President Bush directly stated his beliefs about Saddam Hussein's terrorist motives during his public address on March 17, saying the regime has aided, trained, and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda. Bush further tried to illustrate the connection between the war with Iraq and the war against terrorism in his March 19 speech at the outset of hostilities in Iraq, saying that the United States would meet Iraq's threat with armed forces now, rather than with firefighters, police, and doctors later.
Polling conducted prior to both speeches shows that the vast majority of the public already believed that Saddam is involved in terrorism in general. And that connection was a reason given by many Americans for their support of the war effort. However, Americans are far less persuaded that Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In a March 14-15 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll*, the vast majority of Americans (88%) said they believe Saddam is involved in supporting terrorist groups that plan to attack the United States, while just 9% said he is not. These numbers were nearly identical to findings from a survey conducted in August 2002.
However, Americans aren't as convinced that Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Roughly half (51%) of Americans believed he was involved, while 41% believed he was not. Again, these results mirror findings from last August.
Women were significantly more likely than men to think Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, 60% to 43%. A significant difference also exists by party identification. More than 6 in 10 Republicans (63%) said they think Saddam was involved with the Sept. 11 attacks, compared to 49% of Democrats.
Reason to Invade?
A separate question in the March 14-15 survey examined the relationship between Americans' belief in Saddam's terrorist involvement and their willingness to support the Iraq invasion. Nearly a third (32%) of all Americans believed Saddam was involved in terrorism in general and said his suspected involvement was the main reason they supported invading Iraq. Another 43% of Americans said Saddam was involved with terrorists and said this was one reason for supporting the invasion, but would have supported it even if Saddam wasn't involved. Just 13% of Americans believed Saddam was linked with terrorists but did not say it was a reason they would support invading Iraq.
Thirteen percent of all Americans believed Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks and said it is the main reason they supported an invasion of Iraq. Another 27% of Americans believed this and said it was one reason why they supported an invasion of Iraq.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with random samples of 488 and 519 national adults, aged 18 and older, both conducted March 14-15, 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5%.