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Old 03-01-2005, 09:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
Are the Feb. 18 Harris Iraq Poll Results "The triumph of Opinion Over News"?

Is public opinion in America heading in a direction away from details and conclusions broadcast or published in news reports?
Do you see this as a problematic trend?

If Americans and their government does not make accurate assessments of foreign policy, financial, and business issues, to name a few, can we make responsive, relevant decisions?

(At the bottom of this thread starter is an example of how I hope this thread
can be a means for us to better understand the basis for our own opinions,
and....the opinions of others, and to effectively communicate why we have
the opinion that we have. Or.... to argue that an opinion that is supported
by a signifigant number of people should be taken seriously even if there is scant evidence to support it, and much, from usually reliable sources, to refute it.)
<a href="http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=544">Iraq, 9/11, Al Qaeda and Weapons of Mass Destruction:
What the Public Believes Now, According to Latest Harris Poll</a>

The latest Harris Poll conducted following the recent elections in Iraq finds that on many aspects U.S. adults have not changed their basic views about Iraq with one important exception: The number of adults who favor bringing troops home in the next year has increased significantly to its highest level since October 2003 when Harris Interactive® first measured the public’s opinions on this issue.

Specifically, almost six in 10 (59%) adults now favor bringing most troops home in the next year and 39 percent favor keeping a large number of troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there. In November, less than half (47%) favored bringing troops home and half (50%) favored keeping troops in Iraq.

However, the public remains split on whether the invasion of Iraq strengthened (46%) or weakened (48%) the war on terrorism.

These are some of the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 1,012 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive between February 8 and 13, 2005.

On other issues concerning Iraq, the attitudes of large majorities of the public have not changed significantly in the past few months.

* 88 percent of U.S. adults believe that Saddam Hussein would have made weapons of mass destruction if he could have (down slightly from 90% in November).
* 76 percent believe that the Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein (same as November).
* 64 percent believe that history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq (up slightly from 63% in November).
* 64 percent believe that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda (up slightly from 62% in November).
* 61 percent believe that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a serious threat to U.S. security (down slightly from 63% in November).

More surprising perhaps are the large numbers (albeit not majorities) who believe the following claims not made by the president and which virtually no experts believe to be true:

* 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November).
* 44 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis (up significantly from 37% in November).
* 36 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded (down slightly from 38% in November).

Another interesting finding is that only 46 percent believe that Saddam Hussein was prevented from developing weapons of mass destruction by the U.N. weapons inspectors, a fact which most reports now support.
The following opinion of Tom Regan inspired this thread and describes the subject phenomena much better than I could.
<a href="http://blogs.csmonitor.com/my_american_experience/2005/03/">
<h2>The triumph of opinion over news</h2></a>
<h6>By <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/cgi-bin/encryptmail.pl?ID=D4EFEDA0D2E5E7E1EEA0ADA0E2F9ECE9EEE5">Tom Regan</a></h6>
<span class="text">
Significant numbers of people in the United States, (almost two-thirds in the case of the first item) believe things that are just not true, have been repeatedly shown to be not true, have been repudiated by the White House, the <a href="http://www.9-11commission.gov/">9/11 commission</a>, the <a href="http://www.issues2000.org/Iraq_Survey_Group.htm">people hired by the US</a> to find WMD, the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2268819.stm">United Nations</a>, Chris Rock, the <a href="http://www.ufpi.org/">United Federation of Planets</a>, you name it. And most of the numbers are going up!

There are only two possible explanations for this stunning lack of knowledge: an impressive number of my fellow citizens are as dumb as a bag of hammers, as we say in Nova Scotia (but I don't like this answer and don't believe it either): or the problem is the sources they are using to get their news - or what they mistake for news. Namely, opinion.

Let's be honest, the beliefs mirrored in the statistics listed above would come as no surprise to you if you only watched <a href="http://www.fair.org/extra/0311/hannity-colmes.html">Hannity and Colmes</a> or <a href="http://homepage.mac.com/duffyb/nobush/iMovieTheater231.html">Crossfire</a>, listened to <a href="http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/today.guest.html">Rush Limbaugh</a>, <a href="http://www.liddyshow.us/">G. Gordon Liddy</a> or <a href="http://atheism.about.com/b/a/083884.htm">Jay Severin</a>, were an <a href="http://www.newshounds.us/2005/03/01/sorry_ann_coulter_youre_no_katherine_hepburn.php">Ann Coulter</a> groupie, or only read certain blogs.

I've heard all of these people repeat the misinformation mentioned above in the form of &quot;giving their opinions.&quot; It works like this: &quot;Well, Alan, I know what the news reports from Iraq say, but I still believe that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.&quot; And, as a friend pointed out to me, if Sean Hannity happens to be your favorite commentator, you're inclined to believe his opinion. Even if he's more mistaken then the folks who thought that cars would never replace horses, or that <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/arash_markazi/02/24/canseco/">Jose Canseco's baseball talents</a> were all based on his natural abilities.

