Poll: Charged speech not to blame for Arizona attacks
Well wishers hold vigil outside Tucson hospital Saturday.
January 11th, 2011
08:29 AM ET
12 years ago

Poll: Charged speech not to blame for Arizona attacks

(CNN) -Amid discussion an increasingly charged political atmosphere may have motivated the shootings in Arizona, a new national poll suggests a majority of Americans believe the heated rhetoric of late played no role in the tragedy that critically injured a congresswoman and left six dead.

According to a new CBS poll, 57 percent of Americans say political vitriol did not contribute to the attacks allegedly committed by 22 year-old Jared Loughner; 32 percent felt it did.

Broken down by party, 69 percent of Republicans said heated political dialogue played no role, while 19 percent said it did. Democrats were more mixed on the issue: 49 percent said there was no link while 42 percent believed there was. Fifty-six percent of independents meanwhile said there was no connection while 33 percent said there was.

The poll surveyed 673 adults by telephone and carries a sampling error of 4 percent.

Filed under: Gabrielle Giffords
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Duck Fallas

    Deranged lunatics with a history of instability can legally purchase and conceal a handgun in Arizona.

    Giffords supports this.

    Now she can defend it. Well, not now, maybe later.

    January 11, 2011 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  2. Steve

    All this poll states is that Americans love to hate and cant possibly give up their hateful speech and discriminatory ways. This last season of politics was disgraceful and pitiable and showed nothing more than the immaturity and lack of discourse we really have in this country.

    January 11, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Tired of the nonsense

    The majority of Americans are smart enough to know that the GOP rhetoric is partly responsible for spurring on a nutjob to go on a shooting spree. The majority of Americans know that Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, Coulter, O'Reilly, others of their ilk created the hostile atmosphere that fed the lies Laughner believed was the gospel. The GOP bears the responsibility of spewing 90% of the rhetoric that influenced the nutjob to indulge in a massacre.

    Laughner did what he did and should get the death penalty. FOX news and LImbaugh and Palin and Beck and even Boortz should be taken off the air until they learn how to report the news instead of being a tabloid tv show who says it's reporting the news. Then, just maybe, we can have a civil discourse in this country without the lies being spewed by the right wing nutjobs.

    January 11, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. Sgt, Joe

    Sorry, but these polls are baseless. 679 people accurately represent America? Are you serious? Fact is, younger people are rarelyon the other end of a land line, especially during working/school hours. Who are these people? Baseless data unless supported with more data on the population such as age, ethnicity, income, etc. Just another meaningless poll. I use to do statistics, so I'm not convinced.

    January 11, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. tepeters

    Now we see the heart of the problem if 57% of the public does not get it. The shooter's pathology and the eclectic ideology he used to justify it are a closed circle one feeding into the other. He justified his actions by an adopted ideology that is fueled by anti-government rhetoric. Yes his extreme act was a result of his individual pathology but a poisonsous poltiical rhetoric that so freely uses demogoguery, manipulation of facts, and personal attack with the symbols and language of violence can be and is used by such deluded individuals to empower their paranoia. All honorable citizens want the best for our country and its people. We just differ on the road to take to get there. Ideas can be debated and debated with vigor – I for one believe in partisanship rather than the mushy middle where dogmatic compromise merely pushes problems down the road rather than solve them-but the debate should be about ideas not people unless those people demonstrate lack of honor or respect for their fellow citizen by the use of threatening rhetoric.

    January 11, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. Adalbert

    There is no question about it, words have consequences. It's naive to pretend otherwise. An excellent example is Hitler’s speeches prior to and during WWII. It all started with speeches.
    Those people who said violent rhetoric had nothing to do with the massacre are just plain wrong.

    January 11, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. rob

    Mr. Mooney calls it "heated rhetoric of late", does anyone at CNN remember the Bush years? The left and Dem leaders in Congress called him a dangerous person, a lair, a loser etc. They said Bush was "trashing the constitution, he was a war monger, a war criminal, stupid, and they even went so far as to laud a documentary about the assination of a President as art. President Obama himself has called republicans "HOSTAGE TAKERS" recently. This is all FROM DEMOCRAT LEADERS IN THE FEDERAL GOVT!!!!!!! YET THEY ARE THE FIRST TO CALL FOR A COOLING OF POLITICAL RHETORIC.

