The Bin Laden poll

The chances are if you take away any of those involved in tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden, he’d still be alive right now. That much is an inescapable conclusion of most any of the stories that have revealed the background of last weekend’s raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

But Americans don’t pay a lot of attention to the details when the pollsters call. When the Gallup organization called 645 of them yesterday, the chances are pretty good that few of them had yet watched John Brennan’s news conference yesterday that offered details on how the operation was carried out.

It’s one reason why the stories about who the American public think deserves the credit, deserves to be taken with a grain of salt.

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When 12 percent of the people say the president, who had the option of not approving the raid, deserved no credit for bringing Bin Laden down, let’s just say that’s a good indication that polls don’t reveal a scholarly approach to reality. Similarly when 25 percent give no credit to President George Bush, it reveals the truth about polling: Most every question might as well be “Who do you like? Don’t worry about why.”

Eleven percent of those surveyed didn’t think the most important part of killing Bin Laden was actually killing him. Otherwise, they would’ve said the military deserved the most credit.

The truth is: We don’t have enough information to answer these sorts of questions with any degree of accuracy. A good followup poll question to almost any poll like this would be “how do you know?”

My money is on “I don’t.”

Meanwhile, a Washington Post poll, taken on Monday, shows a 10% jump in the number of people who think the U.S. is headed in the right direction, compared to a similar poll in March. Really? If that’s true, then how come “Bin Laden is still alive” wasn’t one of the reasons in previous polls about why people have thought the country is heading in the wrong direction?

In that poll, by the way, 32% of those surveyed said they had heard little or nothing at all about the killing of Bin Laden.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Bob –

    “Similarly when 25 percent give no credit to President George Bush, it reveals the truth about polling: Most every question might as well be “Who do you like? Don’t worry about why.”

    Granted, I’m not a huge fan of the former Blunderer In Chief for several reasons.

    But to give Jr. much personal credit for Bin Laden’s demise is belied by his own words ( to say nothing of his sudden change of focus from al queda to Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11):

    BUSH: “We haven’t heard from him in a long time. … Terror is bigger than one person. And he’s just — he’s a person who’s now been marginalized. … I just don’t spend that much time on him… we haven’t heard much from him. And I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run.

    March 13, 2002

    Comments by then-President George W. Bush

    Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov

    The wisdom of ever taking a politician at his/her word is a separate issue. :-)

  • Bob Collins

    I’ve seen people pulling that Bush quote. I think it’s silly. One way to catch someone is to lull them into thinking you don’t care where they are.

    I don’t think at the time anybody took Bush’s remarks literally, I don’t think anybody is really taking them literally now.

  • matt

    What poll that tries to disect the responsibility for an action carried out about 48 hours prior that 645 people did not have first hand knowledge about should not be taken with a grain of salt?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Bob –

    “One way to catch someone is to lull them into thinking you don’t care where they are.”

    Ah, yes, George W Bush, master of strategy and tactics. I’m gonna hunt a tewwowist.

    Even more sneaky was his diverting blood and treasure to get Saddam Hussein, huh?

  • Cara

    I’m stunned that 32% of people heard little or nothing about the killing of Bin Laden. Evidently they’ve had the radio and television and computer off for the last few days.

  • Lucy

    So Bin Laden was not, or possibly not or couldn’t prove without a doubt, connected to the master planning of the attack on 9/11.

    But he ran a terrorist camp

    America claims war on terror.

    Remind me again who is incharge of operating the School of Americas?

  • Jamie

    Yeah, the coverage has been wall to wall. Too much, I say. Yes, he was an important symbol. But the endless coverage is not warranted. Most of it has been repeats of the previous few hours. There have been some isolated new and/or interesting programs (the press conference today, BBC’s World Have Your Say today in which many callers expressed their denialism, etc.)

    “Tewwowist” — Ahahaha!!

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Lucy –

    It’s not called School of the Americas anymore.

    They changed the name to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation when a bunch of liberals discovered that our military was training Latin American militaries in cool torture techniques. Change the name = no more classes in torture, right?

    I think the name change thing worked kinda like when Blackwater changed it’s name to Xe. So I guess that must mean they aren’t mercenaries not bound to international law any more, right?

  • lucy

    I’ve heard that it’s fashionable to change your name (and perhaps your face too) when you get caught doing bad things.

    WHISC and XE

    I did not know about XE (pronounced Zee)

    ///So I guess that must mean they aren’t mercenaries not bound to international law any more, right?

    Mercenaries are special and get special treatment I guess.

    So it’s best to stay on the good side of political leaders, or people with money who sway them, who could at any given moment claim you are a terrorist.

    For the record, the only camp I have ever attended was Cathoic Order of Foresters Camp.

    There were no guns

  • lucy

    XE is utterly fascinating!-Thank yo for sharing Jim.

    I found this on wikepedia:-)

    In explaining the Blackwater’s purpose,[now XE],Erik Prince stated that ‘‘We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service.’’

    Well God Bless XE!

  • Jamie

    // ‘‘We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service.’’ //

    For the life of me, I can’t find where this conversation started, but that is a truly scary quote.