Majority of Republicans Wrongly Believe Weapons of Mass Destruction Program was Found in Iraq

Friday, January 09, 2015
(graphic: Media Partners)

More than 10 years after the U.S. invasion, a majority of Republicans in the U.S. believe the military did find a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq—despite numerous media reports and admissions by the George W. Bush administration that such weapons never existed.


A new poll by Farleigh Dickinson University found 51% of Republicans believe it was “probably” or “definitely” true that a WMD program was discovered following the 2003 invasion.


Fourteen percent said it was definitely true.


Overall, 42% of Americans believe a WMD program was found, including 32% of Democrats.


“People who think we did the right thing in invading Iraq seem to be revising their memories to retroactively justify the invasion,” Dan Cassino, a professor of political science and the director of experimental research for the poll, said. “This sort of motivated reasoning is pretty common: when people want to believe something, they’ll twist the facts to fit it.”


Even after admitting that no WMDs were found in Iraq, Bush himself may have perpetuated people’s misbeliefs. He was still trying years later to rationalize his decision to invade based on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.


At a press conference in 2006, Bush told reporters: “The main reason we went into Iraq, at the time, was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.”


The survey also revealed that 52% of respondents who said they watched Fox News said the WMD program discovery was “probably” or “definitely” true. Only 14% of viewers of MSNBC said that WMDs were found.


“It’s easier for people to maintain false beliefs when they avoid media sources that might refute them,” Cassino said. “So it’s no surprise that people who watch ideological media are better able to hold on to these sorts of beliefs.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Ignorance, Partisanship Drive False Beliefs about Obama, Iraq (Farleigh Dickinson University)

President Bush Holds a News Conference (Washington Post)

Iraqi Finally Admits to Lies about WMD Used By Bush Administration to Justify Invasion (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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