71% of Americans think Iran already has the Bomb (Also we used to have pet triceratops)

A CNN/ Gallup poll shows that nearly three quarters of Americans believe that Iran already has a nuclear weapon. (About 80% believe that it either has one or will get one in short order).

This belief is completely irrational. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has repeatedly said that the US believes that Iran has not decided yet whether to initiate a nuclear weapons program. If it doesn’t have a weapons program, Iran can hardly actually have a weapon.

Iran is using centrifuges to enrich uranium, mostly to 3.5% for fuel for its electricity-generating civilian reactors (it is enriching to still-low 19.75% for a medical reactor, to produce isotopes for use in chemotherapy).. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has given a fatwa, based on the injunction in Islamic law against killing innocents, against possessing or using atomic weapons.

Two caveats about this poll. That question was asked of a subset of only 500 persons within a larger sample. But that would mean it could be off in either direction by several percentage points. It is a weighted sample, though, and shouldn’t be off that much.

The other puzzlement is that 63% of Americans are committed to using diplomacy to dissuade Iran from getting a bomb and oppose military action at this time. But if they think it has a bomb, what do they think the persuasion will accomplish. Convincing Iran to give up its (non-existent) nukes after already developing them?

Beats me.

The full results are in this pdf file.

Sometimes you just want to give up. The American public is bombarded with so much propaganda by vested interests that it lives in a world where human beings co-existed with the dinosaurs, Iran has nukes, US foreign aid is 1/4 of the federal budget, the Iraqi and Afghanistan governments are among America’s most deadly enemies, and pumping massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not causing the climate to change.

But who knows, maybe their preference for diplomacy is because they don’t want to go to war with an already-nuclear armed Iran, so that the propaganda has backfired on Big Oil and the Israel lobbies.

39 Responses

  1. the downside of polls-as-news, a huge staple of american media (the polls ARE the news, too often) is that most people are dumb.

    so what good are polls?

    • “most people are dumb”

      I think “ignorant” would be more accurate. But you’re right – how are people to be more informed by hearing the uninformed opinions of their fellow citizens?

      If I were in a position to be using “polls”, they’d be the basis for follow-up educational messaging, and would be part of establishing a reputation as someone who tells the truth.

    • I don’t think that people are dumb. Indeed, it is a great tribute to the American people if only 71% of them think that Iran has nuclear weapons. Given the vicious, constant, clever barrage of propaganda from the media, the pundits and most politicians it is surprising that still 30% of Americans cannot be fooled. Anyone who watches the daily diet of most mainstream US media about the evil Iranians and their deadly weapons is bound to be affected by it. After all, this is why candidates and businesses spend millions advertising because it pays. The sites like this one cannot possibly compete with well-orchestrated campaigns with millions at their disposal. Nevertheless, better to lit a candle than curse the darkness.

  2. Um, smell the coffee. Obviously after being lied to, plied with massaged numbers and tricks, smothered by cover-ups, and had smoke blown in their face for generations, the American people have finally wised up and stopped believing anything the official pipeline wants them to believe. Including things that might be true, who gives a hoot.

    Too much, uh, crying wolf. Or lamb. We are done. Go home, specialists.

    As they say about character recommendations, THEY NEVER HIDE ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW.

  3. This is just crazy. So much misinformation and ignorance surrounds this issue (as the crusaders have been marching for a decade or three). We (as the human race) are fortunate to have had enough intelligent people where it has counted over the years as this “evil Iran” campaign has waxed and waned before, but it hasn’t been like it is today where there is such open discourse about war…
    If I were in America I would be marching in the streets (as I did in Chicago with the run up to the Iraq invasion).

  4. In the first years of the United States, the right to vote was restricted to people who could meet the property-owning qualifications. The same was true in Britain at the time. This reserved the right to vote to people who supposedly ‘had a stake in the system’. By the 1830′s it had become accepted in the US that ALL free men had the right to vote, regardless of their financial situation. Those that supported this reform held that there was a “common wisdom” in the voice of the people. They, as a group, would make the right decision.

