Universiteit Antwerpen

A content analysis of “Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War” by Kull, Ramsay and Lewis.

Francine Carron Media & Politiek Prof. Walgrave December 10, 2009

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Table of Contents

I. Introduction II. An analysis of the media A. Objectivity versus subjectivity B. Print versus Television media C. Choice of Network D. News Frequency & Negativity III. Public Opinion (Misperceptions) A. Media & Social Theory shape public opinion B. Partisan Polarization C. Framing & Priming IV. Conclusion

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Large debates and scholarly studies have been conducted about the Iraq War and the influence of the media on public opinion. Numerous surveys have taken place to find who and what triggered the American public to support their President in the war on terror. According to Kull, Ramsay and Lewis the public was mislead by their administration through the dispersion of misperceptions. In this paper I analyze the research of Kull et al using theories of political communication. The first part of the paper examines the media and the second part analyzes the public opinion relating back tothe text Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. I. Introduction

The Bush administration had the challenging task to convince the American public that an invasion of Iraq was necessary. The American government had to encourage their people that there was a potential threat to their country. Hence the government stated that Iraq was supporting Al-Qaeda and Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The majority of the people believed the statements of the Bush Administration. Even though, the largest part of the population was not persuaded that the United States (US) should take unilateral action. The American people only wanted to go to war with approval of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. In spite of the governmental efforts to make it a clear to the public that Iraq was a threat, the fact that the Bush administration couldn’t find the WMD the American people wanted to wait with an offensive until there was more evidence of an existing threat. Nevertheless, when the UN Security Council didn’t approve of the war, the President decided tot take unilateral action and launched the war on terror. Oddly enough, the public supported their President and when it was confirmed that there were no WMD they continued supporting him. The main question in the article is “Why is the public so accommodating? Did they simply change their views about the war despite their earlier reservations? Or did they in some way come to have certain false beliefs or misperceptions that would make going to war appear more legitimate, consistent with pre-existing beliefs”?1 Kull, Ramsay and Lewis try to answer their central question by “first exploring the degree of pervasiveness of misperceptions, secondly analyzing the relationship between the holding of these misperceptions and support for the Iraq war. Thirdly, the authors of ‘misperceptions, the media, and the Iraq war analyze the relationship between the holding of misperceptions and the respondent’s primary news source. Fourthly, they evaluate the relationship between attention to news and the level of misperceptions and fifthly Kull, Ramsay

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Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598.

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and Lewis analyze misperceptions as a function of political attitudes, including intention to vote for the President and party identification.”2 The three authors of ‘misperceptions, the media and the Iraq war’ concluded using survey data analysis that while checking for other variables, including gender, race and age, the respondents’ primary media source is the strongest indicator of misperceptions.3 I. A. Media Analyses Objectivity versus Subjectivity

The news media is a significant source of facts and data. The majority of people around the world rely on the news for getting their daily local, national or international information. This information can range from celebrity news, current events to political information. As most people, Americans also rely heavily on the media for their news. According to Robinson and Kohut’s survey of the credibility of 39 news media organizations and personality’s finds the majority of those surveyed (2,104 adults) believe most of what they learn from the press.4 This can be very dangerous because today’s press coverage is said to contain a high level of bias. However, back in the days, press coverage was quite objective. As for Schudson and Gans, objectivity arose as a means of attaining journalistic credibility.5 Journalistic credibility is defined as appealing to a broader demographic without alienating many readers. “Objectivity and its central component, detachment, offered the press a strategy for expanding its market by balancing perspectives from at least two sides of an issue.”6 Tuchman elaborated on this point, arguing that detached objectivity was a strategic ritual that not only preserved journalistic credibility with readers.7 Contemporary journalistic reporting is quite different.

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Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598.

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Cihasky, C. G.-Y. (n.d.). The Media, Public Opinion and Iraq: The Roles of Tone and Coverage in Public Misperceptions. Id.

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Gans, H. (1979). Deciding What’s News. New York: Vintage Book. Schudson, M. (1978). Discovering the News:A Social History of American Newspapers. New York : Basic Books.

Aday, S., Livingston, S., & Hebert, M. (2005). Embedding the Truth A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Objectivity and Television Coverage of the Iraq War. Press/Politics 10 (1) , 3-21.
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Tuchman, G. ( 1972). Objectivity as Strategic Ritual: An Examination of Newsmen’s Notions of Objectivity. American Journal of Sociology 77 (4) , 660–79.

