Other surprising findings were that almost half of respondents (46%) favor an independent investigation of the U.S. role in the overthrow of Haiti's democratically elected president, Juan Bertrand Aristide, and 57% favor a national moratorium on the death penalty because of the procedural problems that have put many innocent people on death row (112 released so far). Four out of five Americans also repudiate the use of torture.
As in earlier Retro Polls most support for the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism was found among people who still think that Saddam Hussein worked with Al Qaeda (though no evidence has been published) and among the 32% of people who believe the War on Terrorism is preventing terrorism. However, 24% of Americans believe that the War on Terrorism is actually creating terrorists. In addition, 56 % of people who gave an opinion say the War on Terrorism is removing important democratic rights in the US and large percentages (50-80%) oppose various intrusive provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.
The poll reached 513 random Americans and has a "margin of error" of +/- 3.5%. Full results are available at www.retropoll.org.
All articles contain data from May 11 release of national poll results by Retro Poll and may be reprinted with author attribution when listed.
New Poll report suggests US also has a myth problem
Berkeley, CA--Recent news stories describe truth-defying and sometimes bizarre rumors circulating the streets of occupied Iraq about U.S. intents and plans there. In one rumor the U.S. is preparing to return Saddam to power; in another that his two sons, killed and identified by invasion forces, are not dead. American media response has varied from puzzlement to ridicule. But strange myths and misinformation are not unique to Iraq under occupation and are also held by many Americans under a democracy.
Reporting new results from an ongoing survey of public knowledge concerning current events, Retro Poll finds that most support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq still resides among people who believe that Saddam Hussein worked with the Al Qaeda terrorist network. In almost three years no one has produced evidence to support that rumor or the kindred rumors about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction or his connections to the 9/11 terrorists. Some of these stories, though debunked by CIA and other experts, emanated from high levels of the U.S. government and were then elevated into "beliefs" by the power of syndicated rightist talk show radio and uncritical TV reportage of news.
In the current Retro Poll findings 48% of Americans still believe the invasion of Iraq was right. However, that group is made up of 65% of those who believe there's evidence Saddam worked with Al Qaeda and only 26% of those who know there is no such evidence. Though the 9/11 connection to Saddam seems to have lost adherents, 1 in 4 Americans still believe in that connection even though most of the highjackers were Saudis and Saddam and Osama Bin Laden were enemies. These are myths with staying power among certain sections of the public.
The Secret "I" Word No One will Talk About
Despite this mythology, which suggests unquestioning support of a policy that has led to almost 800 American and 15,000 Iraq deaths, the poll found surprisingly strong concern about Presidential misleadership. Asked whether misleading the public and Congress (on Weapons of Mass Destruction) to take the county to war is grounds for impeachment of the President 39% answered yes. A smaller November, 2003 Retro Poll garnered 39.7% yes for a similar question but that result was not reported by the media. The confirmation of the 2003 finding on impeachment is significant news.
Retro Poll reached five hundred and thirteen random Americans between April 19-May 5 and the margin of error is +/- 3.5%. The result suggests that by casting the presidential race as a horserace between the Democrat personality, Kerry and the Republican personality, Bush, the media is papering over real public concern as to the direction and methods of the current Administration, irrespective of the horserace. This finding does not mean that President Bush will necessarily lose the election, but that if he wins he will govern over such a divided and angry nation that further attacks upon civil liberties and suppression of dissent may be inevitable, given that impeachment by a Republican Congress is unlikely. Full results at www.retropoll.org.
By Warren Gold
Mill Valley, CA--In a clear example of mass media's failure to inform the public a national poll just released shows more than 2 out of 3 Americans unaware of widespread public opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act. Asked in a Retro Poll survey to describe the resolutions about that Act which have passed in four states and 305 cities and counties (representing more than 51 million U.S. citizens) 68.7% didn't know and only 21.9% chose the correct answer-that these publicly supported resolutions call for the repeal of provisions that attack civil liberties (see Bill of Rights Defense Committee at http://www.bordc.org/).
