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Troubling poll results

I saw a pointer earlier to these poll results from Rasmussen:

Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.

Republicans reject that view and, by a 7-to-1 margin, say the President did not know in advance about the attacks. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 18% believe the President knew and 57% take the opposite view.

First of all, I find it amazing that 1 in 7 Republicans believes that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened. Obviously these poll results can be used to bash Democrats, but nobody should kid themselves into thinking that the numbers wouldn’t be reversed if a Democrat were President. What percentage of Republicans believed that Bill Clinton had Vince Foster whacked for reasons that elude me to this day?

What astounds me is that a good percentage of people from across the political spectrum are willing to believe anything. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone in the US government knew that terrorists were planning to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings on September 11, 2001. So why do so many people believe it?

Maybe what this poll tells us is that what people really fear is things being beyond our control. That it’s scarier to live in a world where terrorists can strike the United States without our being able to detect the plan and respond to it than it is to live in a world where the President knew we were going to be attacked and let it happen for some nefarious reason. Maybe people just watch too much 24.

6 Comments

  1. I think some of this depends on how the poll defined (or the poll-takers defined for themselves) “knew about.”

    If it meant “had specific knowledge of the time, place and method,” then you’re absolutely right to be amazed.

    If it meant “had been told of the increased threat from AQ leading into the Fall, including the likelihood of the attack using planes, and the increased ‘chatter’ picked up by intelligence services, but chose to ignore/dismiss it” (all pretty much well-established at this point), then I’d say they knew — and I suspect you would, too.

  2. In all seriousness I think you can attribute much of this to “documentaries” such as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and the fact that crazy conspiracy kooks get air time on major media outlets.

    Heck…I know people that believe they’ll have bad luck if they don’t forward an e-mail to 10 friends, I doubt they’ll have much trouble believing the most powerful man in the world knew about a terrorist attack in advance. Didn’t we know about Pearl Harbor in advance? heck, I even think there is a conspiracy out there about the Lusitania.

  3. Good point regarding the wording of the poll questions. I tried to find the exact wording at the Rasmussen site, but I didn’t have any luck.

    I did watch Fahrenheit 9/11 and I don’t remember it alleging that Bush had foreknowledge of the attacks. I think that clearly there’s a lot of disinformation out there (including some in Michael Moore’s documentary), but I don’t think that it’s the cause of people buying into this sort of speculation.

  4. Perhaps this comic strip will help explain it:

    http://xkcd.com/c258.html

  5. W.P. Fleischmann

    May 7, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I suspect/fear that the wording is exactly that ambiguous phrasing which appears in the upper left of the Rasmussen page: “Did Bush Know About the 9/11 Attacks in Advance?”

  6. “Bin Laden determined to attack within the United States” is the title of a memo that has made it through all kinds of media channels.

    Quite frankly, I’m very upset that 6 of 7 Republicans don’t count this as confirmation that the President wilfully ignored warnings about 9/11.

    On the other hand, I tend to accuse people who try to keep things secret. If the administration had been open about their handling of 9/11, I believe the numbers would be very different.

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