University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
After September 2001, pollsters switched from recording spontaneous responses to presenting respondents with “forced-choice” questions. This switch, “probably made in order to more efficiently process the survey data, had the unintended effect of exaggerating the degree to which Americans saw a connection between Hussein and the attacks,” Althaus said.
In addition, most polls only permitted respondents to assess the likelihood that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Only one poll allowed respondents a range of options. This poll, sponsored by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, revealed that about one in five Americans believed Saddam was directly involved in the attacks.
“It appears that rather than becoming duped, as the popular account has it, the American public has gradually grown more critical of the idea that Hussein had a hand in 9/11,” the researchers wrote. “Rather than showing a gullible public blindly accepting the rationales offered by an administration bent on war, our analysis reveals a self-correcting public that has grown ever more doubtful of Hussein’s culpability since the 9/11 attacks.”