. . . Friday October 22, 2004

Stand Up and Befuddled – The Shocking Untruth

Forget about the undecideds. Forget the swing states. This election is all about the uninformed.

A significant number of Americans are bewildered when they see the President running on his record as commander in chief. One would think that the debacle that is the Iraq war (and nearly every associated decision) would make Team Bush want to focus on anything but W’s wartime presidency.

Well, here’s a disturbing (but not totally surprising) factor. A lot of people (and I mean a whole lot) don’t even know the most basic details about the Iraq war. And I mean basic; like whether or not we ever found those darn WMDs.

Take a look at these numbers. They’re current (post Duelfer report). They measure people’s perceptions about the Iraq war and thus the performance of the commander in chief. And they paint a picture of distorted ignorance that is anything but bliss:

- 72% of Bush supporters (B.S.) still believe that Iraq had WMDs. (OK, stop here for second. Because I occasionally inject humor into my posts, I want to make something totally clear: This is not a parody.)

- 56% of B.S. assume that most of the experts agree that Iraq had WMD and an ongoing program to develop them.

- 57% of B.S. supporters believe that the Duelfer report concluded that Iraq, at the very least, had a major and ongoing WMD program.

- 75% of B.S. believe that Saddam was providing substantial support to Al Qaeda. 60% believe most experts agree with this conclusion and 55% believe that was the ultimate finding of the 9-11 commission report. (This is ignorance at its worst. The B.S. are wildly wrong, and yet they don’t even know that their position is marginal.)

Now where did they get crazy ideas like that? Well, let’s ask them, shall we?

- 82% of B.S. perceive the administration as saying that Iraq had WMD. (I’m assuming the rest of them came to this conclusion though their reading of Weekly World News or The Onion.)

- 75% of B.S. perceive the administration as saying that Iraq was providing substantial support to Al Qaeda.

Want to have that debate about unilateralism vs multilateralism? Forget about it. A lot of Bush Supporters don’t even know that the world opposed the U.S. decision to invade Iraq (which explains the only scattered laughter when Cheney makes the permission slip joke). Take a look:

- Less than a third of B.S. are even aware that a majority of the world’s population opposed the Bush decision to go to war.

- 26% of B.S. believe that the world population strongly supported the Bush administration’s decision to go to war.

But at least the Bush supporters have an accurate perception of their man on issues other than Iraq, right? Wrong. They are remarkably consistent in their wrongness. Take a look:

- 72% of B.S. think that the administration supports the international ban on land mines.

- 51% of B.S. think W supports the Kyoto treaty.

- 53% of B.S. still think W favors U.S. participation in the international criminal court (even though he said just the opposite during the debates).

- 74% of B.S. think their man favors the inclusion of labor and environmental standards in trade agreements.

Come on. With numbers like these, I wouldn’t be surprised if most Bush Supporters believe that W had a bar mitzvah.

Think this all sounds too crazy to be accurate? Well remember that almost every poll has indicated that a significant number of Americans (particularly Bush supporters) still hold the belief that Saddam was directly involved in the planning of 9-11.

This survey points to massive fissures in our election process. A huge percentage of voters are not only uninformed, but misinformed. The easy answer is to blame it on a virus-like spread of idiocy and ignorance from sea to shining sea. But it’s probably not that simple. It likely took a lot of work by a lot of organizations to be able to create impressions among so many Americans that are so horribly out of whack and more than a little humiliating.

One does have to wonder what this election would look like today if Team Kerry had (as some great minds have repeatedly suggested) put the lion’s share of their dollars into getting the truth out about these issues. Bush supporters are wrong and they know where they got their information. If they got the right message, they’d be in the know and they’d ultimately have to blame their former messenger for the misconceptions he so determinedly delivered. Kerry would have only needed to correct the misconceptions of a sliver of the misinformed in order to turn this election into a landslide.

Ultimately, these polling numbers reflect terribly on us all. I wouldn’t want my side to win an election based on massive misinformation related to the most important issues of the day. And I’m convinced that most informed Republicans don’t like the look of these numbers either. Maybe, instead of funding another set of attack dogs, we need to start a few new 527s that are dedicated to spending millions of dollars on the cause of simply informing the American people of the facts (or at least occasionally slapping them across the face to see if they’re awake).

Concentration is important!