CNN/Opinion Research has released a poll (pdf.) taken January 14-16, 2011, which has some rational findings about the Tucson shooting, and some perverse findings.
The rational finding is that an overwhelming majority of people (66%) recognize that such shootings will still take place regardless of what government does. This view accurately reflects the reaility that Jared Loughner was not living in reality, and that stopping people like Loughner is incredibly difficult.
Two other findings, however, prove the power of false narratives.
First, the poll asked various questions as to the specific causes of the shooting. This question was not a generalized question about violence in general or political strife, but specific to this shooting.
Despite the facts which have come out showing that Jared Loughner was not a political person and was motivated by his own delusions rather than politics, 25% of people believe that "the use of harsh rhetoric and violent metaphors by politicians and commentators" contributed "a great deal" to the shooting with another 23% believing such rhetoric contributed "a moderate amount." (32% said "not at all" and 17% said "not much.")
Among Democrats, a total of 67% believed political rhetoric contributed (39% great deal, 28% moderate amount, 15% not at all, 16% not much). Among those identified as Opposed to Tea Parties the numbers were 40% great deal, 29% moderate amount, 14% not at all, 15% not at all.
Such responses show that the evidence notwithstanding, the narrative of "harsh rhetoric and violent metaphors" causing the shooting has sunk into the public consciousness.
But the more disturbing question was whether the shooting was caused by a "map on Sarah Palin's website that marked 20 congressional districts, including the district represented by the congresswoman who was shot, with an image that looked like the crosshairs of a gun."
Remember, there is not a shred of evidence that Jared Loughner ever saw the map. As discussed here numerous times, the connection of the map to the shooting was a complete fiction concocted moments after the shooting by certain left-wing bloggers who spread the connection into the mainstream media.
Nonetheless, 19% of people say the map contributed a "great deal" to the shooting and another 16% a "moderate amount." (44% say "not at all" and 15% "not much.") Among Democrats, the numbers were 32% great deal, 24% moderate amount, 24% not at all, 18% not much. Among people identified as Opposed to Tea Parties, a total of 58% believed the map was a cause of the shooting (34% great deal, 24% moderate amount, 18% not at all, 19% not much
That a total of 35% of people (and 56% of Democrats) believe that a Palin map Loughner never saw contributed in some meaningful way to the shooting demonstrates the method to the madness of those who were spreading the Palin map myth before all the dead had been counted.
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