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Political Report
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Volume 9, Issue 10 • November 2013

Conspiracy Theories
Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the belief that more than one person was involved in his assassination remains the most widely held conspiracy theory in America. In an April 2013 poll, 59 percent said others were involved. In this issue of AEI’s Political Report, we look at public views on a number of events that elicit conspiracy theories, from Franklin Roosevelt’s purported knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor to the belief that Osama bin Laden is alive. Comparisons across events are difficult with polls taken at different points in time, but it does not appear that any particular demographic group is more inclined to believe in conspiracy theories than any other.

The JFK Assassination
Q: Do you think . . . ? The assassination of President Kennedy was the work of just one man There were other people involved, too Don’t know 1963 24% 62 14

Source: National Opinion Research Center, November–December 1963.

Q: I’m going to read some ways that some people felt when they first heard that the President John F. Kennedy was dead, and I’d like you to tell me which one of the statements on this card comes closest to your own feelings at the time . . . Very deepest feeling that it was done by Felt it quite deeply Crossed my mind but not deeply Never occurred to me ————————————1963———————————— Some Communist A segregationist or other radical to get or extreme rid of the President right-winger 13% 8% 15 10 40 32 32 50

Source: National Opinion Research Center, November–December 1963.

Q: Turning now to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, there have been many theories about who was involved in the assassination. I’d like to know if you think any of the following were involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Do you think . . . ? Lyndon Johnson was involved in the assassination The Mafia The CIA The Soviet Union Cubans
Note: Each category asked of a half sample. Source: Gallup, November 2003.

2003 18% 37 34 15 15

Was not 75% 56 60 77 78

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Q: Do you think . . . ? 2003 We know all the facts about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy There was a cover-up
Source: Fox News, October 2003.

14% 74

Q: There has been significant speculation about the circumstances surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Which statement do you agree with more? There is nothing left to know about the circumstances surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Lee Harvey Oswald acted on his own to assassinate the President, and there was no conspiracy
Source: University of Virginia/Hart Research, May 2012.

2012 There are still too many questions surrounding Kennedy’s assassination to say that Lee Harvey Oswald acted by himself, or that there is not a larger conspiracy regarding the details of his death 75%

25%

Q: Do you think . . . ? One man was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy Others were involved in a conspiracy Don’t know
Source: AP-GfK/Roper, April 2013.

2013 24% 59 16

Pearl Harbor
Q: Here are several accusations that some people have made against the federal government in recent years. Please tell me if you think each of these is very likely, somewhat likely, or unlikely . . . ? Very likely that President Roosevelt knew in advance that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor, but he did not warn our troops because he wanted to get the United States involved in World War II Somewhat likely Unlikely
Source: Scripps Howard/Ohio University, June 1997.

1997

16% 26 43

Waco
Q: Do you think . . . ? 1999 There has been an official cover-up by the government or the FBI to keep the public from learning the truth about the events in Waco No cover up Don’t know
Source: CBS News, October 1999.

62% 25 12

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Aliens
Q: Do you . . . ? Believe a UFO crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, and the government covered it up Do not believe Not sure
Source: Public Policy Polling, March 2013.

2013 21% 47 32

Q: Some Americans feel that flying saucers are real and that the federal government is hiding the truth about them from us. Do you think . . . ? It’s very likely that flying saucers are real and that the federal government is hiding the truth about them from us Somewhat likely Not likely
Source: Scripps Howard/Ohio University, September 2007.

2007

11% 24 55

MLK Assassination
Q: Do you think . . . ? Martin Luther King’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy It was the act of one man only Not sure
Source: Gallup, May 1969.

————Asked of African Americans, 1969———— 82% 5 13

Q: Do you think . . . ? The assassination of Martin Luther King was the act of one individual Part of a larger conspiracy
Source: CNN/Essence, March 2008.

——Responses of——

African National response, 2008 Americans Whites 33% 55 9% 88 40% 50

Moon Landing
Q: Do you . . . ? Believe the moon landing was faked Do not believe Not sure
Source: Public Policy Polling, March 2013.

2013 7% 84 9

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Princess Diana’s Death
Q: Do you . . . ? Believe there was foul play involved in Princess Diana’s death It was purely an accident Don’t know
Source: Fox News, August 2007.

Osama bin Laden Alive?
2007 31% 50 19 Q: Do you . . . ? Believe that Osama bin Laden is dead Think he is still alive
Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, June 2011.

2011 86% 11

Is Elvis Alive?
Q: There have been reports and rumors that Elvis Presley is still alive. Do you think . . . ? 1997 There is a possibility that Elvis is still alive 6% No 89 Not sure 5
Note: Asked of registered voters. Source: Fox News, August 1997.