    After the Civil War, this view came into question. As a result of the outcome of the war, large numbers of people in the South were given the vote who had not had it before. Others in the South were alarmed that “unqualified” people were now being allowed to have a say in how the government was run. This was found to be unacceptable. Ways were found to prevent these “unqualified” people from voting…among them were Literacy Tests and Poll Taxes. This proved to be quite effective at removing these supposedly “unqualified” people from the voter rolls until the 1960′s when these devices to keep the “unqualified” people from voting were struck down in the US. The view was then that ALL citizens had the right to vote.
    In post-Revolutionary Russia, the same problem arose. The large majority of people were found to be “unqualified” to vote so the Constituent Assemly chosed by a universal sufferage system , elected IIRC in January 1918 was closed down, after some of its members were beaten to death by others who felt that the body was not “qualified” to rule. Thus, an elite who took power in November 1917 decided they would make all the decisions since they viewed themselves as uniquely qualified to decide for everyone else what governmental policy should be.
    We see now from the polls that most people are “unqualified”. How can these “unqualified” people be allowed to make vital decisions, like choosing their leaders who might have to make decide on going to war with Iran or not. Is the post Civil War model the best, or is the post-Russian Revolutionary model the best, in order to ensure that only the RIGHT people have power?

    • Nice little circle.

      Your substance here is a little fuzzy, but it appears to read that you think a kind of Philosopher King model is the way to go, and maybe the “democracy” approach is not well enough “regulated” for your tastes.

      Your “qualified electors” from the good old days have studiously, over a few generations, dyseducated all those plain people that you now get to score as “unqualified,” via curriculum abuse, management of publicly broadcast information, concentration on turning the most of us into one-trick “consumers” of stuff that’s killing the planet and a host of other little scams, many involving waving lots of flags to conceal “profitable” activities.

      And now the “qualified,” having that always-present fear of the Mob that can grow out of the screwed-up, hyper-tribalized Thing they have created and are sucking the blood out of, are closing off that last little arc, enclosing the last of the commons, and essentially claiming or, to use another word, “arrogating,” the whole shootin’ match for themselves.

      I bet you put yourself up there in the list of “qualified electors,” right? You and Bill and Dickless Cheney and the Kochers and their spaniels?

      Apologies if I read your comment wrong, of course.

      • “I bet you put yourself up there in the list of “qualified electors,” right? You and Bill and Dickless Cheney and the Kochers and their spaniels?”

        Your attempts to bully everyone with whom you disagree (including me in your quote cited above), with bombast and ad-hominem attacks, reveal your intellectual poverty and mark you as a blowhard, Mr. McPhee. You would be far better off observing the maxim that it is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought ignorant than open it and remove all doubt.

        • But on the substance, Bill: Did I misrepresent your views on proper governance? You set up the binary choice:

          How can these “unqualified” people be allowed to make vital decisions, like choosing their leaders who might have to make decide on going to war with Iran or not. Is the post Civil War model the best, or is the post-Russian Revolutionary model the best, in order to ensure that only the RIGHT people have power?

          Which one do you favor? Or is the whole thing just rhetorical?

          On the richness or poverty of our language, link to urbandictionary.com

        • “But on the substance, Bill: Did I misrepresent your views on proper governance? You set up the binary choice.”

          Would you please pay attention, Mr. McPhee? You are confusing me with I_LIKE_IKE52. It is his post to which you refer when you speak of “views on proper governance” and “binary choice.”

          My post regarding your bombast, ad hominem attacks, and being marked as a blowhard was in response to your use of my name, in your usual perjorative fashion, in your response to I_LIKE_IKE52.

      • So really, you DON’T like Ike, who defended democracy, kept the military more firmly under civilian control than it has been since, and enforced a 99% marginal tax rate on the ultra-wealthy that he might not have agreed with.

        In those days, voter turnout was higher than now, and government was generally improving.

    • The answer is, you respect democracy. Not only because it’s the moral thing to do, but for two very important practical reasons:

      1. The demonstrable evidence, since the rise of mass-suffrage and democratic governance, is that such governments behave more rationally and more responsibly than undemocratic governments. Not less, more.

      2. Providing for genuine democratic participation based on universal rights means that the people are bought into the system and feel responsible for it. Do you think it is a coincidence that we haven’t had a civil war under your “post-Civil War” system?

      • Spot on, sir.

        Since Socrates and de Toqueville and Hobbes and all those other old guys, there have been constant warnings about how “democracy” can get turned into a shell game, or at least a convenient, illusory shell. There’s a lot of Experienced Players who are very busy, 24/7, undermining and undercutting and subverting that-there inconvenient, messy, complicated thing we carry in our heads as a mildly comforting myth: “democracy.” That shibboleth that goes right along with those other Activating Themes we call “Freedom” and “Liberty.” And that so few of us can even define, because there’s such a gulf between the Moist-Eyed Patriotic Feeling and the Current Reality.

