Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fight disinformation (peace, bro)

The latest (or continuing meme) George Bush self-rationalization of "stay the course" is that if we had had opinion polling during WWII, it would have been just as bad. It's the opinion polls that are the problem, not the policy, because Americans are a bunch of ignorant gits who just don't understand Real War. (That last clause is the unspoken assumption, not what he said...)

Of course, there were opinion polls in WWII and though they are pre-DEWEY WINS! and so they might be a little suspect in methodology, they certainly provide broad truths....

WWII Polls of War Sentiment

You may have to crane your neck to make sense of it, but the gist is that the maximum of the Peace sentiment was about 20 percent when the Allies had taken Italy and all that was left was the inevitable crushing of the Wehrmacht by superior numbers with attendant casualties. It correlates pretty exactly with the Americans who believe we are winning approaching 100 percent. And it fell back to 15 percent from there. Mostly it was around 10 percent after Pearl Harbor until the end was clear. This is not even within potential confidence errors and a ball park for poor methodology of a solid 68 percent against continuing the war in Iraq.

Really, we are not stupid. Never were and never will be. We (as in human beings, not necessarily even Americans) can be kept in ignorance by great effort, but the truth will out, so that is never a winning strategy only a holding action. It hasn't been since, ohh, say the French Revolution. (I have real reasons for choosing that point rather than another, but that's another discussion.)


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not certain I would go so far as to append the term "truth" to a discussion of this subject (irrespective of whether one is talking about the 1940's or the current decade).

Also, while I can't completely disagree with the points you make, it's worth pointing out that American society in the 1940's had a lot of very different points of view and levels of sensibility when contrasted with present American society. Information provided then, accurate or not, would likely draw a very different reaction from today's American public than it did then. And that is even if one assumes all other things equal (which is rarely accurate).

That point does, of course, agree with your point that our President's attempt to "correlate" present and past American sentiments is not at all valid. But it also equally questions the validity of any conclusion regarding how much the past opinion poll results might resemble present ones given the same world events.


kimalanus said...

Hmm. The gist of it for me is it's pretty obvious that the general public in the United States was behind the prosecution of the World War and is very much against the prosecution of the war in Iraq and opinion polls have nothing to do with the genesis of public opinion in either case. Suggesting differently is disingenuous or ignorant. Either is bad in a President trying to get the public to support a war....