Who Really Thinks Saddam Was Personally Involved?
Examining Changes in Misperceptions about the Iraq War


Lee B. Becker, Allan L. McCutcheon, and Tudor Vlad


The level of misunderstanding or misperceptions on the part of the public about the rationale for the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been prominent in both the scientific and popular discussion of public opinion about the war. Critics of the war have argued that the public misunderstood basic facts about the war from the beginning and that public support for the war would have been lower had these facts been known. Often the media have been blamed for those misperceptions.

Robert Greenwald’s film, “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s W ar on Journalism,” is but one example of this critique. The film blames Fox News in particular for the misperceptions about the war. The scientific evidence used by Greenwald to make this case comes from a series of surveys conducted in 2003 for the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland (Kull, Ramsay & Lewis, 2003-04).

Misperceptions about key aspects of the war in Iraq have persisted. For example, in March of 2006, PIPA reported that 23% of the population still believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) before the War began and that 14% believed that Iraq was “directly involved in carrying out the September 11 attacks” on the U.S. (Kull, th 2006). A Gallup Poll in March of 2006 (Moore, 2006) showed that nearly four in 10 of the U.S. adult population believed that Saddam Hussein was “personally” involved in the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in September of 2001.

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