Biden administration, fake news, journalism, NATO, No-Fly Zone, North Atlantic treaty Organization, nuclear war, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, polling, polls, Reuters/Ipsos, Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine-Russia war
Just when you think American polling can get any weirder, along comes another survey that proves me wrong.
It was a mere week ago that I called attention to surveys by Gallup and by the team-up of the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center whose questions were so mindless that they were absolutely incapable of determining Americans’ actual views on various U.S. options in the Ukraine-Russia war – and especially on the potentially (and literally) national-life-or-death matter of involving the American military in efforts to counter the Russian invasion.
Just six days later, a survey from the Reuters news agency and the Ipsos company veered deeper into cluelessness than I’ve thought possible – and deeper than I’d ever anticipated even for polling on foreign policy.
I single out the latter category throughout the decades that I’ve followed them, these surveys have routinely failed to pose questions that suggest in any way that various measures could create major costs and risks for American security and prosperity. And as made clear here and here, this incompetence can be particularly misleading and dangerous when it comes to U.S. moves that could engulf the country in a nuclear war. (Here’s one conspicuous exception.)
But yesterday’s Reuters/Ipsos poll went one big step further. Its most attention-getting result was that 74 percent of U.S. adults believe that “The United States and NATO should impose a ‘no fly zone’ above Ukraine.”
As widely recognized, a no-fly zone could well generate direct combat between the United States and Russia, and all too easily lead one or both countries to fire nuclear weapons at the other’s homeland. That’s because “imposing” the zone means sending American military aircraft into the skies over Ukraine to prevent their Russian counterparts from attacking targets in the invaded country – ranging in principle from convoys of Western military aid to fleeing refugees to Ukrainian civilian and even military targets. Maybe the Russians would keep their aircraft on the ground. And maybe they wouldn’t.
According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, though, nearly three-quarters of Americans disagree. That’s of course their inalienable right. But as with the previously cited findings along these lines, this response needs to be questioned because those surveyed were never told of the possible and possibly catastrophic consequences.
How do I know this? Because the Reuters reporter who wrote separately about the results actually admitted this whopping shortcoming. In the words of correspondent Jason Lange, “It was not clear if respondents who supported a no-fly zone were fully aware of the risk of conflict….” Which inevitably raises the questions “Why the heck didn’t the question mention this point,” and “Why the heck did the pollsters think that the query was worth posing in this kind of vacuum?” And if Lange (and his Reuters colleagues) knew something that Ipsos didn’t, why the heck didn’t they bring up the point before publication?
No one in their right mind would ever take seriously a book or an article or a broadcast or any piece of information accompanied by the acknowledgement, “Some of what you’re about to read or hear is worthless.” But that’s exactly what Reuters and Ipsos have in effect done.
Even more off-the-wall: When the same survey asked respondents their views about banning energy imports from Russia, the pollsters included “even if it causes American gas prices to increase.” (For the record, 80 percent agreed and 20 percent disagreed.) Why did Reuters and Ipsos believe it was important to tell respondents that a certain policy could make it more expensive to drive their vehicles, but not that another policy could turn the entire county into glowing heaps of rubble?
So it looks like the Reuters/Ipsos poll has taken American journalism and polling a big step beyond (beneath? alongside?) Fake News. It’s the first example I can recall of Utterly Incoherent News. We can only hope that it doesn’t become just as commonplace.