Naked City

Fair, Balanced, Inaccurate

Color us surprised: Readers may have read about several polls conducted this year showing that about 60% of Americans held at least one of three major misconceptions about the war in Iraq: that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq; that evidence of Iraq/al Qaeda links had been found; and that world opinion favored the U.S. attacking Iraq. Now, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the U. of Maryland, and the polling firm Knowledge Networks, which conducted the polls, have further analyzed the results and found that the misperceptions vary widely according an individuals' choice of news sources.

Among those who listed Fox News as their primary source of news, 80% held at least one of the three misperceptions. Among those relying on NPR or PBS, only 23% had the facts wrong. For print sources and the other major TV networks, misperceptions landed between 47% and 71%. Also unsurprising: Such misperceptions appear to be strongly connected to support for the war. Of those who had none of the misperceptions, only 23% nonetheless supported the war. Of those who held at least one, 53% were war supporters; two, 78%; and all three, 86%.

PIPA Director Steven Kull said, "While we cannot assert that these misperceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Iraq War, war, Iraq, Al Qaeda, Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland, Knowledge Networks, Fox News, NPR, PBS, Steven Kull

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