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Poll: U.S. Public Uninformed of Iraq Issues

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A new poll has found that 45% of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq and 57% believe Hussein gave substantial support to Al Qaeda despite no known documentary or physical evidence to date that these statements are true. [includes rush transcript]

A new poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland has found that 45 percent of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq and 57% believe Hussein gave substantial support to Al Qaeda.

There’s no known documentary or physical evidence to date that these statements are true.

Former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay testified before Congress in January that no weapons were found and prewar intelligence on Iraq was “almost all wrong.”

CIA Director George Tenet last month rejected assertions by Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq had cooperated with al-Qaida.

Other senior officials including Richard Clarke and Hans Blix as well as various intelligence analysts and whistleblowers have also come forward.

Despite that record, many Americans continue to believe that the threat from Iraqi weapons and its alleged links to terrorism justified the war. The poll also found that that conviction correlates closely with support for the war and President Bush.

  • Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. PIPA carries out research on public opinion on foreign policy and international issues by conducting nationwide polls, focus groups and comprehensive reviews of polling conducted by other organizations.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Steven Kull, Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, carrying out the research on public opinion on foreign policy. Can you talk about this — these finds?

STEVEN KULL: Well, it’s really quite striking in this current environment that basically the majority of Americans have not gotten the message, even with the recent statements by Richard Clarke, David Kay, Hans Blix and others. Americans not only don’t know that there’s no evidence supporting the idea that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda or Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or even a major program for developing them, but they also don’t know that most experts are saying the contrary. Only 15% think that the experts mostly agree that Iraq was not providing substantial support to al Qaeda. 82% think that experts either — mostly agree Iraq was providing substantial support or are divided on the question.

STEVEN KULL: Well, it’s also very striking that these perceptions, these beliefs about Iraq are highly related to not only attitudes about the war, but also attitudes about who to vote for for President. And the analysis of the data suggests that if there were significant shifts in perceptions of what actually happened in prewar Iraq, that this could have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.

AMY GOODMAN: Steve Kull, I want to thank you very much for being with us, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. And you are listening to Democracy Now!

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