The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, October 01, 2004

Bush supporters don't recognise his foreign policies

So that's why he's so high in the polls!

According to a PIPA poll (report and detailed numbers - both PDF), large majorities of Bush supporters are seriously misinformed as to many of Bush's foreign policy positions.

For example,
Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%).

Large numbers of undecided voters also fail to pick Bush positions - but the size of the proportion misinformed is less than amongst Bush supporters:
The uncommitted incorrectly believed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (69%), the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (51%), the International Criminal Court (47% to 31%), the land mines treaty (50%), and the Kyoto treaty on global warming (45% to 37%).

Kerry supporters, on the other hand, were much better informed about their candidate's positions on these issues.

On Israel, which is taken to be an issue
on which neither candidate’s position can be definitively established
the survey showed that
Bush supporters were divided about whether Bush favored taking Israel’s side (43%) or taking neither side (45%)...

No assistance is given by the survey as to why Kerry supporters should be so much more clued in.

One would not expect respondents to know all of these positions - I certainly didn't! But surely the Bush style established over three and a half years is utterly incompatible with, say, signing up for the International Criminal Court.

I thought that a good part of Bush's appeal to those who support him was a personality and MO that allowed one to guess correctly his position on a particular issue without knowing it.

And for Bush to support the ICC would be like him going to Philly and eating sushi rather than cheesesteak!

So what's the explanation? Are, for instance, Kerry supporters smarter or bigger news junkies than Bush supporters?

The survey doesn't say: no questions on news consumption, and the question (D6) on education levels does not give the split for Dems and GOP respondents.

But it's surely a priori improbable that such a vast gulf between the two sets of supporters could be thus explained.

Does the result replicate a phenonmenon found in earlier polls? No idea: there are no earlier numbers given in this poll that would enable a direct comparison over time.

Some numbers are given for November 2002, but for the entire voting population which suggest that misinformation has existed for some time. For example (Q15), on the Bush policy on the Kyoto protocol, 56% say he wants to sign up, 32% not; the corresponding numbers in November 2002 were 64% and 29%.

Similarly (Q16), those saying Bush supports the US joining the nuclear test ban treaty are now 57% (to 32%), down from 68% (to 27%) in November 2002.

A great disappointment that, having highlighted such a fascinatingly counter-intuitive fact, the survey leaves the reader dangling. So many follow-up questions:
  1. Is the misinformation limited to foreign policy, or does it apply to domestic policy too? Perhaps Bush supporters think he's in favour of single payer health care and hiking the estate tax (things just as incompatible with his image as signing up to Kyoto).

  2. How has the difference in misinformation levels between Democratic and Republican candidates changed from election to election?

  3. Does the misinformation level depend to any extent on whether the candidate concerned is incumbent or challenger?

I find it hard to believe that this is the first time that this sort of question has been asked with results analysed by candidate supported.

Meanwhile - on the upside - how 'bout them Kerry-ites! My understanding of the polls is that a common complaint has been that Kerry's policies have been unclear - confusion through an abundance of policy papers and speeches rather than from any lack of guidance, one assumed.

Yet, on these foreign policy questions, his supporters are very clear. Perhaps they don't realise their good fortune!

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