Bush Voters Were Truly Misinformed

“Why did you come to Casablanca, Rick?”
“I came here for the ocean”
“What ocean? we’re in the desert.”
“I was misinformed.”

This famous dialogue from the 1942 hit movie Casablanca, could also be written for a Bush voter: they really were misinformed. Checkout these numbers from the University of Maryland Program on International Policy Atttitudes (PIPA). This is NOT some partisan group, indeed the PIPA is underwritten by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation, hardly ultra-left-wing organizations. The following can be found in the updated edition of John Dean’s Worse Than Watergate (pg. 203-04).

72% of Bush voters believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Only 26% of Kerry voters had this misconception.

Although the well-publicized Duelfur report had said that there were no WMD’s in Iraq, 57% of Bush voters thought Duelfer had reported exactly the opposite. Only 23% of Kerry supporters had this misimpression.

Despite the widely reported findings of the 9/11 Commission that there was no evidence that Iraq provided any significant support to Al Qaeda, 75% of Bush voters believed Iraq had provided such support, only 30% of Kerry supporters had this information wrong.

It gets worse. 51% of Bush voters believed that Bush “is addressing global warming” while an overwhelming majority of Bush voters believed Bush supports “multilateral approaches.”

There is a silver lining here, and it may help explain Bush’s re-election as well as his drop in popularity (Katrina notwithstanding): Both Kerry and Bush supporters agreed that the United States should not have gone to war if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or if there was no support of al Qaeda by Saddam.”

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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15 Responses to Bush Voters Were Truly Misinformed

  1. Ginny in CO says:


    Makes me think of an old Navy joke about what the sailors who were going to be stationed on Adak Island on the Aleutian Chain were told:

    “There’s a woman behind every tree” Un-huh, There are NO TREES on Adak.

    We do WANT to believe….

  2. Ron Chusid says:

    From The Unofficial Kerry For President Blog, October 22, 2004:

    Study Verifies Bush Supporters Poorly Informed

    A study conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) verifies what those of us who have communicated with Bush supporters have long realized as to the Bush supporters being poorly informed on the issues.

    PIPA, a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, found that Bush supporters tend to have many beliefs about international affairs which differ substantially from the facts, while Kerry supporters have a better knowledge of the facts:

    Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

    Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

    These are some of the findings of a new study of the differing perceptions of Bush and Kerry supporters, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, based on polls conducted in September and October.

    Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, “One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them. Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree.” Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or that Iraq had a major WMD program (19%). Likewise, 75% say that the Bush administration is saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Equally large majorities of Kerry supporters hear the Bush administration expressing these views–73% say the Bush administration is saying Iraq had WMD (11% a major program) and 74% that Iraq was substantially supporting al Qaeda.

    Steven Kull adds, “Another reason that Bush supporters may hold to these beliefs is that they have not accepted the idea that it does not matter whether Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda. Here too they are in agreement with Kerry supporters.” Asked whether the US should have gone to war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should not have, and 61% assume that in this case the President would not have. Kull continues, “To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq.”

    This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence–including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries–only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.

    Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would favor Bush’s reelection; 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.

    Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush’s international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues–the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%)–and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on these issues.

    “The roots of the Bush supporters’ resistance to information,” according to Steven Kull, “very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters–and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters.”

  3. Teresa says:

    I say they are congenitally confused.

  4. Ron Chusid says:

    “Both Kerry and Bush supporters agreed that the United States should not have gone to war if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or if there was no support of al Qaeda by Saddam.”

    Note that the PIPA study was cited on the Unofficial Kerry Blog in October, prior to the election. The facts were out there.

    Months later, and there are still many Republican blogs which insist that WMD has been found in Iraq, and that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

    There’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. One more example was in the interview with Colin Powell conducted by Barbara Walters and televised Friday. It is clear from the interview that Powell now realilzes there was no WMD, and never believed there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11.

    For another example of how misinformed people are, I posted another poll earlier this year which not only showed these misconceptions, but showed that many people even believed that most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq.

  5. Teresa Says: September 9th, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    “I say they are congenitally confused.”

    ROFLMAO! And then some!

