If you believe the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon came without any specific warning, a new poll says the person on your left and the person on your right think you’re wrong.
Almost two-thirds of Americans think it is possible some officials in the federal government had specific information about the pending attacks, but chose to ignore it and take no action to protect the country, according to a Scripps Howard News Service/Ohio University poll.
The national survey of more than 800 U.S. adults conducted by Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University echoes a similar one by the same organization in 2006 that found more than a third of Americans believing the U.S. government somehow assisted in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, or else took no steps to stop them from occurring, so the Bush administration could launch a war in the Middle East.
In the most recent poll, researchers found more than one-third of Americans subscribe to a range of conspiracy theories, including the 9/11 attacks, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, soaring oil prices and UFOs.
The reason? The Bush administration, according to an academic interviewed by Scripps Howard News Service.
“You wouldn’t have gotten these numbers a year or two after the attacks themselves,” said University of Florida law professor Mark Fenster. “You’ve got an increasingly disaffected public that is unhappy with the administration.”
“What it could mean is that people are thinking that the Bush administration is incompetent, that there were warnings out there and they chose to put their attention on other things,” Fenster said.
Fenster is author of the book “Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture.”
Eighty percent of survey participants, when asked if oil companies are conspiring to keep gasoline prices high, said it was “somewhat likely” or “very likely” they are.
“People look at the huge profits and put two and two together,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the Energy Program of Public Citizen, the consumer watchdog organization founded by Ralph Nader. “‘Those high prices I’m paying are fueling those profits.'”
While only 44 percent of respondents said it was “somewhat likely” or “very likely” some people in the federal government knew about the assassinaton of President Kennedy in advance, it surpassed the 40 percent who believed a government conspiracy was “not likely.”
“I’m amazed that it’s as high as it is,” said Vincent Bugliosi, whose recently published “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” concludes Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the murder of Kennedy.
Thirty-five percent of respondents believe it “somewhat likely” or “very likely” flying saucers are real and that the federal government is hiding the truth about them, while 50 percent believe it “not likely.”
The numbers believing in a government UFO conspiracy have fallen from 50 percent in 1995, a drop indicating people have more immediate things to worry about, political science professor Jodi Dean told Scripps Howard.
“The kind of anxieties or mistrust of the government that might have been expressed as a belief in UFOs has shifted,” said Dean. “Now people are worried about things that are much realer to them.
“In both instances, it’s a case of mistrusting government,” she said.
Dean is a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York and author of “Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace.”