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For example the study of Gilens which is an analysis of public perceptions of a specific policy area, finds that both network television news and news magazines depict poor Americans as being African American more often than is really the case.8 This result implies that information distributed by the news media, even if it is similar across news sources, may not be exact. Scholars such as Shelley and Ashkins examined the accuracy of news reports across different mediums. Their study compared media images of crime trends to police statistics. Shelley and Ashkins find that newspapers more accurately represent police statistics when compared to television reports.9 These findings are important because the public’s perceptions about crime are largely based on television reports, and those reports fail to accurately report police statistics, thus providing the public with a wrong version of the reality. Examinations of Gerbner et al, Lichter, Rothman, O’Guinn and Shrum also concur with the many content analyses of television. These authors proved that a number of constructs are consistently overrepresented on television relative to their real- world incidence.10 This becomes problematic when the public starts to accept the media bias as truth. Scholars name this phenomenon an ‘effect of cultivation theory’. Cultivation Theory “posits that frequent viewing of these distortions of reality will increasingly result in the perception that these distortions reflect reality.”11 In other words, the public believes what it hears, reads and sees. A great example of an incident where the public was misinformed by the media is the belief among the public that led to the support for the war on terror. The staggering results of Kull et al analyzing the misperceptions that led to support for the war in Iraq are very significant as they challenge the assumption of precise, correct, impartial, objective coverage in journalism. It is widely assumed that America’s support of the war on terror was shaped through the media which distributed false information. B. Print versus Television Media

The study by Althaus of American news consumption during times of national crises shows that there are “notable changes in the mix of news media used by Americans since

Gilens, Martin. 1996. “Race and Poverty in America: Public Misperceptions and the American Correlates of Television Viewing.”
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Sheley, J. F., & Ashkins, C. D. (1981). Crime, Crime News and Crime Views. Public Opinion Quarterly 45 , 492-506. George Gerbner, L. G. (1984). Political Correlates of Television Viewing. Public Opinion Quarterly: 48 , 283-300.

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George, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., Signorielli, N., & Shanahan, J. (2002). Growing Up with Television: Cultivation Processes. In J. Bryant, & M. Dolf Zillmann, Media Effects:Advances in Theory and Research (pp. 43-67). New Jersey : Erlbaum. Thomas, O., & Shrum, L. J. (1997). The role of television in the construction of consumer reality. Journal of Consumer Research 23 , 278-294.

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9/11.”12 This statement is proved by surveys conducted by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. These surveyors asked respondents if they could name up to three media as primary sources of news. In the first week of September 2001, print media was the most important source. In the second week of January 2002 cable television had become the most significant news source. Americans had also indicated on the surveys that they combine television news with internet for getting information on public affairs. The audit bureau data released by the Newspaper Association of America confirms that U.S. daily newspaper circulation in the period from September 31, 2001 through March 31, 2002, was 0.6% lower than in the prior six-month; an obvious decline from print to television media after 9/11. However, the American public does not realize that due to the shift from print media to cable television for their news they are shifting from in-depth reporting to a medium that easily distributes biases and doesn’t provide context for understanding the Iraq war. As a result misperception about the war on terror was distributed with ease by the media and was effortlessly accepted by the public. It is important for viewers to be aware that the messages they receive from television news sources may not necessarily be entirely accurate. Moreover, U.S. broadcast networks, generally, had the tendency to be more entrenched in the Pentagon and Bush administration than print journalists. Kull, Ramsay and Lewis discovered in their research that “those who got their news from print were less likely to have all three misperceptions” on the war on terror. D’Alessio and Allen would agree with the previous statement. In their meta-analysis of presidential elections these two authors compared print and television coverage of presidential elections between 1948 and 2000. They find that there were no biases in the amount of reporting given to the two major party candidates in print media. D’Alessio and Allen do come across a small amount of bias in the amount of reporting among televised news networks. Their conclusions validate that the amount of reporting between mediums may differ, and televised reporting may contain systematic predispositions.13 For that reason those people who shaped their public opinion based on the print media had not as much misperceptions than those who received their news from network television. Volgy and Schwarz discovered that respondents who cite television as their primary news source have less knowledge of politics, are not as much politically active and have a lower sense

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Althaus, S. L. (2002). American news consumption during times of national crisis. Political Science and Politics , 517-521.

D'Alessio, D., & Allen, M. ( 2000). Media Bias in Presidential Elections: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Communication: 50 , 133-156.

