformed and most Kerry supporters are not. Bush supporters get a number of facts wrong about Iraq and the War on Terror, and they're not familiar with their own candidate's positions on certain issues.

When I saw it, I wanted to look for some of the facts they're talking about. It doesn't mention anything that Bush people got right (unless Kerry supporters agree), and it doesn't talk about every issue in the campaign, so I'm assuming that they cherry picked the results for things that made Bush supporters look bad. With that in mind, maybe the stuff they consider facts aren't.

75% believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
60% believe most experts believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
55% believe the 9-11 report concluded Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.


This is supposedly contradicted by the 9-11 Commission Report, but "Bush Contradicted On Iraq & al Qaeda? Or not?" on FactCheck.org says, "Even the 9-11 commissioners don't agree about whether their staff contradicted the Bush administration."

The evidence I've seen for connections between Iraq and al Qaeda is all pretty light. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and one could argue that the President is privy to information we're not, but my personal inclination is to side with Occam's Razor here.

72% believe Iraq had WMD or a program to develop them.
58% believe the Duelfer report concluded that Iraq had either WMD or a major program to develop them.
56% believe most experts think Iraq had WMD.


The key findings of the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD (aka "the Duelfer report") says some interesting things about this.
  • Saddam really wanted WMD, but he didn't have any.
  • Saddam really wanted sanctions lifted, and he was close to doing it.
  • Saddam wanted the WMD for Iran.
57% believe that the majority of people in the world would prefer to see Bush reelected.
82% of Bush supporters believed that a world majority either feels better about the US due to its recent foreign policy (37%), or thought views are about evenly divided (45%).


I discussed this earlier. I've seen people argue that the newspapers conducting the polls are themselves biased. The PIPA report refers to another poll I haven't seen. Either way, I've not dived into the methodologies of those polls, but I have no particular reason to doubt them.

Here's a further quote from the PIPA report:
A slim majority of Bush supporters (51%) think a majority of people in the Islamic world favor "US-led efforts to fight terrorism," while 44% think a majority opposes these efforts. Among Kerry supporters, fully three in four (75%) think a majority in the Islamic world opposes US-led efforts to fight terrorism (favors them, 21%).

Between summer 2002 and February 2004, the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Survey polled a number of countries with large Islamic populations?some of them three times?asking whether people favor or oppose "the US-led efforts to fight terrorism." The four countries asked in 2004 (Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, and Morocco) all had majorities in opposition. Of the nine countries asked in 2003, seven showed majorities opposed to US-led efforts; the exceptions were Kuwait and Nigeria. The results in summer 2002 were quite similar; for details see www.people-press.org.
There's something that Bush and Kerry supporters agree on, namely that the Bush administration has been pushing some of the ideas above. PIPA polled about perceptions of the administration's messages.

82% of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or a major WMD program (19%).
84% of Kerry supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying Iraq had WMD (73%) or a major program (11%).

75% of Bush supporters think the Bush administration is currently saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda (56%) or that it was directly involved in 9/11 (19%).
74% of Kerry supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying Iraq gave al Qaeda substantial support (49%) or was directly involved in 9/11 (25%).

55% of Bush supporters say the Bush administration is currently saying the US has found clear evidence Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda.
52% of Kerry supporters say the administration is saying clear evidence of a close collaboration has been found.


The majorities of Bush (58%) and Kerry (92%) supporters also agree "If, before the war, US intelligence services had concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was not providing substantial support to al Qaeda, then the US should not have gone to war." They differ, in that 61% of Bush supporters think that Bush would not have gone to war in that case, but 83% of Kerry supporters think that Bush would have gone to war anyway.

One could argue that intelligence before the war said that there were reasons for going to war. In that case, Bush could be excused for the decision. This may be another difference of opinion between Bush and Kerry camps that the report doesn't address.

So, let me summarize what I think of all this.
  • Everyone agrees that if there were no WMD in Iraq and Iraq wasn't supporting al Qaeda, then we should not have gone to war.
  • The Duelfer report and the 9-11 Commission Report say that we didn't have those reasons to go to war.
  • Everyone agrees that the Bush administration has been saying things that contradict those two reports.
  • The Bush supporters are buying it, but the Kerry supporters (and the rest of the world) aren't.
The PIPA report also talks about the Kyoto treaty and the International Criminal court, but I won't go into all that. I'm less interested in them, and the report itself has a summary of the candidates' positions.

So, will this have an effect on anyone? Kerry supporters will feel smug, I suppose, but I suspect Bush supporters won't care.
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