President Bush is campaigning to greatly expand the PATRIOT Act's surveillance powers. The "Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003" (H.R. 3179) would enhance the government's secret power to obtain personal records without judicial review, limit judicial discretion over the use of secret evidence in criminal cases, eliminate important foreign intelligence wiretapping safeguards, and allow the use of secret intelligence wiretaps in civil cases without notice or an opportunity to suppress illegally-acquired evidence. If passed, the bill would be a major and unwarranted expansion of the government's secret surveillance powers under the USA PATRIOT Act. It would have a serious and detrimental impact on the ability of the federal courts to oversee government powers that could substantially erode civil liberties.
As part of the war on terrorism, the Bush administration has already used the USA PATRIOT Act, and various executive orders to severely curtail civil liberties in this country: The Government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity. Once-public immigration hearings are now closed and thousands of people have been detained for long periods without charges. Government officials have been encouraged to resist the use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain public records. The Government may prosecute librarians or other record keepers if they tell anyone that the Government subpoenaed personal records in a terrorism investigation. The Government may monitor conversations between lawyers and their clients in federal jails and deny lawyers to U.S. citizens accused of crimes. The Government may search and seize personal records of U.S. citizens without probable cause as part of a terrorism investigation. The Government may jail U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial. U.S. citizens may be jailed without being charged or able to confront witnesses against them. (see Bill of Rights Defense Committee at http://www.bordc.org/).
Both the Bush administration and the House of Representative are ignoring the widespread opposition to the PATRIOT Act and other curtailments of the Bill of Rights. The Retro Poll survey of 513 randomly selected Americans showed most Americans oppose the Bush Administration's curtailments of those rights. For example, half of those polled oppose local businesses providing records to Government, most oppose monitoring prisoner-lawyer conversations (62.9%), and 87.2% oppose Government agents searching homes and seizing records. Asked the impact of the Patriot Act upon civil rights, 56% of those who responded said it removes important rights. About the impact of the Government's war on terrorism in general, 31% who gave an opinion say it's more likely creating terrorists than ending terrorism. The poll was carried out between April 19 and May 5. Full results are at www.retropoll.org.
Berkeley, CA--On Wednesday, May 5, a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus (23 of 39 elected African American Congresspeople) boycotted a reception in Washington for the U.S. backed replacement president of the island nation of Haiti. It made little news. On that day Retro Poll completed a national poll, which investigated public views on many areas of U.S. democracy, foreign policy and human rights. The Poll found 47% public support for an independent investigation of the U.S. role in the coup against Haiti's Juan Bertrand Aristide, a democratically elected president. Ranking Congresspersons Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Charles Rangel and others have demanded such an investigation, which also has the support of CARICOM, the organization of the Caribbean nations, whose members do not recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. Backed replacement government.
In a related Retro Poll finding 80% of the public opposes torture as U.S. policy. Mostly completed before the latest revelations of torture by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recurring Retro Poll question on torture was triggered instead by earlier U.S. government discussions contemplating the use of torture. On October 10, 2001, Walter Pincus wrote an extensive article on the subject for the Washington Post, reporting that:
Because most news bureaus have pulled reporters out of Haiti, torture and murder of supporters of the popularly elected, but now overthrown, Aristide regime go mostly unreported under Haiti's occupation by U.S. military forces.
Of the 513 Americans randomly contacted by Retro Poll only 112 (22%) knew that over 305 cities and 4 states have passed resolutions demanding that key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act be rescinded because they threaten our democratic rights. Yet, when asked about the impact of the Patriot Act upon our civil rights, 56% of the 252 who gave their opinion said it removes important rights (compared with 14% who said it has no impact and 30% who said it protects our rights). Sixty three percent of those polled also oppose the government's new policy of bugging conversations between prisoners and their lawyers.
In addition, 3 of
every four Americans consistently support international efforts to prosecute
war crimes and crimes against humanity, though the U.S. Government has
claimed exemption from the International Criminal Court responsible for
such prosecutions. And 71% of Americans oppose the Administration's policy
of indeterminate detention of suspects without trials (a clear violation
of the VIth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). The poll has a margin
of error of +/-3.5%. Full poll results can be found at www.retropoll.org.
