Myth Of The Anything But Freaking Stupid Voter

Via Kevin Drum's Site:

Ben Smith puts the fact that 10% of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim in context:

"Large minorities of Americans consistently say they
hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited
beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly
alienated from one party or the other.

For instance:

22 percent believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

30 percent believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

23 percent believe they've been in the presence of a ghost.

18 percent believe the sun revolves around the Earth."

  • JohnF

    Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. The question is when, and how many.

  • Josh

    Fine, JohnF. Let's rephrase that: "30 percent believe that evidence has been found of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction."

    Happier now?

  • ArtD0dger

    My theory is that when people are given stupid poll questions, they start jerking around with the pollster.

  • Insomniac

    The thing that blows my mind is that the fact that, with only 79% of Americans correctly saying that the earth revolves around the sun...we did better than the Germans (74%) and the British (67%!).

  • http://www.hodakvalue.com/blog M. Hodak

    Here is another example of this that I coincidentally posted today:

    http://www.hodakvalue.com/blog/2008/05/the_people_with_whom_we_share.html

    There must be some karmic connection between our blogs (man)...

  • linearthinker

    Today's quibbler's cap goes to Josh.
    JohnF is right.
    So is Art.
    Furthermore, the world is flat. I know this for a fact. I've been out on the edge so long.

  • http://blog.nwcadence.com Steven Borg

    One of our employees was a soldier in the Iranian army during the Iran-Iraq war. His platoon suffered 70% fatalities in one night when they were hit unexpectedly with mustard gas. He's opposed to the US-Iraq war, however, he understands, very, very personally, that Iraq did have (and use) chemical weapons under Saddam's reign. I'm shocked that only 30% of people in the US are aware of that fact. It's not stupidity to believe in historical facts.

  • http://www.humanadvancement.net/blog Kyle Bennett

    This was a phone poll, and I suspect that cell-phone only people are under-represented in phone polls. If true, I don't know how significant that sampling bias is now, but it's more significant than it was, and will be more significant in the future. At some point, it becomes like limiting your sample to only people with outhouses or who still get their TV via an antenna on the roof - you're going to get some strange beliefs scoring high.

  • morganovich

    it is a well established fact that 78% of statistics are overstated.

  • linearthinker

    At some point, it becomes like limiting your sample to only people with outhouses or who still get their TV via an antenna on the roof - you're going to get some strange beliefs scoring high.

    You might benefit from the opinions of folks with outhouses. I don't watch TV at all. Don't miss it. Nor do I use a cell phone. When I go to the grocery, I can usually select what I want without having to be coached over a cell phone. When I submit to the rare phone survey, the caller gets essays for answers, and usually has to backtrack to refresh himself on the question.

    And to answer your next question, the moon landings weren't filmed in a hanger in the Mojave Desert. They used a warehouse in Burbank.

  • stan

    We found chemicals for chemical weapons stashed in camouflaged military bunkers with the artillery shells specially configured to hold them next to the artillery. The UN said that the chemicals were merely fertilizer being stored by the Iraqi military.

    What chemical WMDs?

  • ParatrooperJJ

    You are unaware of sarin gas being found by US troops?

  • Dan

    There's no doubt Saddam was up to some very bad stuff, and would have gotten his hands on WMDs if he could have (and indeed he would have perhaps had nuclear weapons if not for Israel bombing his facility in the early 1980s.)

    I wasn't in favor of invading Iraq. If I had been up to me, we would have continued the policy of containment and inspections, which seemed to be working quite well. If Saddam acted up, we would have been better off getting him out of the way with a pinprick attack that just targeted him and his top cronies, and then installing a more benign dictator in his place. The chaos that erupted due to the U.S. invasion was accurately predicted by many experts, and it opened Iraq to some of the worst terrorists, who previously hadn't established a presence in the country due to Saddam.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    it is a well established fact that 78% of statistics are overstated.

    And studies have shown that 4 out of 5 doctors is 80%.

  • skh.pcola

    "...inspections, which seemed to be working quite well."

    Not according to the 14+ resolutions passed by the UN. Unless by "well" you actually meant "not at all."

  • Jay

    "My theory is that when people are given stupid poll questions, they start jerking around with the pollster."

    Back in high school we took anonymous multiple choice surveys on drug use. For a brief moment I become a pot smoking, heroine addict that shot up more than 5 times a week.

    "it is a well established fact that 78% of statistics are overstated."

    Thanks for the laugh. Also, don't forget that one should never make broad generalizations.

  • Dr. T

    Gee, Dan, imagine that: terrorists don't attack a country whose dictator supports most of the terrorist's goals and who provides them with secure training bases. That becomes a reason for us to not depose Saddam Hussein. I think the premise of your logic is flawed. I also think your belief that we could have just bumped off Hussein and replaced him with a 'benign' dictator is both naive and misguided. We tried that a number of times in Central and South America (and Cuba) with disastrous results.

    The President's idea of replacing Saddam Hussein's thugocracy with a democracy that could be a model for other terrorist-producing countries to strive for was a good one. Poor planning and poor implementation have delayed this process. Electing a Democratic president will end that process.

    Chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, but not in large quantities. Since our invasion was telegraphed months in advance, the Iraqi military had time to truck the weapons to depots in Syria. We just haven't had the nerve to find and destroy them, just as we haven't had the nerve to find and destroy the terrorist bases in Iran (where most of the terrorists now in Iraq come from).

  • http://raygardner.typepad.com/ Ray G

    Apparently Josh was in on that particular poll since he was able to so quickly edit and clarify the poll question concerning the WMD.

    The fact that the number is only 30% is surprising.

    There is the known pattern of people being polled telling pollsters what they think they want to hear. People tend to be overly PC so as to appear more urbane or "compassionate."

    The 30% number also seems less credible even in light of the responses given here. I didn't see anyone arguing for President Bush's prior knowledge of 9/11 or that the sun orbits earth.

  • Bram

    I'm sure most people believe that earth is warming, despite the fact that it has been cooling since 1998.

  • http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com Assistant Village Idiot

    What people mean by the WMD answer is unclear. Saddam indisputably had WMD at an earlier date. Also, some of those were found after 2003. If that is what is meant, then the WMD believers should number closer to 100%.

    However, what we discovered was so much less than what was predicted as to make the "we didn't find any" belief roughly accurate.

    On the other, other hand, we found lots of very nasty stuff, including forbidden missile-delivery systems, chemical components, and programs. Additionally, we found that records had been destroyed. On that score, someone could legitimately say "we didn't find gold, but we found silver," and answer the WMD question in the affirmative.

    So I would be among the 30% saying "yes, we found WMD" on a yes-no poll question, though I would qualify that answer in a discussion.

    To the main point, people also believe contradictory things, mostly because they don't think about them very hard. There are creationists proud of their children's knowledge of dinosaurs, and folks who believe different things about global warming in different contexts. Snapshot questions only suggest what group beliefs are.

  • http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com Assistant Village Idiot

    What people mean by the WMD answer is unclear. Saddam indisputably had WMD at an earlier date. Also, some of those were found after 2003. If that is what is meant, then the WMD believers should number closer to 100%.

    However, what we discovered was so much less than what was predicted as to make the "we didn't find any" belief roughly accurate.

    On the other, other hand, we found lots of very nasty stuff, including forbidden missile-delivery systems, chemical components, and programs. Additionally, we found that records had been destroyed. On that score, someone could legitimately say "we didn't find gold, but we found silver," and answer the WMD question in the affirmative.

    So I would be among the 30% saying "yes, we found WMD" on a yes-no poll question, though I would qualify that answer in a discussion.

    To the main point, people also believe contradictory things, mostly because they don't think about them very hard. There are creationists proud of their children's knowledge of dinosaurs, and folks who believe different things about global warming in different contexts. Snapshot questions only suggest what group beliefs are.

  • http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com Assistant Village Idiot

    What people mean by the WMD answer is unclear. Saddam indisputably had WMD at an earlier date. Also, some of those were found after 2003. If that is what is meant, then the WMD believers should number closer to 100%.

    However, what we discovered was so much less than what was predicted as to make the "we didn't find any" belief roughly accurate.

    On the other, other hand, we found lots of very nasty stuff, including forbidden missile-delivery systems, chemical components, and programs. Additionally, we found that records had been destroyed. On that score, someone could legitimately say "we didn't find gold, but we found silver," and answer the WMD question in the affirmative.

    So I would be among the 30% saying "yes, we found WMD" on a yes-no poll question, though I would qualify that answer in a discussion.

    To the main point, people also believe contradictory things, mostly because they don't think about them very hard. There are creationists proud of their children's knowledge of dinosaurs, and folks who believe different things about global warming in different contexts. Snapshot questions only suggest what group beliefs are.

  • Art

    IBD 2/24/06:

    "In a tape dating to April 1995, Saddam and several aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had found traces of Iraq's biological weapons program. On the tape, Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, is heard gloating about fooling the inspectors.

    "We did not reveal all that we have," he says. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct."

    There's more. Indeed, as late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD.

    This is particularly troubling, since it indicates an active, ongoing attempt by Saddam to build an Iraqi nuclear bomb.

    "What was most disturbing," said John Tierney, the ex- FBI agent who translated the tapes, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission (or UNSCOM, the group set up to look into Iraq's WMD programs)."

    Perhaps most chillingly, the tapes record Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz talking about how easy it would be to set off a WMD in Washington. The comments come shortly after Saddam muses about using "proxies" in a terror attack."

    http://www.investors.com/editorial/IBDArticles.asp?artsec=20&artnum=1&issue=20060224

  • Chris

    Unfortunately the way they ask questions in polls can dramatically change the results. I got a call last night and went through a poll for the first time in years.

    First question:

    Are you extremely worried, very worried, worried, not so worried, not at all worried that a hurricane will hit your area this year? (I live in South Florida).

    I asked if they wanted to know if I was "worried" about hurricanes or if they wanted to know my feelings towards the probability of a hit. I am not at all worried but do believe the probability is there.

    She responded by repeating the question verbatim - "I am sorry sir, I can only ask the question as written".

    I wish I knew how they interpeted my answer.

    This went on for 20 minutes.

    On the bright side she probably put me on some type of do-not-survey list.