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of political efficacy than those whose primary news source is newsprint.14 In the case of Kull et al 80 percent of the respondents in the PIPA/KN poll stated that their primary news source was television. As a consequence one can assume that those respondents are not really knowledgeable about politics and therefore have a higher probability of misperceiving political policies or actions in general. C. Choice of Network

Next to noting the importance of television in shaping public opinion Volgy and Schwarz also find the choice of network significant. These two authors find that ABC news viewers are more concerned about crime and NBC news viewers are the least familiar with outside political figures. By differentiating between the interests of ABC and NBC viewers Volgy and Schwarz suggest that not only does the type of medium matter (print versus tv), but that variations within a particular medium (ABC versus NBC) are also important considerations. Thus somewhat agreeing with Kull et al that misperceptions are to some extent a function of an individual’s source of news. These findings suggest that the media impact of the news influence varies across news source. Jordan would comment on these findings that individuals must collect information to develop opinions subsequently one can conclude that different news sources have different impacts on public opinion.15 In their research Kull et al were able to prove through PIPA/KN polls that the public had misperceptions as a function of source of news. The authors asked an aggregate sample of 3,334 respondents the following questions: “‘Where do you tend to get most of your news?’ and offered the options of newspapers and magazines or TV and radio.” 16 80 percent said that their primary news source was electronic. Respondents were then asked which network is your primary source of news. The networks offered were ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS and NPR, the latter being public networks. These respondents were also asked about their perceptions, “whether they thought there was evidence of close links between Iraq and Al Qaeda has been found, whether WMF have been found in Iraq, and whether world public opinion approved of the United States going to war.”17 According to Kull, Ramsay and Lewis Fox, NPR and PBS were standing out in the analysis. Fox viewers had the most misperceptions and NPR/PBS viewers and listeners had a smaller number of misperceptions than commercial news viewers. Using the words of the three
Volgy, T. a. (1980). Television Entertainment Programming and Sociopolitical Attitudes . Journalism Quarterly 57 , 150-155.
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Jordan, D. L. (1993). Newspaper effects on policy preferences. Public Opinion Quarterly , 191-204. Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598. Id.

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authors I quote: “in the audience for NPR/PBS, there was an overwhelming majority who did not have any of the three misperceptions, and hardly any had all three whereas the Fox audience showed the highest average rate of misperceptions”.18 When respondents were asked if there was evidence that Iraq had close links to Al Qaeda, they found that misperceptions were at 67 percent with Fox viewers and 16 percent with public broadcast viewers. When the question was asked whether Iraq was directly involved in September 11, “the highest level of misperceptions was in the CBS audience (33 percent) followed by Fox (24 percent), ABC (23 percent), NBC (22 percent) and CNN (21 percent).” 19 When respondents were asked whether the US has found WMD since the war ended, Kull et al. detected that Fox viewers believed this with 33 percent and a lower 19 to 23 percent of ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN viewers. While only 11 percent of the PBS viewers assumed this. When these same group of respondents were asked whether they thought the rest of the world supported the Iraqi war again 35 percent of Fox viewers was convinced of this statement compared to five percent of PBS viewers. In general, Kernel, author of ‘Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: a Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks’ argues that the U.S. broadcasting networks helped Bush advance his agenda. For Kernel, the US broadcasting networks provided a conduit for the Pentagon propaganda and the Bush administration.20 The U.S. networks framed the event as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” or “War in Iraq.”21 American broadcast networks followed the Pentagon concept of “shock and awe” and presented the war against Iraq as a great military spectacle.22 Networks such as Fox and NBC dispersed nothing but propaganda and one side patriotism. CNN provided only patriotism for the most part. Most 24/7 US cable networks tended to provide highly sanitized views of the war. These networks rarely showed Iraqi causalities Arab outrage about the war, global antiwar, anti- U.S. protests, and the negative features of the war; they only tended pro-military patriotism, propaganda, technological fetishism, celebrating

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Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598. Id.

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Kellner, D. (2004). Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: a Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks. Cultural Studies- Critical Methodologies 4 , 329-340.
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Id. Id.

