Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attends the opening of an international Islamic conference, in Tehran in 2011 (AP)

Flawed poll hypes threat of Iran

Survey from right-wing group says Americans view Iran as biggest danger to the U.S.


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Justin Elliott
September 20, 2011 12:30AM (UTC)

Politico is reporting on a new poll finding that "Americans view Iran as the country that poses the biggest threat to the United States."

Conducted by the right-wing group Secure America Now, the poll comes out just in time for a campaign season during which the GOP will probably try to make an issue of President Obama's supposed weakness on Iran.

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But a closer look at the poll suggests that its sample of "Americans" is not representative of the actual population of the country.

The poll, by Pat Caddell and John McLaughlin, also asks almost comically leading questions such as:

DO YOU THINK THAT IF THE PALESTINIANS WERE GIVEN THEIR OWN STATE IN THE WEST BANK AND GAZA THEY WOULD LIVE PEACEFULLY WITH ISRAEL OR CONTINUE THEIR CAMPAIGN OF TERROR TO DESTROY ISRAEL?

(It's worth noting the group has a history of trying to generate headlines with deeply flawed polls.)

But take a look at this finding from the new poll:

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AN EVANGELICAL OR BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN?

51.9 YES

45.3 NO

2.8 DON'T KNOW/REFUSED

So 52% of the respondents are self-identified evangelicals. If that strikes you as high, that's because it probably is. Authoritative polls on Americans' religious identification diverge significantly from the Secure America Now poll on this point.

An ABC/BeliefNet poll in 2001, for example, found that just 31% of Americans (or 37% of Christians) identified as evangelical or born-again. On the higher end, Gallup found that in 2005 that same number was 43%. And in a massive survey in 2009, Pew found that just 26% of Americans belong to evangelical Protestant churches.

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So it looks like the Secure America Now poll over-sampled evangelicals, who naturally are more likely to be hawkish on the questions of Israel and Iran that the poll focuses on.


Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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