Here’s a depressing data point about Washington’s super-politicized debate over the Benghazi consulate attack: 39 percent of American voters who think the Obama administration’s response to the assault represents the biggest political scandal in American history don’t know that Benghazi is in Libya, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling. As PPP reports:
One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is. 10% think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.
Overall, 58 percent of respondents knew Benghazi was in Libya, compared with more than 40 percent who chose another location or said they were not sure.
The survey found that just 23 percent of voters felt Benghazi was the worst scandal in U.S. history, and that most Americans think Congress should be paying more attention to issues like immigration reform and gun control than to the attack in Libya. But Republicans were particularly angry about the incident, with 41 percent of GOP respondents labeling Benghazi the country’s darkest scandal (compared with only 10 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of independents). Republicans think Benghazi is even worse than Watergate (by a 74 to 19 margin) and Iran-Contra (by a 70 to 20 margin).
Still, the results aren’t as clear cut as you might think. Yes, Republicans are angriest about Benghazi. And yes, more than a third of those who think Benghazi is the worst scandal in American history wouldn’t be able to spot it on a map. But those two findings do not add up to Republicans as a whole not knowing where Benghazi is.
In fact, if you dig into the survey’s cross tabs, you’ll find that it was Democratic respondents who were most likely to say Benghazi was located in a country other than Libya:
You see something similar when you look at ideology, with very conservative respondents the most likely to identify Benghazi’s location correctly and somewhat liberal respondents the least likely.
So what gives? Perhaps Republicans in general are actually better informed about Benghazi’s geography because right-wing politicians and news outlets have spent more time dissecting the consulate attack and its aftermath.
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements.| Marc Lynch |
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.| Passport |