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the weapons of war and military humanism, highlighting the achievements and heroism of the U.S. troops.23 The study ‘Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War’ by Kull, Ramsay and Lewis found that the overwhelmingly pro-war views of the major network commentators led the media to “downplay the lack of evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda the fact that WMD were not being found, and the world public opinion was critical of the war” (Kull, Ramsey, Lewis, 593). This illustrates the danger of what happens when political actors manage the media and the media simply becomes a method of transmission for the government, rather than a critical filter. An example of such incident where the media has become a passive transmitter of government messages is when George Bush had made a statement that WMD had been found in Iraq. The Washington Post ran the front page headline saying Bush: “We found Banned Weapons”.24 This is an important example as it notes the significance of experts and commentators in exerting influence on the public. Volgy, Schwarx, Kull, Ramsay and Lewis are not the only scholars that demonstrated that the various news sources can influence the public’s opinion and attitudes. Page, Shapiro and Dempsey also concur with the findings of Volgy Schwarx and Kull et al. Every one of these authors believes that news commentators and experts have an important impact on public opinion. D. News Frequency & Negativity

Kull et al assumed that misperceptions are less when respondents have greater exposure to news. In other words, when a person watches the news much more, they would have fewer misperceptions than people whose news watching frequency is much lower. Kull, Ramsay and Lewis asked respondents “‘how closely are you following the news about the situation in Iraq now?’ The results showed that 13 percent said they followed the news very closely, 43 percent somewhat closely, 29 percent not very closely, and 14 percent not closely at all.”25The findings illustrated that there “was no relation between the reported level of attention to news and the frequency of misperceptions.” 26 This statement is in contrast with the findings of Gerbner, Gross, Morgan and Signorielli that concluded in their research that respondents who watch television news that portrays
Kellner, D. (2004). Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: a Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks. Cultural Studies- Critical Methodologies 4 , 329-340.
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Roffle, J. (n.d.). Review of Linsky's Book: Impact: How the Press Affects Federal Policymaking. Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598. Id.

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moderate political views as a consequence will have more moderate political opinions.27 Many researches have confirmed the predicted correlation between the amount of television viewing and the beliefs congruent with television portrayals. Gerbner, Gross, Morgan and Signorielli state in their article ‘Political correlates of television viewing”, that those who watch more television are more likely to identify themselves as moderate. Thus for Gerbner et al the higher the frequency of watching the news the higher change it has to influence an individual’s opinion. Harrington is another scholar who would agree with the statement of Gerbner, Gross, Morgan and Signorielli. Harrington compared content and amount of television reporting by investigating national economic conditions and network reporting of the economy. This scholar uncovers that networks spend more time (measured in seconds) to negative economic news.28 Soroka, author of ‘Good News and Bad News: Asymmetric Responses to Economic Information’ would also concur with the previous statement, he believes that the media focuses more on bad news then on good news. The findings of Harrington suggest that the amount of reporting may influence public opinion, and the amount of reporting may depend on the type of news story. Meaning that more time is spent on the coverage of bad news. Therefore, one can assume that news coverage on Iraq was higher than normal as it was negative news. People’s opinion should have thus been influenced by high exposure to this type of news. Although according to Kull et al this was not the case, the public opinion was not shaped by news frequency but news source. II. A. Public Opinion Media & Social Theory shape Public Opinion

We now know that the media can affect people’s opinions. For Kull et al the media shaped the public opinion leading to support of the Iraq war. However many studies would not agree with the findings of Kull, Ramsay and Lewis in relation to the role of the media in shaping the public opinion. Volgy and Schwarz have examined the news media’s ability to shape the views, opinions of people and its effect on social behavior.29 These two scholars believe that due to the fact that the media can shape public opinion political actors have accepted the media and even use it as an
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George Gerbner, L. G. (1984). Political Correlates of Television Viewing. Public Opinion Quarterly: 48 , 283-300

Harrington, D. E. (1989). Economic news on television: The determinants of coverage. Public Opinion Quarterly 53 , 17-40. Volgy, T. a. (1980). Television Entertainment Programming and Sociopolitical Attitudes . Journalism Quarterly 57 , 150-155.
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attempt to change the public’s opinion. However there are other scholars who believe that the news media’s influence on public opinion is not unlimited, and is mediated by other factors, including prior knowledge and social networks.30 Robinson and Levy researched variables that influence public understanding of major news and find that while exposure to the news media enhances comprehension of the news; interpersonal dialogue is also of great essence in public awareness and understanding of the news.31 Price and Zaller analyzed the importance of prior knowledge, along with exposure to the media and interpersonal conversation, in their study of the aspects that affect news recall.32 For Zaller opinions are flexible and can be relatively easily influenced, particularly in areas where people do not have significant personal involvement. He writes voter awareness of specific issues is quite low, therefore susceptibility to persuasion is high.33 Doris Graber would also agree with the previous statement. This means that the public is not only convinced by the media but also by their social grouping. If people do not have previous knowledge of the political issues they are more susceptible for misperceptions.34 Graber slightly agrees with Kull et al that specific news sources can shape the public’s opinion. Additionally Grasnovetter and Cialdini also believe that social influence shapes opinion, they write people are often persuaded by those they personally interact with.35 Bartels remarks that the media’s impact on public opinion is mediated by the political views of the public. Bartels finds the media’s ability to influence public opinion limited because of these prior opinions held by individuals.36 The above mentioned scholars mostly agree that the media can shape public opinion but they also take into account individual’s social factor that plays a major role in shaping an opinion. Hermann, Tetlock and Visser who wrote ‘mass public decisions to go to war’ focus

