Conservative Groups "Packaging 9/11" to Help Bush

Janet Elder claims conservatives are taking advantage of the "murky understanding" of voters who think Saddam was involved in 9-11. But what of the poll showing 1/3 of Democrats think Bush was involved?

Janet Elder's latest occasional "On Polling" column for the web, "Packaging 9/11, Terror and the War in Iraq," deals with the "striking" number of people who think Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11 and how conservative groups are capitalizing on voters' "murky understanding." But what about the poll of Democrats who thought Bush knew about 9-11 in advance?

Elder, the editor of news surveys and election analysis for the Times, wrote:

"The language used to talk about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the language used to take the nation to war in Iraq have been so interlaced that polls show they are inextricably linked in the minds of a substantial number of voters.

"Other things may be at play, too, but for some voters, terrorists, terrorism, the war in Iraq, 9/11, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda are all part of the same multi-headed hydra.

"Polls show many of these voters are turning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, New York's former mayor, whose public image was set in voters' minds on the day terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Some conservative political groups, seeking to continue the policies of the Bush Administration, are capitalizing on the murky understanding of some voters about who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and why the United States went to war in Iraq.

"One such group, Freedom's Watch, which has ties to the White House, ran television ads in the Philadelphia market and others around the sixth anniversary of the attack - when Gen. David H. Petraeus was also delivering his report to Congress on the progress of the war - suggesting a connection between the war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks."

What are Freedom's Watch's "ties to the White House," precisely? The Times has made that allegation before in print, without backing it up.

"One of the most striking poll findings is the number of people who continue to think Saddam Hussein was behind the Sept. 11 attacks. Depending on how it is asked, more than a third of Americans say Saddam Hussein was personally involved in those attacks. In a New York Times/CBS News Poll in September, 33 percent of the respondents said Saddam Hussein was 'personally' involved. In June, when Princeton Survey Research, polling for Newsweek, asked if 'Saddam Hussein's regime was directly involved in planning, financing or carrying out the terrorist attacks,' 41 percent said yes."

"Political scientists say entangling the war in Iraq - the driving issue in the election - with the threat of a terrorist attack plays to voters' fears. It is most effective with voters who are not strong partisans, they say."

For all her suspicion of "murky scenarios" and "playing to voters' fears" on the part of conservatives, a news search indicates Elder never analyzed a Rasmussen poll from May that shows 35% Democrats believe the nutty conspiracy theory that Bush knew of the 9-11 attacks in advance.