The Press and Public Misperceptions About the Iraq War

Kull, Steven; Ramsay, Clay; Lewis, Evan
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p64
This articles discusses the study of U.S. public perceptions and misperceptions related to the Iraq War conducted from June to September of 2003 by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, together with the polling firm Knowledge Networks, with a special focus on determining what role the press might have played in the process. The study found three widespread misperceptions: belief that the U.S. had found evidence that Iraq was working closely with Al-Qaeda; belief that actual weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq and belief that world public opinion favored the U.S. going to war with Iraq. Such misperceptions can potentially have significant consequences. It is found that they are highly related to other attitudes. Earlier PIPA studies also suggest that during the run-up to the war misperceptions played a role in support for the decision to go to war. The fact that misperceptions varied so greatly depending on their primary source of news strongly suggests that the way the press reported the news played a role. There is also striking evidence that readiness to challenge the administration is a variable that corresponds to levels of misperception among viewers.


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