The other side often isn't much better. Listening to the liberal <a href="http://www.airamericaradio.com/">Air America radio network</a> the other day, I heard some nasty comments on their morning show about Laura Bush and her treatment of <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/02/16/first.lady/">the chef at the White House</a>. I have liberal friends right now who I know will take these statements at face value, regardless of the fact it was just commentary and opinion. It'll just &quot;confirm&quot; for them that Laura Bush is a phony, even if she isn't anything like that at all.

It's the same thing for blogs. I'm a big fan of blogs and I truly believe they have the potential to reenergize and redefine journalism. But the reality is, despite what their <a href="http://www.buzzmachine.com/archives/2005_02_28.html#009153">more ardents boosters</a> say, most blogs are driven by opinion. Occasionally they will uncover a news nugget, but bloggers will then wrap that nugget in so much personal opinion that in the end it bears almost no resemblance to actual events.

Two examples of this are the <a href="http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/12/20/lott.controversy/">comments made by Republican Sen. Trent Lott</a> at a party for the now-deceased Sen. Strum Thurmond, and the comments made by <a href="http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/02/11/esn_res.html">former CNN news head Eason Jordan</a> at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Both men displayed terrible judgement in the comments they made. Both times these comments were brought to life by bloggers after being ignore by mainstream media - that's the good news about blogs and journalism.

But after that, almost all coverage of both situations became overwhelmed by bloggers with an agenda. The context of the men's remarks, and even what they actually said disappeared in an avalanche of invective hurled by bloggers, commentators and columnists opposed to them. It's little wonder that if you asked a person on the street what either man actually said, the vast majority of people, just like in the Harris poll, would get it wrong.

I know bloggers will say, &quot;Yea, but there's no such thing as objectivity,&quot; and I wouldn't disagree with them. But there is this concept of fairness and balance that most professional journalists strive for, and which most bloggers haven't grasped yet, or else have ignored. I read lots of good blogs every day for their writer's opinions, but only one or two to actually learn about what's going on the world.

Opinion, of course, is very much a part of journalism, and as a columnist (and blogger) myself, I can say without hesitation that I hope my writing influences what people think about events. Every columnist wants to do that. But in the past, opinion and commentary always had a strong wrapper around it, so that people knew it wasn't news, but was the opinion of the particular individual or organization.

In the 24x7 media universe of the 21st century, that wrapper had disappeared, or has been torn off. Opinion now regularly elbows aside the actual reporting of an event in order to tell you what to think about the event before you have even learned, or made the effort to learn, what actually happened.

The danger here, of course, is that people who are distracted, or busy, or lazy, will mistake the opinions of all the folks mentioned above for news, and make really bad, ill-informed decisions about what politicians they will support, what policies or programs they will support, or what events they feel they must protest. The numbers in the Harris poll mentioned at the top of this columns show that I'm not just whistling Dixie here.

How bad has it become? Well, the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/">Guardian newspaper</a> in Britain currently is running an advertising campaign on its website that exploits this phenomena. The ad notes that something like 50 percent of Americans believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (which almost no one believes in the UK). &quot;Maybe it's the newspapers they're reading.&quot;

No maybe about it. Toss in cable-TV, blogs and talk radio, and you're getting warmer all the time. </p> </span>
On another recent TFP Politics thread, some posters seem to be in agreement with the 36 percent polled by Harris who "believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded."

I dont' believe that and I offer the following to support my position:
<a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6834079/">http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6834079/</a>
U.S. found no evidence WMD moved from Iraq
No signs that weapons were smuggled, intelligence officials say
The Associated Press
Updated: 2:24 a.m. ET Jan. 17, 2005

WASHINGTON - As the hunt for weapons of mass destruction dragged on unsuccessfully in Iraq, top Bush administration officials speculated publicly that the banned armaments may have been smuggled out of the country before the war started.

Whether Saddam Hussein moved the WMD — deadly chemical, biological or radiological arms — is one of the unresolved issues that the final U.S. intelligence report on Iraq’s programs is expected to address next month.

But intelligence and congressional officials say they have not seen any information — never “a piece,” said one — indicating that WMD or significant amounts of components and equipment were transferred from Iraq to neighboring Syria, Jordan or elsewhere.
<a href="http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showpost.php?p=1620839&postcount=74">http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showpost.php?p=1620839&postcount=74</a>

<a href="http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showpost.php?p=1674786&postcount=49">http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showpost.php?p=1674786&postcount=49</a>
(Posted for the first time by host on a TFP thread)
<a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050112-7.html#1">http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050112-7.html#1</a>

<b>Excerpt from Scott McClellan Press Briefing, Jan. 12, 2005</b>

Q The President accepts that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he said back in October that the comprehensive report by Charles Duelfer concluded what his predecessor had said, as well, <b>that the weapons that we all believed were there, based on the intelligence, were not there.</b> And now what is important is that we need to go back and look at what was wrong with much of the intelligence that we accumulated over a 12-year period and that our allies had accumulated over that same period of time, and correct any flaws.