Kellner, D. (2004). Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: a Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks. Cultural Studies- Critical Methodologies 4 , 329-340. Levy, J. P. (1986). Interpersonal Communication and News Comprehension. Public Opinion Quarterly 50 , 160175.
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Price, V. a. (1993). "Who Gets the News?: Alternative Measures of. Public Opinion Quarterly , 133-164. Zaller, J. (1992). The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. Cambridge: University Press. Doris, G. (1984). Processing the news: How people tame the information tide. New York: Longman. Cialdini, R. (1984). Influence: the psychology of persuasion. New York : Quill.

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Bartels, L. (1993). Messages received: The political impact of media exposure. American Political Science Review , 267-285.

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even more than Bartels, Graber, Zaller, Cialdini, etc. on the social aspects of shaping public opinion. Hermann, Tetlock and Visser would definitely not agree with the findings of Kull et al. As Hermann et al focus on “the cognitive –interactionist perspective, in which people adapt broad predispositions in relatively thoughtful ways to specific foreign problems.”37 The authors argue that Americans decision to use military force abroad is based on a combination of dispositional preferences and ideas about the geopolitical situation. Hermann, Tetlock and Visser conducted a representative national survey and found that “(1) respondent dispositions, especially isolationism versus internationalism and assertiveness versus accommodativeness, consistently constrained policy preferences, whereas liberalism- conservatism did not; (2) features of the geopolitical context- the presence of US interests, relative power, the images of the adversary’s motivation, and judgments about cultural status- also influenced support for military intervention; and (3) systematic interactions emerged between dispositions and geopolitical context.” 38 Kull, Ramsay and Lewis minimally took into account social factors in their study on misperceptions about the war. Four of these social factors were demographic: gender, age, household income and education and the two other were party identification and the intention to vote for the president. The authors of ‘Misperceptions, the media and the Iraq war’ found that the most powerful factor was the intention to vote for President Bush and the second most powerful factor was one’s primary source of network news. The third most powerful factor was to vote for the Democratic nominee and the fourth most powerful factor was education. According to Kull et al those who had no college education compared to those who had at least some college education had more misperceptions. Age was a weak factor, with older people being slightly less likely to misperceive.39 For Kull, Ramsay and Lewis all other factors such as gender, party identification, level of attention to news, income and region of the country were not significant. Yankelovich would agree with the findings of Kull et al. Yankelovich researched what Americans really think about US foreign. He noticed that demographic differences appear when shaping a political opinion. Yankelovich survey’s results showed that “women are more concerned than men about the war in Iraq, senior citizens worry more than young Americans

Hermann, R. K., Tetlock, P. E., & S.Visser, P. (1999). Mass Public decisions to go to war: A cognitive interactionist framework. The American Political Science review , 553-573.
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Id. Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598.