    The Democrat Party and their cheerleaders in the major liberal media are disgusting. They tried to use this unspeakable tradjedy for POLITICAL GAIN by painting their opponents as culpable in this horrible crime. It is up to we, the American People via the ballot box and our choices about where we get our news to finally break the monopoly these people feel they have as far as what information we get as "Objective News".

    January 11, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  8. Joe Valles

    The political climate is toxic and needs to stop!!! Just because the killer did not have a party affiliation doesn't mean that he could not be motivated by toxic politics. When politicians and their supports encourage taking their opponents out referencing guns, bulles, crosshairs, is unacceptable in a supposedly civil society. Statesment like that are not rhetoric. I am 47 and in my generation, I have never witnessed a society becoming more and more scary!

    January 11, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  9. Joan

    This poll does not reflect the percentage of responses on blogs on multiple siites. There is definitely a majority of people who feel that the hateful rhetoric has had a lot to do with the rise of violent acts, unruly protests and a dangerous tone of debate (or should I say non-debate). It is dismaying to see how many pundits are afraid to call out those responsible for this distateful tone. No-one is saying all Republicans feel this way. It is the ten to twently at the top who have mikes in their hands that are so dangerous. If Palin's cross-hair site had no meaning then why did they pull it down immediately after the shooting? Feeling guilty perhaps. If the hateful rhetoric is not a cause for concern then why did Boehner pull the health care repeal vote? Obviously he knew there would be horrible name calling and statements connected to it and he knew it would look bad. For once, why can't everyone call it like it is, hold people accountable, fact check everything they hear and maybe then your country will get back on track again.

    January 11, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. FedUpRepublican

    “Charged speech not to blame for Arizona attacks.” It may not be responsible for actions of this lunatic, but the push back currently seen from the right (and I’m a Republican) is irresponsible because they seem intent on glossing over the fact that our country has had a real problem for the last few years with the incendiary and poisonous dialogue that’s been spewed from both sides of the political spectrum. This level of toxicity is completely counter-productive and has only served to manipulate and divide our countrymen. Furthermore, the people that engage in this dialogue only do so to incite their followers, increase their power, extend their 15 minutes of fame, and most importantly, fatten their own bank accounts. Their motives are entirely self-serving. They’re not being patriotic and they have absolutely no compassion for their fellow countrymen. It’s well past time to start holding our elected officials, ex-politicians, the political pundits and the media accountable for their negativity, incendiary rhetoric and finger pointing. They all need to grow up, get along and start setting positive examples. Our country is much better than this.

    January 11, 2011 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. sharon

    I really don't care what these polls said.It is know fact Negative words create Negative reactions. Racism, fear and violenc create negative reaction. This has been going on for century. Now is the time to turn it around. Too many people are becoming victim. How come when ther is a crisis we come together as one? Why can't we all become united and stand as one to help build a stronger better nation? This our time don't let it slip by. Tomorrow is a New Day. (please post)

    January 11, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. Raymond H. Burgoon-Clark

    Yet another example of people being unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their actions, in this case hate speech = violence

    January 11, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. ficheye

    Come on. The results of this poll are like asking an addict if they want to quit long before they are ready. The people polled are deeply involved in the rhetoric that creates the vitriolic atmosphere in american politics. Of course they are going to say that it played no part in the tragedy. It will be a long time, in fact, before anyone puts down the pitchforks and torches and engages in a civil debate. Irresistible force? Meet immoveable object.

    January 11, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Freedom of Speech in the USA

    It is nice to see that a majority of the American people know the facts and have a functioning brain. It is rather disconcerting to see that 32% are misinformed or lack the common sense to understand the facts in this tragedy. It is even more alarming to hear elected officials propose laws affecting free speech in this country. That is the first step to tyranny and will definitely feed the very thing they claim they are trying to prevent, anti-government sentiment.

    January 11, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. Jim

    A useless poll to be sure:

    1) Loughner motivations aren't determined by a public poll. I will take psychiatrists years to figure out what went wrong with this guy.

    2) If Loughner DID listen to Palin and others, Loughner still bears the responsibility for this actions; Palin isn't an accomplice.

    3) If Loughner DID NOT listen to Palin and others, it does NOT excuse the over-the-top rhetoric. Palin's comments are still divisive & detrimental to the country.

    Two things are for certain: Loughner is crazy and we need civility in politics. These facts are just unrelated.

    January 11, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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