There's an amazingly revealing survey out by PIPA (U. of Maryland) titled, "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters." In general, the findings show something that should not come as a surprise: Bush supporters maintain fantastically inaccurate views of reality in the world.
It's worth reprinting entire segments from the study below:
In recent months the American public has been presented reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the heads of the Iraq survey group David Kay and Charles Duelfer (chosen by the president), concluding that before the war Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor even a significant program for developing them. Nonetheless, 72% of Bush supporters continued to hold to the view that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Only 26% of Kerry supporters hold such beliefs.
Furthermore, 56% of Bush supporters (as compared to 18% of Kerry supporters) believe that most experts say that Iraq did have actual WMD, and another 18% say that the experts’ views are evenly divided on the subject. Only 23% think that most experts believe Iraq did not have WMD. Though this poll was taken immediately after chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer delivered his report to Congress on whether Iraq had WMD, a majority of Bush supporters misperceived the conclusions of his report. Fifty-seven percent believed that that he concluded that Iraq did have either WMD (19%) or a major program for developing them (38%).
Despite the report of the 9/11 Commission saying there is no evidence Iraq was providing significant support to al Qaeda, 75% of Bush supporters believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda (30% of Kerry supporters), with 20% believing that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11. Sixty-three percent of Bush supporters even believe that clear evidence of this support has been found, while 85% of Kerry supporters believe the opposite.
Asked in August what the 9/11 Commission had concluded, 55% of Bush supporters said that it had concluded that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Twenty-seven percent of Kerry supporters assumed this to be the case.
This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. One of these is world public opinion. Despite a steady flow of official statements, public demonstrations, and public opinion polls showing that the US war against Iraq is quite unpopular, only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Rather, 68% assume that views are evenly divided (42%) or that the majority favors it (26%). Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority is opposed (evenly divided, 20%, majority favors it, 5%).
Bush supporters also believe that world public opinion favors Bush’s reelection. In a September 3-7 PIPA/KN poll, 57% of Bush supporters assumed that the majority of people in the world would prefer to see Bush reelected, 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. Kerry supporters held the opposite view, with only 1% assuming a preference for Bush, 30% thinking that views are equally divided, and 69% assuming that Kerry would be preferred.
International polls have found a strong preference for Kerry. Polling conducted by GlobeScan and PIPA (summer 2004) of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30 countries a majority or plurality preferred to see Kerry elected president, while 3 countries favored Bush. On average, 46% favored Kerry while 20% favored Bush. Most recently, a September-October 2004 poll in 10 countries conducted by an ad hoc group of ten international newspapers (see www.cyberpresse.ca) found majorities or pluralities preferring Kerry in eight countries and Bush in two.
When asked (September 3-7) about world public opinion on US foreign policy under the Bush administration, 82% of Bush supporters believed that a world majority either feels better about the US due to its recent foreign policy (37%), or thought views are about evenly divided (45%). Only 17% thought that a majority now feels worse about the US. Among Kerry supporters, 86% thought a majority now feels worse about the US and 12% thought views were evenly divided (feels better, 2%).
In fact, in the GlobeScan poll of 35 countries, in 30 countries a majority or plurality said “the foreign policy of George W. Bush” had made them “feel worse about the United States” (feel better: 3 countries). On average, 53% said they felt worse about the US while 19% said they felt better. Most recently, in the 10-country poll just cited, in eight out of ten countries majorities said that “over the course of the last two or three years” their “opinion toward the US has worsened.”
Bush supporters have numerous misperceptions about Bush’s international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assumed that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues—the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%); 51% incorrectly assumed he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty--the principal international accord on global warming. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he opposed it increased from 24% to 38% among Bush supporters, but a majority of supporters (53%) continued to believe that he favors it. Only 13% of supporters are aware that he opposes labor and environmental standards in trade agreements – 74% incorrectly believe that he favors including labor and environmental standards in agreements on trade.
Kerry supporters were much more accurate in assessing their candidate’s positions on all these issues. Majorities knew that Kerry favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (81%); the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (77%); the International Criminal Court (65%); the land mines treaty (79%); and the Kyoto Treaty on climate change (74%). They also knew that he favors continuing research on missile defense without deploying a system now (68%), and wants the UN, not the US, to take the stronger role in developing Iraq’s new government (80%). A plurality of 43% was correct that Kerry favors keeping defense spending the same, with 35% assuming he wants to cut it and 18% to expand it.
When attempts are made to make sense of this split in perceived reality, the authors of the report state (politely, I might add):
Why are Bush supporters holding so clinging so tightly to beliefs that have been so visibly refuted? As discussed, one key possible explanation for why Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had WMD or a major WMD program, and supported al Qaeda is that they continue to hear the Bush administration confirming these beliefs. Another possible explanation is that Bush supporters cling to these beliefs because they are necessary for their support for the decision to go to war with Iraq.
To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions is difficult to bear, especially in light of the continuing costs in terms of lives and money. Apparently, to avoid this cognitive dissonance, Bush supporters suppress awareness of unsettling information.
So why do Bush supporters show such a resistance to accepting dissonant information? While it is normal for people to show some resistance, the magnitude of the denial goes beyond the ordinary.
Hmmm, seems like one big, fat case of denial spurred on by an opportunistic, less-than-scrupulous administration.
"Yeah, yeah, four more years! Four more years!"