9/11 Conspiracies And Polls

If you’re thinking about investing in that new tinfoil hat manufacturing firm, this would seem to be a pretty good time to invest:

“More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/ Ohio University poll. The national survey of 1,010 adults found that anger against the federal government is at record levels.

Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that federal officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them “because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”

Yes, 36% of Americans believe, in Democratic Underground speak, that Bush LIHOP (Let it happen on purpose) or MIHOP (Made it happen on purpose).

After looking at these depressing numbers, I went looking for the Demographics, so that I could at least reassure myself that there were a lot more liberals who believe this nonsense than conservatives. Unfortunately, the link to the file containing the demographics seemed to be broken, but I did come across something else that was interesting.

Apparently, about 35%-40% of Americans will believe just about any halfway plausible sounding conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. Here are some more polling numbers from Scripps-Howard:

38% of Americans think it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that the, “federal government is withholding proof of the existence of intelligent life from others planets?”

40% of Americans think it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that, “Officials in the federal government were directly responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy.”

What does this mean? Do the same 40% of people believe every conspiracy theory? Are there different people who believe in each one? What are the consequences of this? Why don’t we see people, hundreds of thousands of people marching in the streets, demanding that Bush be put on trial for treason?

Personally, I think this just goes to show you the limitations of polls. If you believe the Scripps-Howard numbers, there are around 100 million Americans who you’d think would applaud a Senator calling for Bush’s impeachment and trial for treason over 9/11. So, why aren’t there pols running on this as a campaign issue?

Because most of the people who believe this nonsense, believe it based on some silly conspiracy website, something they heard third hand, or they’ve decided it’s true based on feeling. They know they don’t have much to back up what they believe and just aren’t sure enough of what they think to make decisions on it. On the other hand, the people on the other side are armed with facts, know it’s absolutely not true, and are willing to speak up and say so.

This is where people who rely heavily on polling information blow it over and over again. Yes, polls are very useful, but they don’t accurately measure the depth of feeling people have about an issue. That’s why there are times when a politician will benefit politically from voting against an issue that 60-70% of the public favors. If people want to go a certain way, but don’t feel strongly about it, they won’t have nearly as much impact as a smaller group of voters who are passionate. That’s why you’ve always got to take poll numbers with a big grain of salt.

Also see,

Popular Mechanics — 9/11: Debunking The Myths

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