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about the country’s debt burden—but they do not account for the biggest splits. More than anything, it is party affiliation or political partisanship that explains the starkest polarizations.”40 B. Partisan Polarization It is said that the Iraq war and President George W. Bush have provoked the most polarized partisan responses of any war or president since the advent of scientific polling.41 Yankelovich reads from his surveys that Republicans are highly supportive of the Bush administration and their attitude towards the war on terror. Republicans also believe “that U.S. relations with other nations are sound and well conducted, they have great confidence in Washington’s ability to export democracy, and they think that the United States is improving the lives of people in poor countries and fully living up to its ideal of justice.”42 The survey of Kull et al showed that those who intended to vote for Bush had more misperceptions is somehow congruent with the theory of Yankelovich because Republicans support the war on terror and therefore believed anything that was presented in the media. It seems as if Republicans suffered from cognitive dissonance. Kull, Ramsay and Lewis concluded from their research that the individual source of news and voter intention increased the probability of having more misperceptions about the war on terror. Gary Jacobson, professor politics at University of California San Diego would also concur with the fact that voter intention was key for being perceptive for misperceptions. In his essay ‘Perception, Memory and the Partisan Polarization of Opinion on the Iraq War’ he states that the analysis of the results of three surveys specifically designed to explore the most polarized partisan responses in the Iraq war “shows that modes of motivated reasoning, including motivated skepticism and selective perception, memory, and exposure have all contributed to the emergence of unusually wide divisions of opinion between ordinary Republicans and Democrats on the war and the president.”43 As previously said, Kull et al proved that the intention to vote for the President was highly influential for having misperceptions about the Iraq war. They found that “supporters of the President are more likely to have misperceptions than are those who oppose him, the intention to vote for the President is the single most powerful predictor of misperceptions.”44 “Of the three key misperceptions- evidence of Al Qaeda links found, WMD found, and word public opinion favors war- those who said they would vote for the President were far more likely to misperceive. Those who vote for the President held misperceptions 45 percent of the time and
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Yankelovich, D. (2005). Poll Positions: What America Really thinks of Foreign Policy. . Foreign Affairs 84 (5) , 2-17. Jacobson, G. (n.d.). Perception, Memory, and the Partisan Polarization of Opinion on the Iraq War. Yankelovich, D. (2005). Poll Positions: What America Really thinks of Foreign Policy. . Foreign Affairs 84 (5) , 2-17. Jacobson, G. (n.d.). Perception, Memory, and the Partisan Polarization of Opinion on the Iraq War. Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598.

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Democrats supporters held misperceptions 17 percent of the time.”45 Jacobson would totally agree with these findings. According to him Republicans “tended to misperceive, ignore or consciously reject information undermining the war’s initial justifications”.46 Those with the deepest devotion to Bush were most likely to continue to accept the war’s initial justifications, that Iraq possessed WMD and that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. The previous is confirmed by Kull, Ramsay and Lewis who found that when respondents were asked to characterize the relationship between the previous Iraq government and Al Qaeda 29 percent of Bush supporters said ‘Iraq was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks’ and only 15 percent of democrats believed this. One can not help but notice that the war on terror caused a wide gap between Republicans and Democrats. Jacobson agrees with the former. He states that such party differences in opinion are unique in American history. This did not happen in the case of U.S. engagements in Korea, Vietnam, the Person Gulf, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Therefore he concludes that in the case of the war on terror “those partisans showing such signs of motivated reasoning express by far the most divergent opinions on the war and the president.”47 Today, Americans are not as sharply split along partisan lines in relation to US foreign policy and Iraq. C. Framing and Priming Framing and priming prevailed very much during the war on terror. According to Barbara Allen, Paula O'Loughlin, Amy Jasperson, John L. Sullivan framing “describes the process of placing information into a context of preconscious symbolism.”48 Gamson and Modigliani define framing as the central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events.49 Priming “concerns the unobtrusive activation of attitude or knowledge constructs stored in memory.”50 “In both framing and priming, the unconscious or pre- conscious references stimulate conscious judgments that might not have occurred if information had been framed or attitudes had been primed differently.”51

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Kull, R. a. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly , 569-598. Jacobson, G. (n.d.). Perception, Memory, and the Partisan Polarization of Opinion on the Iraq War. Id.

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Allen, B., O'Loughlin, P., Jasperson, A., & Sullivan, J. L. (1994). The Media and the Gulf War: Framing, Priming, and the Spiral of Silence. Polity, Vol. 27, No. 2 , 255-284.
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Gamson, William A. and Andre Modigliani (1989): “Media Discourse and Public Opinion on Nuclear Power: A Constructionist Approach,” American Journal of Sociology 95: 1-37. Id. Id.