        Do I remember that we came close to civil war of sorts in the early days of the labor movement, when the oligarchs were on the ascendant and grabbing for More? And as a once-GI, I tend to recall the Bonus March and its outcome. And of course people of Bill’s apparent persuasion might have it that Kent State and Grant Park and Detroit and Watts and such were indicia of a sort of civil war. And might I ask if what’s going on now, as we type away, the thing that Warren Buffett so blandly noted, class warfare or maybe actually “slaughter of the peasants by the guys with the tin suits and sharp quills,” could be characterized as “civil war?”

        Thank goodness for the wisdom of our Founding Intellects (Abigail Adams was not the only distaff participant,) for providing some damping forces to give the most of us the chance at “A republic, if we can keep it.” No wonder the kleptocracy has been hacking away at the Constitution so illiberally all these years…

  5. Well, the fact is that outside of the specialists, most Americans – or Egyptians or Russians or Brazilians or (fill in your fave’ – have little understanding or interest in foreign affairs.

    But this debate is tiresome. Iran could easily extinguish this controversy by opening its Parchin site. Unfortunately, the regime chose to stiff the IAEA inspectors who requested access. These are the dry facts and let’s not airbrush them away. One must ask what Iran has to hide? The regime’s intentions remain unclear.

    • The Narrative sails on, straight for the Strait of Hormuz…

      And of course “our” regime’s motives and actions are models of High Purpose, Clarity, and Honesty. Yoo want to yak about “dry facts,” I think there are a whole lot more of those that are what they call “salient” in this context.

    • Please study the Middle East more. This mistake has already been made once. Saddam Hussein could also easily have proven he had no nukes. The fact that he did not do so was enough ‘evidence’ for the West to make probably the most stupid war ever fought.

      They did not understand the Middle East mentality. Honestly taking your pants down and showing the enemy you have no weapons…is worse…than DEATH!!!

    • Maybe they are just pissed at not being fairly represented and have decided that they are only going to be pushed further for every inch they give so they just drew a line.

    • If you think the Iranians should allow open access to theri bases, then why did the US and Russians put the exemption in the IAEA rules?

      Yes folks, the IAEA is prohibited from entering military bases because the US and Russians do NOT want that to happen to their own bases.

      The IAEA KNOWS there is no nuclear material on the bases because they have the instrument readings, so there is zero reason to enter the base except to spy for the US and Israel on Iranian military capability.

      There is NOTHING in the NPT that says countries can not do weapons research, even high explosive research.

  6. Its not an accident that Americans have distorted information about the Middle East. A well funded propaganda operation representing a foreign government manipulates what Americans believe about the Middle East and the U.S. based media is traumatized by what will happen to them if they provide corrective information.

  7. The belief that Iran already has a weapon is irrational, but the behavior of the public is not, given the ceaseless repetition by print and broadcast media that Iran has the bomb, or very nearly does and is intent on finishing up the job.

    The greatest fear of the neo-cons is that Iran will eventually be known to have a bomb, but will not use it. Then what will Israel do?

    • The greatest fear of the neo-cons is that Iran will eventually be known to have a bomb, but will not use it. Then what will Israel do?

      That is an excellent observation.

  8. Is it true that the American society has to have a reason that the government gives to keep all of them attached since they differ so much! And it was and still is “Iran is an enemy. All should be against it” the new way to keep Americans with a common enemy and goal?

  9. One more reason why Morris Berman is right in his new book, “Why America Failed” when he says reversing America’s failure would be like turning around an aircraft carrier in a bathtub.

  10. If the Iranians aren’t interested in building a bomb, than what’s the point of the sanctions? Messing around with the supply of oil in an age of resource depletion and declining reserves is playing Russian roulette with the global economy, with all the chambers loaded.

    Regardless of official policies and declarations, the Iranians are probably doing exactly what the Israelis fear they are doing; developing the technology and skills to become an armed nuclear power.

    The problem is that sanctions and half-assed military options like bombing won’t prevent the Iranians from achieving their goal. If anything, it probably will accelerate Iranian ambitions in becoming a nuclear power sooner than later.

    • Oh, I forgot.

      American opinion on this issue is probably ranked in importance as lower than whale shit on the list of national issues confronting the country.

