A poll has found that 50% of Americans agree with the statement: "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him." (via Leiter) There are two things really odd about this article, which indicate that people don't understand conditional statements. Firstly: Fertik, a quoted commentator, suggests that this result shows that "a solid plurality of Americans want Congress to consider removing Bush from the White House." But of course it shows no such thing, for this result is entirely consistent with everyone being quite certain that Bush was honest. It is transparently fallacious to infer B solely from if A then B. Clearly one must first establish A!
Secondly, I'm amazed that only 50% of Americans agreed with the statement. Worse, only 20% of Republicans! Surely even Bush's staunchest supporters ought to agree that, if he had lied (which, of course, they would deny), then he should be held accountable for it. If the (hypothetical, remember!) scenario of a democratic leader deceiving his nation into war does not constitute grounds for impeachment, I'm not sure what does. That 80% of Republicans (and 28% of Democrats!) would refuse to consider holding Bush accountable even if he lied about the war, is truly scary. Surely they don't really mean to say that.
I can only conclude that people don't understand conditional statements. Perhaps they instead interpreted the poll question as a conjunction, i.e. as asking them whether they agree that both (1) Bush lied, and (2) he thus ought to be impeached.
Perhaps some experimental philosophers would like to test this some day. They might ask Republicans whether they agree with the following statements:
"If Bush is a pedophile, then criminal charges ought to be brought against him."
or "If Bush is plotting to destroy the universe, then he ought to be stopped."
or simply: "If Bush is a bachelor then he is an unmarried male."
Would they also deny all of these obviously true conditional statements, merely because the antecedent happens to be false? Supposing not, would Fertik then conclude that "a solid plurality of Americans think that Bush is unmarried"?