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One can assume that in the case of the Iraq war people would have had different attitudes towards the war if they had not been framed and primed. Most frames are created by the media though in the case of the war on terror the frames were not created by the media but by the government. However, the media is still guilty of priming in the coverage on the war on terror. It is the media’s responsibility to be critical of the government and catch their frames. In the coverage of the war on terror the media was not critical and passed these frames on to the public. In order for the American government to seek support from its people they created frames to justify the invasion. According to Calabrese who wrote the article ‘US Media and the Justification of the Iraq War’ “in departing from the traditional principles of a “just war” theory, which demands that military action be taken only in self-defense, the U.S. government’s policy in its war against Iraq was preemptive, the logic being that the perceived risk of Iraqi aggression toward the United States ought to be avoided by attacking first.”52 For Calabrese of course, the obvious question became what evidence was there of imminent danger that should justify an attack?53 Rather, the challenge has been all along a matter of how to sell the war to the American people. Therefore frames were created. The misperceptions that Kull et al can be described as the frames the US government created to justify their invasion of Iraq. Thus, one could say that links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda is the first frame. The second frame being that WMD were found in Iraq and the third frame being that the world public opinion supported the Iraq war. These are the principal arguments offered for why the United States should invade Iraq. Calabrese confirms that the frames created were that “the regime of Saddam Hussein had continued to store, produce, and find ways to further develop the capacity to produce biological, chemical, and nuclear “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) and the other being that there were covert links between the Iraqi government and members of the Al Qaeda network, perhaps even implicating Iraq in the terrorist attacks on U.S. targets on September 11, 2001.”54 On February 5, 2003, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the UN Security Council and presented what he typified as undeniable evidence of the existence of WMDs in Iraq and of links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government.55 Powell said that the content of his speech relied heavily on Tony Blair’s MI-6 report of the British Government. However, there is proof that MI6 did not produce such a report. MI6 even leaked on the same day a report denying that there was evidence of WMD in Iraq and denied that there were links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. According to Rampton and Stauber, all that
Calabrese, A. (2005). Casus Belli U.S. Media and the Justification of the Iraq War. Television and New Media 6 (2) , 153-175.
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Id. Id.

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Powell, C. (2003, February 5). Remarks to the UN Security Council. Retrieved November 29, 2009, from State.gov: www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2003/17300.htm.

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mattered was “that the Bush team, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, continue to insist that there was a connection.” 56 Due to the fact that Bush and his team continued repeating these frames in speeches and the media passively passed on this information without critique the public began to accept it as true or stopped caring if it was untrue. As an example President Bush stated in a speech in October 2002, concluding that Saddam Hussein was “a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army… The danger Saddam Hussein poses reaches across the world” (Bush 2003.”57 According to Calabrese, during this period, such claims were disputed, and the evidence used to support them was discredited before, during, and since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.58 In 2004 when the Iraq war was officially declared over the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) released a detailed report analyzing the prewar evidence that was available to all the international intelligence communities. They found that the claims the Bush administration made were completely irrelevant as Iraq had given up their nuclear program many years ago and Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein refuted each other. Most of the information about Iraq dated from the second Gulf War. The CEIP has been able to prove that the Bush administration had planned attacks on Iraq long before 9/11. It is proved that the war strategy was developed by a group of Republican neoconservatives. Yet, the Bush administration kept up these frames all through the war. Hiebert who wrote Public relations and propaganda in framing the Iraq war confirmed by saying: “The government framed the issues, story line, and slogans to serve its purposes. Embedding journalists, staging showy briefings, emphasizing visual and electronic media, and making good television out of it were all important to fighting the war;”59 thus, more misperceptions. The media continuously covered these frames, beginning with the reporting of the invasion of Iraq. Network television cancelled regular programs to cover the war during its early days. There was continuous coverage of the war and its unfolding events such as the capture of Saddam Hussein and the military fight with Hussein’s sons. The news media only focused on this news and made other local, national or international news seem completely irrelevant, which is an obvious example of media priming.

Sheldon, R., & Stauber, J. (2004, July 12). Trading on Fear. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from UMI: http://proquest.umi.com
57

56

Id.

Calabrese, A. (2005). Casus Belli U.S. Media and the Justification of the Iraq War. Television and New Media 6 (2) , 153-175.
59

58

Hiebert, R. E. (2003 ). Public relations and propaganda in framing the Iraq war: a preliminary review. Public Relations Review 29 , 243-255.

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Iyengar and Kinder in their study of news priming “demonstrate how focusing attention on some news stories while ignoring others influences how the public judges political leaders.”60 Iyengar and Kinder analyzed how people evaluate the President’s overall performance. They find that when people evaluate the President's overall performance, subjects receiving the most attention in news coverage are given more weight. Thus, Iyengar and Kinder conclude that the very standards used to evaluate political leaders can themselves be strongly influenced by media priming.61 In other words influenced by the amount of attention the media has given the issue. Accordingly, in the case of the Iraq war the government created the frames and these were passed to public and as Kull et al claim it helped shape the public’s opinion to support the war on terror. The primes created by the media focused solely on the Iraq war and therefore one can assume that this also helped reinforce the public’s support for the second Gulf war. However Foyle who wrote the article ‘Leading the public to war? The influence of American public opinion on the Bush administration decision to go to war in Iraq’ would not agree with the claim that priming was solely done by the media. Foyle believes that the American Government “attempted to persuade public opinion to support the use of force in Iraq, principally by using references to WMD to prime public opinion.”62 For Foyle the WMD’s frame primed the public opinion. Hence, one can assume that both priming and framing were constructed by the Bush administration and passed passively through the media which therefore caused most of the American people to have misperceptions of the matter in question. Jacobs and Shapiro believe that “leaders ‘prime’ preexisting attitudes by ‘raising the priority and the weight that individuals assign to particular attitudes already stored in their memories’”.63 For Entman, “to succeed, they need to get the media to ‘frame’ and issue for the public by ‘selecting and highlighting some facets of events or issues, and making connections among them so as to promote a particular interpretation, evaluation, and/or solution’”64 Foyle clearly

