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October 17, 2002, for immediate release

Polling Organization Sets Sights on Government-Media Disinformation
Poll results suggest public opinion polls don't reflect public's views

Rolling out a unique new approach to national opinion surveys, the Retro Poll organization has released results of a pilot poll on the War on Terrorism.

Carried out between September 20 and October 6, the poll couples knowledge and opinion polling. The Retro Poll attempts to show that public opinion is molded by media misinformation and disinformation (propaganda). It addresses the question: does the public opinion reported in the usual major media polls reflect the true values and beliefs of those Americans polled, or not?

Results of the pilot poll of 150 people from 39 states support concerns that they do not. Statistical issues. Retro Poll showed a link between misinformation on Iraq and support for a new U.S. war against that country. Question 6 on the poll asked: "Is there evidence that Saddam Hussein (of Iraq) worked with Al Qaeda?" 65 people said yes, 33 people said no, and 45 didn't know. Later the poll asked whether 5 different elements should be part of the war on terrorism. One of these elements was: Do you support or reject war against Iraq or other countries the U.S. labels as 'supporting terrorism' when they are not attacking anyone?" Those (33) who said there is little or no evidence that Iraq worked with Al Qaeda (a fact that Retro Poll fully documents on its web site at rejected an unprovoked war on Iraq by a 4:1 margin, while those (60) who said there is evidence that Iraq worked with Al Qaeda favored going to war now by 2:1, a highly significant difference.

This difference (4:1 opposed to war versus the 2:1 favoring war based upon the daily pronouncements of an unsubstantiated threat by government leaders) suggests that by continually highlighting Washington's viewpoint unchallenged, the news bureaus in the U.S. can change the facts in the minds of many Americans. The opinions formed from those unsubstantiated facts are then used by polling organizations to report back the values, ideas, and thinking of the public.

Other Retro Poll results suggest that the values of Americans remain strongly democratic and fair. This was demonstrated by Poll results on elements in the war on terrorism. 80.4% of the respondents rejected the use of outlawed techniques such as torture against detainees. 82.7% supported the idea that the U.S. should have to prove its accusations against nations before attacking them. 71 % rejected indeterminate detention of arrestees (citizens and non-citizens) without charges, proofs, or trials. 89.2% supported the position that the U.S. should support international attempts to prosecute war crimes.

Many respondents knew three of the background facts tested. Two thirds knew that Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991. 50% knew that the U.S. does not have much world support for a military invasion of Iraq. And 44% knew that the U.S. provided money and training to Osama Bin Laden and his followers in the 1980s. But much smaller proportions knew the answers to questions asked about CIA sponsorship of the September 11, 1973 coup against the Chilean government, about Saddam Hussein's lack of nuclear weapons, about condemnation of the U.S. by the World Court for sponsorship of Contra terrorism in the 1980s, or about the killing of 84 children by Israel's Army as a response to the uprising (September 2000-January 2001) before Palestinian suicide bombers began to kill Israeli children.

In a series of opinion questions on Israel-Palestine 91.6% believe that suicide bombing is a terrorist act; 65.6% said that Israel's targeting Palestinian activists or leaders for assassination equates to State Terrorism. But asked whether, as Israel's chief sponsor, the U.S. might be held accountable for backing State Terrorism only 38.7% said yes. Finally respondents were asked whether they would support an American policy which required Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories as a condition for continuing U.S. military and economic aid. 46% said yes, 32.4% said no and 21.6% gave no opinion.

Although the margin of error on individual poll questions ranged from plus or minus 6 to 8%, the relationship between advocacy of war on Iraq and misinformation on basic facts is statistically unlikely to have occurred by chance. This association reveals that what is actually being reported by most major polls is the ability of the Government and the Media to change the public perception by headlining exaggerated or erroneous government-provided information (propaganda). Retro Poll calls on the Corporate Media to carry out their democratic responsibility to bring forth and highlight the truth when government pronouncements are found to lack a firm factual basis.

For more information or commentary go to or contact:

Marc Sapir MD, MPH
Executive Director Retro Poll

Warren Gold MD
Director Retro Poll

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