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Friday, December 18, 2015

30% of Republicans, 19% of Democrats Support Bombing Aladdin

Don't trust voters with the bomb. Or geography.

Whenever pollsters get bored, they throw in an obvious joke question to see how ignorant voters really are. The answer is always “very.”

In a poll published today, Public Policy Polling asked a national survey of 1,057 primary voters, “Would you support or oppose bombing Agrabah?”

  • 30 percent of Republicans supported bombing; 13 percent opposed it, and 57 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • 19 percent of Democrats supported bombing; 36 percent opposed it, and 45 percent said they weren’t sure.

Agrabah is, of course, the fictional, vaguely Arabic country from the classic Disney movie Aladdin

In voters’ defense, “Agrabah” does sound vaguely Islamic… and their undemocratic ruler has been recorded saying “praise Allah!” Scary!

In all seriousness, the poll reveals a disturbing tendency among voters: many of them will support killing people just because they are asked.

Obviously, nobody who answered the poll had any clue what or where Agrabah was, and half of them had the good sense to admit that. But the people who offered an opinion were basing it on something.

The question implied to voters that a) Agrabah exists, b) it’s probably a Muslim country in the Middle East, and c) somebody had suggested that we bomb it. That is enough for about a quarter of Americans to conclude that blowing it up is probably a good idea.

The good news is that, no matter how popular it is, the United State can’t actually bomb Agrabah, because it is safely in Imaginationland. The bad news is that there are a lot of very real countries, with a lot of very real people living in them, that the US military can bomb at will.

If voters can be this easily persuaded to kill people they’ve never heard of — for no reason — how likely is it that they’re forming a careful, rational, considered opinion about Syria? Or Libya? Or Yemen? Or Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Or Pakistan? Or Iran?

Another revealing point here is that Democrats look just as ignorant as Republicans in this poll. In fact, even more Democrats pretended to know what US-Agrabah relations should be than did Republicans (55 percent to 43 percent).

But the liberal bias is against bombing foreign countries, whereas the conservative bias is towards it. All things being equal, that’s a more ethical tendency, but that doesn’t make their viewpoint any less ignorant. And the fact that their beliefs aren’t based on facts about reality makes them fragile and unreliable allies, at best. (Think, for instance, how the responses to the question would have changed if the pollster had asked, “Do you support President Obama’s plan to bomb Agrabah?”)

Most of the time, when well-informed people find themselves agreeing more with the left or the right, that doesn’t mean the left or the right is actually more informed about an issue. Rather, they are just riding the same tide of ignorance, pulled in the right direction, coincidentally, by the forces of ideological bias and mood-affiliation. 

  • Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian.