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Bush Supporters' Misperceptions:

I just ran across a poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland (a group that calls itself nonpartisan, that apparently is regarded as nonpartisan, and whose board contains both Republicans and Democrats). I find its results stunning. Rather than summarize them, I'll just quote from their press release. The full study (which is fascinating) is available here.

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.

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.

Hold aside for a moment the implications of this poll for the Bush administration. Isn't it disappointing for so many supporters of any presidential candidate to have such misperceptions on issues as central as these?

Political Ignorance:

Regarding Stuart Benjamin's post below, the study he cites is just one example of the broader problem of political ignorance, well-documented by my colleague Ilya Somin. Since, as I recall, studies show that conservatives are overall better-informed than are liberals, I suspect that the study Stuart cites is an artifact of two factors: (1)Bush supporters are inclined to think well of Bush, Kerry supporters are not. Part of thinking well of Bush is to think that people around the world think well of him and his actions; part of disliking Bush is the opposite. So, when pollsters ask Americans whether they think most of the world supports Bush and his actions, most Bush supporters and most Kerry supporters, being politically ignorant, won't know. The Bush supporters will guess "yes," the Kerry supporters "no." If I'm correct, this is not a reflection of greater ignorance on the part of Bush supporters, just worse guessing. (2) Most people have no idea what global climate treaties, land mine treaties, the International Criminal Court, etc., involve. But they all sound good to an ignorant voter. So, if an ignorant Bush supporter is asked whether Bush supports these treaties, he will likely say yes. That doesn't mean that the Bush supporter has any idea of what these things are, or whether he would actually support these things if he knew about them. Rather, the average Bush voter is as (or perhaps more) rationally ignorant about the content of these international agreements as he is about whether his candidate supports them.

The fact that people tend to be much more knowledgeable about things that they can actually affect as individuals than they are about presidential politics is one good reason for limiting the size and scope of the federal government.

UPDATE: Kaimi Wenger, I've just learned, posted a similar analysis on the Tutissima Cassis blog yesterday.

Voter misperceptions:

I think I'm with David Bernstein on this. I suspect that voters of all political stripes have many misperceptions; and of course their misperceptions align with their political views — they're more likely to believe things that they'd like to be true.

My guess, for instance, is that more Democrats than Republicans erroneously think that by not renewing the assault weapons ban, Congress (1) legalized automatic weapons — it didn't, since the ban was only on semiautomatics, guns which are not materially different from guns that have been legal throughout this time — or that (2) assault weapons play a role in the majority or even a large minority of crimes (the actual number seems to be around 4% or less). That's just an example; my point is simply that Republicans have their likely errors and Democrats have theirs.

Any such errors are of course unfortunate; but I have no reason to think that the errors generally are more common among one side than to another. It's possible to show that one side of the political divide is indeed more prone to such errors than the other: You'd need to do a study which includes errors that would seem appealing to each side, and then see whether Republicans fall for the errors that would tempt them, and the Democrats resist those that would tempt them. But I haven't seen any such study, and the study cited in the post below certainly doesn't try to do this sort of balanced analysis.

UPDATE: Kaimi Wenger (Tutissima Cassis) has more.

Republicans and Political Ignorance, Continued:

Readers have asked about my evidence for the proposition that conservatives are generally better informed about politics than are liberals. I was likely recalling the following chart, posted on the VC several months ago:

Political Knowledge by Strength of Party Identification
2000 National Election Study
Self-Described Party Alignment / Average Political Knowledge Score
(Average number of correct answers on 31 point scale)
"Strong Republican / 18.7
"Independent-Republican / 15.7
"Strong Democrat / 15.4
"Independent-Democrat / 14.2
"Weak Republican/ 14.1
"Weak Democrat / 13.3
"Independent-Independent / 9.5

If being a strong Democrat is highly correlated with being liberal, and being a strong Republican is highly correlated with being conservative, than based on this data, my statement was likely correct, though I am open to a contrary showing.

"Bush Voters Are Stupid":

Cathy Young debunks the "Bush Voters are Stupid" Meme in the Boston Globe.

No Anti-Semitism Here...: Folks on the Left have been throwing around the term "Likudnik" to refer to any non-left-wing Jew who differs with them on foreign policy [UPDATE: Case in point], even when the relevant issue has nothing directly to do with Israel, Iraq being exhibit A (to the extent the insinuation is that these Jews supported the Iraq war to promote right-wing Israeli policies, I will reiterate the point that the Israeli military, diplomatic, and political establishment all urged the Bush Administration to focus its attention on Iran, not Iraq; besides, to the extent the right-wing Likud was pleased with the Iraq invasion, the left-wing Labor Party and the moderate Shinnui were equally pleased--Saddam Hussein didn't exactly have a big fan club in Israel). [UPDATE: The same Jewish--and non-Jewish--neoconservatives who supported war in Iraq strongly supported military action in Bosnia, but I have yet to hear about the "Likudniks" pushing the Clinton Administration into that war.]

Not surprisingly, the phrase "Likudnik" is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one doesn't like. Case in point, an email from one Matthew Hess sent to Eugene and me, thoughtfully, albeit tendentiously, critiquing a Cathy Young column I cited earlier this week, arguing that Bush voters are not "dumb." UPDATE: It turns out that the "thoughtful critique" noted above comes from the blog "Lean Left," not from the email author. The author cut and pasted the "Lean Left" critique without identifying it.

Despite the fact that this particular controversy has exactly nothing to do with Israel, the email, which was otherwise polite, ended, "You are two dumb Likudnik monkeys." [UPDATE: To clarify, this was the email author's invention, and has nothing to do with "Lean Left."]

For all I know, Matthew Hess is himself Jewish, but it's irrelevant. "Likudnik" has become a term of disapprobium analogous to the term "Uncle Tom" for non-left-wing blacks. Just like it's assumed that moderate, conservative, and libertarian blacks must not be thinking for themselves, but instead serving "the Man," so moderate, conservative, and libertarian Jews must be serving the interests of right-wing Israelis (the obvious difference is that left-wing culture values African American self-interest and nationalism, while left-wing culture values Jews and Judaism only to the extent they are put in the service of internationalism and humanist causes.) "Authentic" Jews are Karl Marx (even though he was born and raised a Christian and was an anti-Semite), Emma Goldman, Schwerner and Goodman, et. al, while only "Likudniks," i.e., Jews who have been blinded to the right and the good by nationalism, could possibly not be left-wing.

Well, the Left (along with the Washington Post, which used the term in a major article attacking Bush Admnistration neonconservatives) has let this particular anti-Semitic genie out of the bottle, and it's their responsibility to put it back in. Let's start by having a moratorium on the term "Likudnik" to refer to anyone but actual, declared supporters of Likud (I'm actually a Shinuinik, if anything), and only when they are supporting or justifying a policy on Israel-related affairs.

UPDATE: Pejman, who agrees with me, eviscerates a critic in his comments section.
Likudnik, Part II:

Kevin Drum writes:

ANTI-SEMITISM....This is getting tiresome. It has long been a staple on the right that most criticism of Israel is really just thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Then after 9/11 we began hearing that criticism of neocons was just thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Now David Bernstein comes along to tell us that use of the term "Likudnik" is just thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

Here's what I actually wrote:

Folks on the Left have been throwing around the term "Likudnik" to refer to any non-left-wing Jew who differs with them on foreign policy, even when the relevant issue has nothing directly to do with Israel, Iraq being exhibit A.... Not surprisingly, the phrase "Likudnik" is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one doesn't like. Case in point, an email from one Matthew Hess...

To give Kevin the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume that this is somehow unclear, so I will explain: "throwing around the term" implies carelessness, and I don't say anything about this carelessness being anti-Semitism, nor to I ever state that "use of the term 'Likudnik' is just thinly veiled anti-Semitism." However, I do argue that because folks are throwing around the term "Likudnik" carelessly, it's "not surprising" that the term is "gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term."

I then given an example, which Kevin imprecisely describes as "a dumb email [Bernstein] received that used the term both incorrectly and insultingly." Judging from the comments section to Kevin's blog, most of his readers apparently assumed that this "dumb email" had something to do with Israel. It did not; it had to do with a Cathy Young column that disputed the "Bush voters are dumb" line. The author of the email cut and pasted a critique of Young from another blog, and then commented re Eugene (who, btw, had not commented on the Young column) and me: "You are two dumb Likudnik monkeys." "Likudnik" "gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term." Kevin says, "Let's leave charges of anti-Semitism for actual anti-Semitism." So, Kevin, was this anti-Semitism (or, the way I would prefer to phrase it, an example of prejudice against Jews), or not? Or does calling someone a "dumb Likudnik monkey" when the topic at hand has nothing to do with foreign policy, much less Israel, merely reflect Kevin's point that "it's hardly surprising that most Americans aren't familiar with the minutiae of right-wing Israeli politics"?

Kevn adds:

I have no doubt that some anti-Semites do indeed use these terms as ways of expressing their views in more socially acceptable ways. But what are the rest of us supposed to do? These groups and their supporters are all perfectly legitimate targets of criticism and I'm getting tired of the hyper-PC right suggesting otherwise. Using "Likudnik" as a synonym for "supporter of right-wing Israeli politics" isn't entirely correct, but it's not all that far off the mark, especially in casual usage.