9/11
Q: Do you . . . ? Believe the United States government knowingly allowed the attacks on September 11th, 2001, to happen Do not believe Not sure
Source: Public Policy Polling, March 2013.

2013

11% 78 11

Chem Trails
Q: Do you . . . ? Believe that the exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons Do not believe Not sure
Source: Public Policy Polling, March 2013.

The CIA and Crack Cocaine
Q: Do you . . . ? Believe the CIA was instrumental in distributing crack cocaine into America’s inner cities in the 1980s Do not believe Not sure
Source: Public Policy Polling, March 2013.

2013

2013

14% 55 30

4% 88 7

Obama’s Birthplace
Q: Do you think . . . ? Barack Obama was definitely born in the United States Probably born in the United States Probably born in another country Definitely born in another country May 2011 58% 22 10 7 March 2011 46% 26 15 10 July 2010 42% 29 16 11

Note: In May 2011, 28 percent of self-identified Republicans said Obama was probably (16 percent) or definitely (12 percent) born in another country. Nine percent of self-identified Democrats gave those responses. When the question was first asked in July 2010, 41 percent of Republicans said he was probably or definitely born in another country. Fifteen percent of Democrats gave those responses. Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, latest that of July 2011.

AEI POLITICAL REPORT CONTRIBUTORS Karlyn Bowman, Senior Fellow; Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar; Michael Barone, Resident Fellow. Research Assistants: Jennifer Marsico, Editor; Andrew Rugg, Editor. Interns: Madeline Glista; Kate Wildman.

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Congress at Bottom: Will the Negativity Last?
During the shutdown, several pollsters found the disapproval ratings for Congress at an all-time high. Eighty-five percent in the CBS News poll, for example, disapproved of the job Congress was doing. In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, approval of Congress was at a 40-year low. Republicans in Congress saw their ratings slide, but the Democrats in the body had low ratings, too. Poll results from times of high drama can be ephemeral. The 2014 congressional elections are a year away. But at this early point, people are in a strongly anti-incumbent mood. Whether these feelings will dissipate remains to be seen. In the ABC/Post poll, two-thirds said they were inclined to look around for someone else to vote for next year, the highest response since these pollsters first asked the question in 1989. For the first time in the poll, more people disapproved than approved of their own member of Congress. Normally, people support their own member while disapproving of Congress as a whole. Not now.
Q: Thinking about the next election in _______, right now, are you inclined to . . . ?
70%

66%
60%

Look around for someone else to vote for
50%

40%

30%

Re-elect your representative in Congress 24%

20%

10% 1989

1991

1993

1995

1997

1999

2001

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

Source: ABC News/Washington Post, latest that of October 2013.

Q: Let’s imagine for a moment that the Constitution allowed you to immediately remove everyone in Congress. If you could fire every lawmaker on Capitol Hill right now, including your own Senators and representative, and hold new elections, would you . . . ? Would fire every lawmaker on Capitol Hill right now and hold new elections Would not
Note: Sample is registered voters. Source: Fox News, October 2013.

Q: If there were a place on your ballot that allowed you to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including your own representative, would you . . . ? Would vote to replace every single member of Congress, including your own representative 60% Would not 35
Note: Asked of a half sample. Source: NBC/Wall Street Journal, October 2013.

62% 35

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A New Isolationism?
In 1945, Gallup started asking Americans whether it “would be best for the future of this country if we take an active part in world affairs, or if we stayed out of world affairs.” The question has been asked many times since then. So called “isolationist” sentiment reached a peak after the Vietnam War. That sentiment is higher now. In another question asked by the German Marshall Fund, a robust 77 percent of Americans in a 2013 say it is very or somewhat desirable that the United States exert strong leadership in world affairs.   
Q: Do you . . . ?
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

Think it will best for the future of the country if we take an active part in world affairs

61%

Stay out of world affairs

38%

1942 1946 1950 1954 1958 1962 1966 1970 1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998 2002 2006 2010

Source: Gallup, National Opinion Research Center, Gallup/CNN/USA Today, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, latest that of March 2012.

Q: How desirable is it that . . . ? Very desirable that the United States exert strong leadership in world affairs Somewhat desirable Somewhat undesirable Very undesirable Very/somewhat desirable   2013 77% 2012 82 2011 85 2010 84 2009 87 2008 80 2007 84 2006 84 2005 85 2002 83

46% 31 10 8

Source: TNS-US and University Survey for Transatlantic Trends (a project of the German Marshall Fund and others), latest that of June 2013. 