  6. Ben Mercadante says:

    I did not need PIPA to tell me that, though very interesting numbers, and not surprising. I also agree that the fear conditioning after 9/11 has been a large factor in their need to feel safe. No matter that the information was avaliabe, it is all about the messenger these days ( maybe we should killl the messenger) If these people are only listening to FOX and other cable networks at best they will get disinformation and with FOX misinformation or spinning that would get a whirling Dervish dizzy.I spent 4 weeks going door to door as precinct leader for Moveon / Kerry support team. That was our job. We were initially to have swing voter targets, but many were flat out republican households, and it was like being in another country talking to these folks …also some of the swings were very conservative. On a qualitative note of observation, it seemed these people were also very reticent to view new data, and I do not believe their insular behavior would allow them to do so, or others in the household. At times it could get quite uncomfortable, but when people do not wish your rather aggressive advance ( just knocking on a complete stranger’s door to discuss politics is seen as rather aggressive here in the South) I hardly think they will seek out the truth on their own. So as long as the disinformers continue to plague the airwaves it will be much eaiser to box themselvers into believing the weekly dished out republican talking points and mantras. Of course I ran into a few individuals that were responsive to our literature, which was well scribed and presented clearly. For the rest, I do not know what the answer is, or as my dad used to say: ” If you are giong to be stupid, well then you had better be tough” … (a truism i had to prove out several times during my life’s journey).
    Maybe these people are looking for a few more black eyes before they give up the ghost. I believe in an eairler post someone spoke of personality type differences betwen conservatives and liberals, well I think it applies here when we go looking for the answers.

  7. DuvalDem says:

    Just a slight quibble with your quote from “Casablanca.” Rick [Bogart] doesn’t say ‘ocean.’ For the record here’s the actual quote:

    “Why did you come to Casablanca, Rick?”
    “I came here for the waters”
    “What waters? we’re in the desert.”
    “I was misinformed.”

    Sorry for the correction, but I’m a huge Bogart fan [who btw was a great Democrat] and “Casablanca” happens to be my favorite movie of all time.


  8. Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, it was definately “waters.” I saw that too but there was so much to say on the topic I didn’t bother noting that error. However I agree that ultimately the record should be set straight on the Bogart quote as well as witih the misinformed views of Bush supporters.

  9. Ginny in CO says:

    Killing the messengers is SO tempting. Except for a few we would like to torture first.

    Ok, Higher ground, We will only toss around a few comments to ease the mental anguish, not actually sink to that level.

    Wow, Door to Door in the South for MoveOn. One of the real heroes of the ’04 effort. Hat tip and a bow to you. The good advice from your Dad 🙂 and that you obviously learned those lessons some have to take over and over, must have helped a lot.

    I have to believe that even though you felt rejection then, some of those people are watching this tragedy and starting to wonder, think, lay awake at night. You planted seeds that are likely to start germinating.

    The South has been the GOP base so solidly, any Electoral College votes from those states had been written off for the forseeable future. Katrina might change that.

    We all need to develop our insight into what might nourish those seedlings to grow and spread. I highly recommend two important books and a national movement we should be aware of.

    First, Tony Campolo “Speaking My Mind” – a must read for those struggling to understand the Religious Right’s disconnect from the New Testament teachings. Campola and Jim Wallis – “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It”- are part of the growing number of Evangelical Christians trying to get the mic away from the questionable leaders and followers of GOP Religious base.

    Wallis formed Call to Renewal before the ’04 election. A national federation of churches and faith-based organizations working together to overcome poverty by changing the direction of public policy. They want to support candidates who are truly committed to the teachings of Jesus, regardless of party. And they aren’t happy with either party.

    Although I get peeved about the charges of Democrats deriding religion or not brandishing it enough; I understand the perspective is out there, deserved or not.
    These kinds of movements are more likely than we are to break down the barriers to communication. Supporting them and working on how we talk about religion and faith are some initial steps to rebuilding this bridge.

    If you want an awesome example that Evangelicism, open mindedness and intelligence are really possible in one person, try David Dark, “The Gospel According to America”. You will learn things about the Bible, American culture and literature that are well worth getting used to his complicated writing style. (And I haven’t even fininished it).

    The religious component of this inability to consider new facts is the biggest hurdle.
    Getting over and around it will take a lot of respectful, compassionate reaching out.
    And a lot of forgiving. Until we do that, the bitterness will continue to keep us stranded and unable to move forward.

    Give us more input Ben, If knocking on doors to talk politics in the South is considered aggressive, can we try having information sessions in libraries, or some other way to reach out without offending?