60

Iyengar, S., & Kinder, D. R. (1987). News That Matters: Television and American Public Opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Id.

61

Foyle, D. C. (2004). Leading the Public To War? The Influence of American Public Opinion on the administration decision to go to war in Iraq. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 16 (3) , 269-295.
63

62

Jacobs, L., & Shapiro, R. (2000). Politicians dont pander: Political manipulation and the loss of democratic responsiveness. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Entman, R. (2004). Projections of Power: Framing news, public opinion, and US foreign policy . Chicago: Chicago University Press.

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writes that the “Bush government largely worked to lead public opinion and to prime public attitudes on Iraq around a continually narrowing range of policy options.”65 Throughout the news military briefers as well as Iraqi based American journalists managed the reporting. Kellner believed that “military commentators on all networks provided little more than the Pentagon spin of the moment and often repeated gross lies and propaganda.”66 He said that “a great debate emerged around the embedded reporters and whether journalists who depended on the protection of the U.S. and British military (600 journalists)*, lived with the troops, and signed papers agreeing to a rigorous set of restrictions on their reporting could be objective and critical of their protectors.” 67 For Kellner it was clear from the beginning “that the embedded reporters were indeed “in bed with” their military escorts, the reporters presented exultant and triumphant accounts that trumped any paid propagandist.”68 As a result the media helped shape the public opinion of the war by continuously presenting those three frames with no presentation of alternative views. As in the first Gulf War, “the continuous, repetitious, redundant, and unbalanced nature of media coverage contributed to the framing and priming of the war.”69 Shanto Iyengar documents the effects of such framing in television news, examining responses to news reports categorized as either "episodic" (reports that focus on specific events or particular cases) or "thematic" (reports that focus on the broader context for the events or cases that may be presented).70 In order to create misperceptions in the case of the Iraq war only thematic frames were used. Kull, Ramsay and Lewis assumption that the media shaped the public opinion on the main source of media information shaped the public’s opinion on the war on terror could be
Foyle, D. C. (2004). Leading the Public To War? The Influence of American Public Opinion on the administration decision to go to war in Iraq. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 16 (3) , 269-295. Kellner, D. (2004). Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: a Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks. Cultural Studies- Critical Methodologies 4 , 329-340.
67 66 65

Id. Id.

68

* Hiebert, R. E. (2003 ). Public relations and propaganda in framing the Iraq war: a preliminary review. Public Relations Review 29 , 243-255. (248) Allen, B., O'Loughlin, P., Jasperson, A., & Sullivan, J. L. (1994). The Media and the Gulf War: Framing, Priming, and the Spiral of Silence. Polity, Vol. 27, No. 2 , 255-284.
70 69

Id.

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widely rejected by many scholars. Cohen, for example believes that “the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what think about”.71 For McCombs et al. and Wanta the media tell us what the issues of the day are and focus the public’s agenda on specific events. 72 IV. Conclusion Throughout the years people have shifted from using the print media towards using electronic media. Televised medium are much more biased and do not provide in depth analyses of subject matters. The public accepts bias for truths and are therefore much more susceptible for misperceptions. The public should become more knowledgable about how to process information retrieved from the media because the government will continue to frame and prime issues. It is therefore the media’s responsibility to be alert and responsible. It is the media’s responsibility to uncover deceptions. However this will be a long fight because embedding journalists, briefings and making good TV entertainment out of the news is today’s the standard.

71

Cohen, B. (1963). The Press and Foreign Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

McCombs, E, M., Shaw, D. L., & L.Weaver, D. (1997). Communication and Democracy: Exploring the intellectual frontiers in agenda setting theory. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. Wayne, W. (1997). The public and the national agenda: How people learn about imoportant issues. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

72

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