  11. Professor, do you think the Iranian banking scandal is basically a power struggle? Would something like this even be publicly prosecuted if Ahmadinejad and Khamenei were not in a power struggle? Obviously, heads will (literally) roll, but how vulnerable is Ahmadinejad? Is this big enough to be another argument why we shouldn’t take action beyond sanction?

  12. I agree with Juan Cole’s assessment that Iran does have the right to nuclear electric generation and there is a huge amount of ridiculous hysteria about a nuclear program that should be largely ignored. However I don’t trust the Iranian regimes statements about no nuclear weapons. I have a co-worker that is from Iran and his cousins live in Tehran. He says his cousins tell him that if the Iranian government did announce they had a bomb there would be dancing in the streets that they had so cleverly tricked the Americans.

  13. “US foreign aid is 1/4 of the federal budget,”

    If the Iraq war was fought to protect and enrich multi-national corporations, not especially USA tax-payers, many not USA-corporations in any sense, all with non-USA shareholders, then, One Must Ask:

    ONLY 1/4?

  14. On the other hand we see information like this:

    link to english.farsnews.com

    TEHRAN (FNA)- The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly.

  15. As Pogo used to say “we have met the enemy and he is us”
    Wars / Peacekeeping in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East, Central America, Vietnam, etc. are merely symptoms of a problem
    The collective “we” is the problem, and has been for quite some time. Our founding fathers wrote extensively about the problems with a uninformed, easily manipulated, “conned” electorate (citizen) that lacked intellectual curiosity,involvement and belief in democracy for themselves and others. If you believe in / value democracy you must be truly informed and and involved in it individually.
    The we constant blaming of the “they” of the country such as media, government, special interest groups misses the point, yes they are liars and only concerned with their special issues and beliefs. But,the reality is we allow the “theys” to operate as they do so we have someone to blame. As a nation we embrace stupidity, we bask in the comfort that our myths give us, we are only concerned with “getting mine”, we abhor involvement, we wrap the blanket of unscientific thought and anti-education around us; hence we are the very embodiment of a citizenry which can not, and will not survive as a democratic nation.
    For those who truly see clearly there are limited options; I can revolt (it will be a small revolution), educate and open the minds of the young so as to soften the hard landing to come, continue to tilt at the windmill of stupid America even if only to make me feel better, explore learning theory such as Cognitive Dissonance to try and explain the we or just say “screw it”. Unfortunately I’ve been tending more and more toward the last option.

  16. Would be interesting to know what other countries Americans think have the bomb…Japan? Germany? Sweden? Brazil?

  17. RE: “71% of Americans think Iran already has the Bomb (Also we used to have pet triceratops)” ~ Juan Cole

    MY COMMENT: I hear tell Jesus Christ himself had a pet triceratops!

  18. Interesting, but this study is from February 2010. I’d be more interested to see where the American public stands in the middle of the current propaganda blitz (not that I’m terribly optimistic, of course).

  19. I think you’re over-estimating the precision of the polling instrument. I don’t think a “Yes” answer to the question “Do you think Iran currently has nuclear weapons, or not?” where those are you only choices and you can’t ask for clarification necessarily means the respondent is distinguishing between having a nuclear weapons program and having an existing, deployable weapon.

  20. “But who knows, maybe their preference for diplomacy is because they don’t want to go to war with an already-nuclear armed Iran, so that the propaganda has backfired on Big Oil and the Israel lobbies.”

    Tragically, the rejection of war with Iran is not based on this kind of logic, and nothing has backfired on Big Oil (although maybe the propoganda is backfiring on the Israel lobbies). Big Oil is reaping enormous benefits from fear and uncertainty over war with Iran, and the speculators are right there, fueling the fire:

    link to mcclatchydc.com

    The “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… uuuuh… well, you can’t get fooled again” crowd may be easily convinced that Iran has the worst of intentions, but their wariness of war and the price that the nation is paying for its wars, even if they were all gung-ho about starting those most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, mixed with a delayed reaction of mistrust that should have been aimed at the previous administration but has now manifested itself regardless of if it is actually deserved or not, is overriding any fear of Iran and what it could potentially do to the United States from so far away.

    It is the fear of the United States launching into another war that matters most, and it is driving up the price of oil, and that is not an accident. The politicians are of course all in the pocket of the Israel lobbies, but that relationship is entirely divorced from the will of the people that they are supposed to be representing in the United States.

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