  10. Ben Mercadante says:


    Well I am sure many people have become disenchanted with their vote but it is hard to say if they have left altogether, and of course you don’t want people to get totally apathetic. The 3rd book sounds very interesting
    I certainly need to educate myself in these matters, as religiousity is not one of my strong points. Though i like spirituality, there is a great Greg Brown song on his “Slant six mind ” CD, it is about a small rural evangelical group and their strong ties, it actually gave me a whole new outlook on these folks, with a very positive spin. But, when discussing these subjects with the religious, I just usually respond with what I believe the founding fathers ment when they spoke of seperation of church and state and how important it is to maintain the seperation and of course how in the end it really protects those who seek a religious tie in their life. And of course I really am sincere in my belief of the seperation. The big stumbling block down here is : “the baby killers, and queer lovers” usually the extreme types take a very hard stance on these particular issues, for them this is the root of moral values, or where it starts. The moderates don’t care if you do it, you will just be going to hell , not them…but the stumbling block with these people is the spendong of federal funds when it comes to abortion. Many people speak of how the democrats will need to address this issue, it has been around for some time now. Of course the genuine imput by democrats historically to help those in need and to assist the working poor in achieving an equalibrium I think is still reconized by most, but I think we have somehow dropped the ball and need to focus on these issues again. But I still do not think humanitarianism alone will draw this highly religious sector in no matter what denomination. Of course that is not the reasoning in pursuing these ends, as they are the moral responsibility of a just and civil society, if in fact that is what we strive to be. I also would like to point out racisim, the subtle and the overt. It is the subtle stuff that does the most damage, because there is more of it, and it is hard to recognize, even in ourselves, so it is hard to correct. But I believe whoever is to lead this nation, America really needs to “catch up” to the rest of the world concerning race, and not that they are doing that much better . We really do have so much work to do, it is staggering to think about it at times. But I think if everyone would consider it all, understand where the crossover exists, exploit where you can while focusing on the issue that you feel the most connection with, you may make a dent…all of us together will overcome it. I really am interested in the David Clark book, think I will do some look see on that one. Ginny you sound well versed in some of the troubles the dems have with religion, your knowledge and consideration should be used wisely. I do like your idea of forgiveness, there is a whole bunch of that needed these days, but at the same time the determination of several of these imporant issues should never be over looked. Thanks for the info on the books, I still get more excited about a good book then some new software, so you know what generation I’m from.

  11. Forgiveness is key in everything.

  12. Nick says:

    DevalDem and Ben

    Thanks for the correction, I appreciate it. Come to think of it, my conflation of “water” with “ocean” is kinda like a Bush voter who conflated Saddam with Al Qaeda.
    Ben, what state in the South are you in? Why do YOU think the SOuth is so Republican? My own theory is that folks like Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ralph Yarborough, and a few others notwithstanding, white southern voters have voted “Conservative” for generations, it was only since the 1950s that voting “conservative” became synonuymous with voting GOP.

  13. Ginny in Co says:


    If I were reading just for my own enjoyment, David Dark is definitely the best.

    What really helps as far as Campola’s “Speaking My Mind” is that he addresses the issues of abortion and gay relationships. He so candid, he admits that his wife disagrees with him! (He thinks relationships are ok if they are celibate, yet considers it a great tempation. His wife does not think celibacy is necessary.)

    I don’t expect any major or sudden exodus. I do see the evangelicals who are not in these mindsets as more able to approach some of the other evangelicals. However, Dark and Campola both have had a lot of rejection and I think some of it is even worse than those of us who are main line Christian or a completely different religion/faith, etc.

    The latter group includes me. Having grown up outside the Trinitarian Doctrine, I swear my brain works differently. When the ‘think outside the box’ phrase surfaced, I decided the problem was I never had the box put on. My problem is thinking INSIDE the box.

    Off digressing, Campolo’s book might be something to keep in mind for someone who is searching for other ways to think about the tougher issues. If I can, I point out that the Quakers pay a singnificant amount of every tax dollar supporting the military they don’t believe in. The fraction of a penny that evangelicals might contribute to abortions is hardly calculable.

    My start in activism was from my parents’ involvement in the civil rights movement. The racism thing is still a huge issue for me. Compared to Europe, we are so far behind … It is still a lot to do to make that dent. And the more we know/understand, the less difficult it will be.

    I am a bibliophile. Could spend a whole year on my list. I see a few movies but mostly on DVD. Give me a book from my list and time to read it – you have made my week!

  14. Teresa says:

    I am not so sure we are that far behind Europe in racism. Tha Arab problem there is huge and I think in some countries the overall racism still exists in a big way.

  15. Ben Mercadante says:


    Florida… is a demographic twist compared to the traditional “deep south” culture and mantality. I agree most southerners voted to the conservative side no matter what party. I think the big shift came in 1960, a papist president and then Johnsons stand concerning civil rights ( although I was much to young to know what was going on during the 64′ race) that is my historical take. Fl is a strange place, I had actually heard the word papist used in conversation at times growing uo…a 15th century terminology. The fact is St. Augustine the oldest city in the united states was founded by papist, and is to this day dominated by papist culture. At any rate we do have a slice of variety here, but conservatism is king ( for now). I just read in the paper this morning that college enrolement is down for the 7th year in a row…while over all enrolement is up 3%. ” jeb” and his bunch have again set lower standards for the community in yet another catagory, Florida is 4th in population I an assuming rather wealthy yet we are at somewhere in the LOW forties in educational standings. I think tis reflects their robbing the poor to give to the rich, and I believe this kind of social Darwinism is has been gainning popularity nation wide.