John Hinderaker does a marvelous job of dissecting the Pew Survey that shows Americans approve of the decision to invade Iraq while a mysterious group of elites or opinion leaders do not. He includes this chart, in which only the military are on the side of the people, and “military” itself is a questionable category, as you will read in his piece.
We have had problems with Pew before (examples here and here), so we thought it might be interesting to take a look at the can of worms opened by John Hinderaker. There are plenty of problems, but we will only mention one, because we can only stand looking at this relentless assault on common sense for a limited time.
The chart below says that by a huge margin — 71/20 — regular Americans think that there should be restrictions on student visas in the interest of security. This is not surprising considering that the 9-11 terrorists came into the US on valid (though outlandish) visas, including student visas.
For the purposes of our inquiry today, we want to focus on only one tiny bit of the chart. You will notice that 72% of opinion leaders in the field of “security” oppose restrictions on student visas. Who are these fellows, we asked. Are they the same folks who are employing the ex-military people in Iraq? Are they heads of corporate security departments for nuclear utilities, petrochemical companies, or bio-tech firms? It seemed to us absurd that leaders in the security industries would oppose greater restrictions on student visas. But that is not at all who they are. It turns out that opinion leaders in the “security” field are not hands-on professionals, but 58 people affiliated with a think tank previously unknown to us, the International Institute for Strategic Studies. As Pew said:
The Security sample was randomly selected from a list of American members of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
We have nothing whatsoever against the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Its governing Council includes some distinguished persons. Our objection is to Pew calling this group its “opinion leaders” in the field of security. What the IISS seems to do is to produce studies and hold yack sessions at high priced watering holes — sessions that notably include our enemies. Here’s one, courtesy of the IISS’s own website:
THE fight against terrorism in the region will top the agenda of the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) second Gulf Dialogue next month. The three-day strategic defence conference will open at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa on December 2.
Regional and International government officials at the ministerial level, including defence, interior and national security advisers, as well as scholars and academicians, will be taking part in the event. In addition to the GCC countries, the countries taking part are Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Singapore, France, Russia, the UK and the US. Joining them for the first time this year are China, India and Germany, according to sources…..
The keynote address will be by Crown Prince and BDF Commander-in-Chief Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Yemeni Interior Minister Major General Dr Rashad Mohammed Al Alimi and Iraqi National Security Adviser Dr Kassim Daoud will speak on challenges to counter-terrorism policy in the Gulf….. Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, Kuwaiti National Security Bureau President Shaikh Sabah Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah, French presidential adviser Maurice Gourdault-Montagne and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Research Ali Reza Moayeri will discuss a new framework for regional security.
Yup, that’s the front lines for leaders in the “security” field, the Ritz Carlton in Bahrain, listening to an address from the Yemeni Interior minister.
Clearly, this Pew Survey is almost meaningless. If you choose liberal and internationalist organizations to find your opinion leaders, you have selected in advance a group guaranteed to give you liberal results. You might just as well ask this group its opinions on abortion, gun control, taxes, or gay marriage. Indeed, Pew should have asked questions of that nature to determine if those they selected were opinion leaders in any sense whatsoever — or merely a bunch of liberal elitists whose views did not match mainstream America on any issue at all. Hinderaker had a few suggestions for Pew to improve the objectivity of its “polling:”
It would be interesting to do a similar survey, but with a different selection of respondents. Military leaders, for example, could be officers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Religious leaders could be chairmen or presidents of local congregations. “Leading” engineers could be those who have headed major engineering projects within the last twelve months. And so on. Admittedly, there probably isn’t any definition of leadership that would salvage academia or the press, but I think almost any academic group would be closer to the center than “officers of the most competitive schools.”
We concur, and wonder if anyone at Pew even considered that their sample of opinion leaders was dramatically skewed leftward. We are willing to bet that even such rudimentary self-awareness is lacking.