By Suzanne Grady
San Francisco--It has been over a year since President Bush invaded Iraq under the mantle of the War on Terrorism. He and his administration claimed that Iraq was an "immediate" and "serious threat to our country, to our friends and to our allies". One year later, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. But since the beginning of 2004, there has been an enormous increase in the amount of violent acts against the occupying forces by Iraqis. Now the murder of hundreds of civilians in Falujah by US troops and the exposure of torture at Abu Graib prison have left the U.S. occupation forces with little support in Iraq (as confirmed by a Gallup poll of over 3000 Iraqis).
Predictably, national support here for the invasion of Iraq has fallen below 50% in several recent polls. The latest of these, done by Retro Poll, has 48% saying the U.S. should have invaded Iraq. Yet, President Bush still maintains that the war in Iraq is an integral part of the War on Terrorism. Ignoring the impact of occupation on the Iraqi population as cause for resistance, Bush declared, in his April 14th, 2004 press conference:
"The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorist who takes hostages, or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali, and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew."
The reason why Mr. Bush persists with this unrealistic assessment of the war may lie in the Retro Poll finding that four out of five Americans who think the War on Terror has been effective at preventing terrorism remain supporters of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Though only 32% of the public currently holds that view--that the War on Terrorism is succeeding in preventing terrorism--this 32% makes up over half (54%) of the support for the war. Thus, the President must either continue to defend this linkage to maintain this base of war support or resign himself to fading popularity and withdrawing U.S. Troops under ever-widening public anger and resistance.
Among other key findings
in the Retro Poll survey of 513 randomly selected Americans are that 4
out of 5 people oppose torture (asked before the recent revelations),
57% favor a moratorium on the death penalty until system-wide problems
with procedures that have led to death penalty convictions for 112 innocent
people is corrected, and 39% saying that misleading the country to war
based upon the myth of weapons of mass destruction and an imminent threat
from Iraq is grounds to impeach the President. The poll has a margin of
error of +/- 3.5%. Full poll results are at www.retropoll.org
By Mickey S. Huff and Marc Sapir
Berkeley--Reporting new results from an ongoing survey that correlates public knowledge and opinion concerning current events, Berkeley based NGO Retro Poll finds that most support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq still resides among people who believe that Saddam Hussein worked with the Al Qaeda terrorist network. In almost three years no one has produced credible evidence to support that notion nor the kindred rumors about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction or his connections to the 9/11 terrorists.
Some of these stories, though debunked by CIA, foreign intelligence offices, and other experts, emanated from high levels of the U.S. Government and were then elevated into "beliefs" by the power of mainstream corporate media and the propaganda blitz from right wing radio personalities.
In the current Retro Poll findings, 48% of Americans still believe the invasion of Iraq was right. However, that group is made up of 65% of those who believe there is evidence Saddam worked with Al Qaeda and only 26% of those who know there is no such evidence. Though the 9/11 connection to Saddam has lost adherents over the past year, 1 in 4 Americans still believe in that connection even though most of the highjackers were Saudis and Saddam and Osama Bin Laden were proven enemies. These are myths with staying power among certain loyal sections of the public.
Surprisingly however, even among those who support the current war in Iraq, most (57%) believe the U.S. Government should have to provide solid evidence before attacking other nations. So the important question is how can such a relatively large section of the American public still believe there is an historic link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? The Retro Poll data (based on interviews with 513 randomly selected Americans) suggests a number of possibilities, including lack of coverage of the statements and analyses of anti-war leaders and activists, lack of media coverage of the numbers and degree to which many oppose the war, and repetition by politicians and media of known falsehoods that have been clearly debunked. Fear also plays a major role in government preying on public insecurities over national safety in the wake of the 9-11 tragedy.
Historically, the United States is no stranger to scenarios of less than credible information used to guide public opinion to war. From the Mexican/American and Spanish American Wars through WWI and up to Vietnam, the American public has been shepherded to the battlefield by government and media elites with information that turned out to be blatantly bogus. In hindsight, Americans should be wary of such long standing traditions of deceit and demand accountability from their leaders, especially in times of war. Retro Polls full results are at www.retropoll.org.
Sapir MD, MPH
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