Q I just want to make sure, though, because you said something about following up on additional reports and learning more about the regime. You are not trying to hold out to the American people the possibility that there might still be weapons somewhere there, are you?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just said that if there are -- if there are any other reports, obviously, of weapons of mass destruction, then people will follow up on those reports. I'm just stating a fact.
<a http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/12/in...12cnd-wmd.html
(copy and paste above link in google search box, you made need to register at nytimes site to view article)
Search for Illicit Weapons in Iraq Ends

International Herald Tribune

Published: January 12, 2005

ASHINGTON, Jan. 12 - The White House confirmed today that the search in Iraq for the banned weapons it had cited as justifying the war that ousted Saddam Hussein has been quietly ended after nearly two years, with no evidence of their existence.

That means that the conclusions of an interim report last fall by the leader of the weapons hunt, Charles A. Duelfer, will stand. That report undercut prewar administration contentions that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons, was building a nuclear capability and might share weapons with Al Qaeda. A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, insisted today that the war was justified. He rejected the suggestion that the administration's credibility had been gravely wounded in ways that could weaken its future response to perceived threats.

The administration appeared to be dropping today even the suggestion that banned weapons might be deeply buried or well hidden in Iraq. Mr. McClellan said that President Bush had already concluded, after the October release of an interim report from Mr. Duelfer, "that the weapons that we all believed were there, based on the intelligence, were not there."

Some administration officials have suggested that some arms might have been moved out of Iraq, perhaps to Syria. But Mr. McClellan appeared to rule that out.
<b>Post your own opinions about the results of the search in Iraq for WMD, or support or refute the results of the other Harris Poll questions, or your opinions/reaction about the Poll results in general, or voice your approval or objections to me starting a thread about this in the first place.......</b>

Last edited by host; 03-01-2005 at 10:01 PM..
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Old 03-01-2005, 10:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
Willravel's Avatar
IMO, news as we once knew it has been dead for years. Once the corporations decided to go for ratings instead of truth, we lost that connection with reality. Since then it has been harder and harder to tell reality from spin and garbage in the news.

Go to www.cnn.com. The largest, front and center story is Defence goes after [Michael] Jackson documentation. Aparently, Michael Jackson is more important than one of Saddam's tribunal judges being assasinated. Fox News has the same leading story. Maybe Michael Jackson should run for governor after Arnold starts his campaign for president. With the amount people actually know (or care) about the world versus how much we know about hollywood, that might actually come to pass.
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Old 03-02-2005, 06:36 AM   #3 (permalink)
Location: Austin, TX
opinions/reaction about the Poll

The poll results you posted are cause for concern, but not a surprise.

Have you ever seen the Jay Leno thing where they walk around in the street and show people pictures of important people in the government?

It is shocking that someone can't identify the vice president. I am not surprised that the know even less about what the government does.
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Old 03-02-2005, 06:47 AM   #4 (permalink)
Born Against
raveneye's Avatar
I think part of the reason for these mistaken beliefs is the current political polarization of the country. Polls show that Americans are split down the middle on just about all the core issues relating to the effectiveness and success of the current administration.

So if a particular question appears to have partisan implications (i.e. one answer is "good" for Bush and the other answer is "bad" for Bush), then the answers to the question will also tend to fall along partisan lines. Even if one of the answers is clearly wrong. I suspect in many cases the answerer in reality knows the answer is wrong, but in giving it he/she is being aggressively partisan rather than completely honest.

That at least is the most positive spin that I think I'm able to put on these depressing numbers.
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Old 03-02-2005, 06:55 AM   #5 (permalink)
Location: Austin, TX
Originally Posted by raveneye
That at least is the most positive spin that I think I'm able to put on these depressing numbers.
More positive spin...

How the questions were posed would significantly affect the results. The first thing you learn in statistics is that polls can be manipulated to say almost anything you want.
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Old 03-02-2005, 11:45 AM   #6 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
Willravel's Avatar
Example of the poll questions:
1. Do you think that the honest, down home country-style president is actually lying about WMDs? Are you crazy?
A. Yes
B. No
C. Hold, on. I'm voting on American Idol. Man, this is the smartest show on television.

2. Do you think that the Devils lover, Sadam Hussain, might have evil weapons that are out to destroy your good, christian society?
A. Yes, Jesus loves me.
B. No, I'm an evil, devil worshiping traitor.

3. Do you think the super-dictator, Sadam Husain (the man who killed millions of his own people and has said he hates America, and who probably egged your house) could have planned the attacks on 9/11?
A. Yes
B. Probably
C. Certinally
D. All of the above
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Old 03-02-2005, 12:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
Seaver's Avatar
Location: Fort Worth, TX
2. Do you think that the Devils lover, Sadam Hussain, might have evil weapons that are out to destroy your good, christian society?
A. Yes, Jesus loves me.
B. No, I'm an evil, devil worshiping traitor.
It's funny, but sad. I was asked by a "polling agency" a couple questions that were obviously trying to get me to answer questions in directions I never wanted to go.

Note: This was actually one of the questions.

Do you agree yes/no?

A) Keeping troops in Iraq will continue to cause American deaths and we should pull out immediately
B) Going to Iraq was based off false premises and Bush should be sought to the full extent of the law
C) The Iraqis deserve to be dying for resisting westernization
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