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Straws in the Wind for 2014?
Tea Party Challengers?
The recent government shutdown fired up potential tea party primary challenges to Republican members of Congress. According to our friend David Wasserman, House Editor of the Cook Political Report, there appear at this early stage to be five House members who may face challenges from the right, Mike Simpson (ID-02), Walter Jones (NC-03), Greg Walden (OR-02), Bill Shuster (PA-09), and Pete Sessions (TX-32). In the Senate, Republicans Mike Enzi (WY), Mitch McConnell (KY), Thad Cochran (MS), Lindsay Graham (SC), Pat Roberts (KS), and Lamar Alexander (TN) all have challengers from the right, but not all are from tea party members. There are some signs of a backlash: a few mainstream, business-oriented Republicans are challenging tea party Republican officeholders. One of the most prominent, according to Politico, is attorney Dave Trott, who is challenging freshman tea party member Kerry Bentivolio in Michigan’s 11th congressional district. In another such contest in the 3rd congressional district of Michigan, businessman Brian Ellis has launched a Republican primary challenge against Rep. Justin Amash, an outspoken leader of the House tea party. Ellis has been described as a mainstream conservative.
——Mainstream challenger—— ——Tea Party incumbent—— ——Trott’s cash hall, first month——

Dave Trott

Kerry Bentivolio

$400,000

One major Republican may be taking sides in the tea party vs. mainstream Republican fight: former President George W. Bush just made a $5,000 contribution to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s reelection bid.

Too Close to Call?
Redistricting is shrinking the number of competitive House seats, but there are still a number of districts that remain hotly contested.
24 House seats won by less than 4 points in 2012

11 held by Republicans

13 held by Democrats

1 open in 2014

12 held by freshmen

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Extreme Turnover
It’s often said that incumbency is the greatest predictor of success in a House elections: those who currently hold office have a distinct advantage over any challengers. But as David Wasserman recently wrote in National Journal, extreme turnover has been common in a few House districts. One place actually had six different congressmen in that time: a Houston-area neighborhood named Skyscraper Shadows. The shapes of these districts have changed.
——————-Districts represented by at least five different officeholders in the past decade——————

Northern Clark County, GA 4 R, 1 D

Butts/Jasper/ Newton counties, GA 4 R, 1 D

ID-02, Boise, Idaho 4 R, 1 D

Kankakee/ Will counties, Ill 2 R, 3 D

Most of Calhoun, Michigan 4 R, 1 D

Southern Monroe County, NY 3 R, 2 D

Saratoga/Glens Falls area, NY 2 R, 3 D

Skyscraper, Shadow, TX 3 R, 3 D

Southern Bexar County, TX 4 R, 1 D

Part of Norfolk/, Hampton, VA 3 R, 2 D

City Hall to Capitol Hill
According to an analysis by Greg Giroux of Bloomberg News, there are now 10 former mayors serving in the Senate. Corey Booker, ex-mayor of Newark New Jersey, is the latest to make the move. He joins New Jersey’s senior senator, Democrat Robert Menendez, who was the former mayor of Union City.
————————————————Former mayors now in the Senate———————————————— Democrats: Cory Booker, NY (Newark), Robert Menendez, NY (Union City), Mark Begich, Alaska (Anchorage), Dianne Feinstein, CA (San Francisco), Tim Kaine, VA (Richmond) Republicans: Bob Corker, TN (Chattanooga), Mike Enzi, WY (Gillette), Jim Inhofe, OK (Tulsa), and Mike Johanns, NB (Lincoln). Independent: Bernie Sanders, VT (Burlington).

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Women Governors
In 2004 and 2007 a record number of women (nine) won governors’ races.
——————2004 and 2007,women who won governors’ races——————

9
According to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers, thus far, 27 women have filed to run. Long-shot Wendy Davis in Texas may be the most prominent.
——————-Announced 2014 women gubernatorial candidates——————
10 open seats

27

13 are challengers 4 are incumbents

In two states thus far (Pennsylvania and Massachusetts), women are challenging women in gubernatorial contests.

Money, Money, Money
According to data collected for Vital Statistics on Congress, a joint AEI-Brookings-Campaign Finance Institute project, running for a House seat will cost you. Winning will cost you more. Especially for a challenger, raising that much money can be difficult, so it’s not surprising that there may be several wealthy self-funding recruits in next year’s House campaigns. Roll Call reports that for 2014, most of these potential self-funders are Republicans, and they could shake up some competitive districts in California, Florida, Michigan, and New York, among other states. For more historical congressional data, check out the Vital Statistics website: http:// www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2013/07/ vital-statistics-congress-mann-ornstein.
House Race 20102010 House Races
$1,500,000 $1,000,000 $500,000 $0 Mean expenditure, House races Mean cost of winning $1,100,000 $1,400,000

Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a new AEI Public Opinion Study looks closely at public attitudes about a variety of conspiracy theories. The collection brings together 50 years of data from over a dozen major pollsters. The study examines theories about the Kennedy assassination, Roswell, Pearl Harbor, MLK, the moon landing, Waco, 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and more. http://www.aei.org/papers/public-opinion-on-conspiracy-theories

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