Sapir (firstname.lastname@example.org) (510)-848-3826
Berkeley--According to findings from several recent polls the public is split about 50:50 on whether the U.S. should immediately withdraw its military forces from Iraq. Now in a poll completed October 1, the Retro Poll organization takes an in depth look at what's behind that split. Retro Poll's findings reveal that opposition to withdrawal, like support for the war in the first place, comes mostly (59%) from people who have been fooled into believing that Saddam Hussein and Iraq worked with the Al Qaeda terrorist network. This difference was highly significant (likely to happen by chance less than 1 in 1,000 trials by chi-squared test).
"The glass is both half full and half empty," said Marc Sapir, Retro Poll's Executive Director. "Twenty nine percent of our sample still believes, in the face of no evidence at all, that Al Qaeda worked with Saddam's Iraq and this group heavily supports continuing the occupation. But the group is getting to be a lonely place. At the beginning of the war the media did little to dispel the neo-con myth, so over half the public held that view. A year ago it was 41%; in May it was 39%; and now only 29% of our latest sample is holding on to this."
"Moreover," Sapir continued, "it's just one of many examples that expose how corporate media's weak journalism and inadequate defense of the truth drive the U.S. public to the right and away from support of democratic values and their own best interests."
Similar dramatic findings in the poll pertain to the death penalty, often a major issue in political campaigns. Only 16% of the sample knew that more than 110 convicted murderers have been proven innocent and released from prison in recent years. About 80% (of that 16%) oppose the new rule allowing the Government to bug conversations between lawyers and prisoners while it's about 50:50 for removing that basic confidentiality among those who believe that 10 or less innocent people have been released from death row (a significant difference).
"Media pay much attention to murder, mayhem, the rights of victims and the death penalty and yet seem to have failed in exposing the actual injustice in the application of the death penalty," according to Mickey Huff another Retro Poll Director. "This perpetuation of public naiveté is also born out by the data that just 15% were aware of systematic abuse of South Asians in several prisons within the U.S.; and only a small proportion was aware (as General Taguba's report proved) that the Abu Ghraib situation was not the result of 'a few bad apples.'" Nevertheless, as in the May, 2004 poll, 56% still favor a suspension of the death penalty until systematic problems in its application have been addressed.
Turning to the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, only 11% knew-in the face of a consistently pro-Israeli media-that there are no documents of any Israeli offer to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians from the Camp David 2000 meetings sponsored by President Clinton. And 21% thought that Israel has been dismantling its settlements compared with 22% who knew that Israel has continued expanding its seizure of land and building of major population centers and army bases in the West Bank occupied territories. Nevertheless, 44% of respondents said Israel should remove all its settlements (28% no, 28% don't know). And a hefty 70% said that Israel's treatment of the 3 million Palestinians it controls is not consistent with a democratic government (a direct slap at the U.S. media-government claim that Israel is the region's bastion of democracy).
As in a previous poll, knowledge on the Bill of Rights was high. Sixty to 90% correctly identified three important rights named. Over 70% identified two statements limiting rights as not part of the Constitution. People who thought that the Bill of Rights gave the government the power to hold people indefinitely without charges were significantly more likely to approve of taking away the privacy rights of prisoners again showing how ignorance skews opinions rightward (chance probability less than 3.5%). The poll reached 223 randomly selected people throughout the U.S. between September 17 and October 1st. The average margin of error statistic for individual questions was 5.5%. The complete poll and response rates can be found at www.retropoll.org.
Sapir MD, MPH
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