I wrote in my post, "Let's start by having a moratorium on the term 'Likudnik' to refer to anyone but actual, declared supporters of Likud..., and only when they are supporting or justifying a policy on Israel-related affairs." I'll grant Kevin that "declared supporters of Likud" may be too narrow, and that "supporters of right-wing Israeli politics" is fine. However, I reiterate that Likudnik should be used when referring to policy on Israel, not because sloppier uses of the term are inherently anti-Semitic, but because sloppy use of the term not only theoretically can but actually has created an opening for abusive use of the term by people who are either generally prejudiced against Jews, or, who, in an odd form of prejudice common to Jews themselves, believe that Jews have some special obligation to be leftists, and therefore any non-leftist Jew can be tarred as a "Likudnik," whatever that means. And since these other, non-Israel related uses of Likudnik are, in fact, sloppy, and often have nothing to do with Likud (or "right-wing" Israeli) policies, as such, restricting the term to its literal and natural meaning will actually enhance discourse over any given underlying issue.

UPDATE: I wrote the following to a correspondent, which I like well enough to share with VC readers: Let's say during the Clinton Administration, the Washington Post had quoted an unnamed government official, discussing Clinton Administration policy in Africa, as stating, in a clearly derogatory but not very specific way, "the Pan Africanists are in charge here." The article, meanwhile, talked mostly about black officials in the defense department and state department, and quoted Randall Robinson as defending these individuals. Over time, conservatives began to use this phrase disparagingly in reference to Clinton Administration officials, usually black, who were sympathetic to, and friendly with, leftist elements in South Africa (such as the Pan Africa Congress). Also over time, conservatives began to refer to "Pan Africanists" when discussing other elements of Clinton Administration policy in Africa that had nothing to do with South African policy, except that it reflected what critics saw as a generally leftist bent to more general African policy. Thus, for example, criticism of foreign aid to Ethiopia, or military intervention in Somalia, as reflecting the "Pan Africanist" agenda. Meanwhile, one started to notice that right-wing hate sites began to refer to any black officials in the Clinton Administration, and even Clinton Administration supporters outside the Administration, as "Pan Africanists." And a black blogger, who wrote a post on how Clinton voters aren't mostly promiscuous, received an email calling him, on the basis of that post, a "dumb Pan Africanist monkey." The analogy is inexact (blacks are not usually charged with dual loyalties, and Pan African ideology would really affect policy on Africa, while Likud ideology is rather specific to Israel; on the other hand, except among Muslim extremists, Jews aren't usually called monkeys), but it will do. Would you really consider it inappropriate at that point for the blogger to note that right-wingers have been using the phrase loosely, and thus bear some responsiblity to tighten their usage to avoid its developing racist connotations? And would the Post not bear some responsibility for quoting an anonymous official, in a context that fails to make it clear whether the official in question simply making a very specific reference to very specific individuals in the context of actual South African policy or was engaging in a slur?

Likudnik, One More Time:

Brad Delong writes:

I use the word "Likudnik" routinely to refer to those in American who support Likud, and who believe that the national security of the United States is advanced by feeding Likud's annexationist fantasies. I'm not an anti-semite. And I don't like being called one:

The Volokh Conspiracy - : ...the phrase "Likudnik" is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one doesn't like.... "Likudnik" has become a term of disapprobium analogous to the term "Uncle Tom" for non-left-wing blacks. Just like it's assumed that moderate, conservative, and libertarian blacks must not be thinking for themselves, but instead serving "the Man," so moderate, conservative, and libertarian Jews must be serving the interests of right-wing Israelis (the obvious difference is that left-wing culture values African American self-interest and nationalism, while left-wing culture values Jews and Judaism only to the extent they are put in the service of internationalism and humanist causes.)... Well, the Left (along with the Washington Post, which used the term in a major article attacking Bush Admnistration neonconservatives) has let this particular anti-Semitic genie out of the bottle...

Suggestions for what should replace the Volokh Conspiracy on my regular reading list?

One of his readers responds in the comments section:

Bernstein on the Volokh Conspiracy doesn't say that anyone who uses the term "likudnik" is an anti-semite. He says 'the phrase "Likudnik" is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one doesn't like.' Which is my general impression as well. It's becoming like calling someone a "cosmopolitan Jew," or an "oriental" or a "negro." These were once neutral terms, or even terms with positive connotations. But these terms' meaning has shifted and they are now pejorative.

If you don't believe this, I wouldn't claim that you're anti-semitic. I would guess, though, that you've been a little sheltered and haven't read much of the borderline-anti-semitic left. You probably haven't been receiving hate mail calling you a "likudnik monkey."

In the end, Bernstein says 'Let's start by having a moratorium on the term "Likudnik" to refer to anyone but actual, declared supporters of Likud (I'm actually a Shinuinik, if anything), and only when they are supporting or justifying a policy on Israel-related affairs.' This is almost the same as DeLong's position. And posters on this thread seem to agree that this is the legitimate use of the term. So, what's to object to in Bernstein's post?

Exactly.

Given the Brad either didn't bother to read the entire post, or didn't read it closely enough to comprehend it, but nevertheless felt compelled to comment on it, I hereby invite him to cease reading my posts so he no longer misrepresents what I write. He can still read the rest of the VC by using this link.