The perfect capper to a day that began with a story in the Times insisting that it wasn’t really “the media” that built this phony narrative, it was disgraceful moron Clarence “Supercop” Dupnik. Which is true, to some extent: Having the lead state investigator in the case mumbling about Rush Limbaugh every five minutes was bound to confuse casual news viewers into thinking there was some evidence in his possession suggesting Loughner had a right-wing agenda. But of course, it’s precisely because of his willingness to mumble along those lines that Dupnik became an overnight media darling, with Diane Sawyer corralling him for interviews and Olbermann setting him up for segments on “Countdown.”

The result: Fully 35 percent of the public now believes that Palin’s months-old, otherwise extremely obscure midterm map with the crosshairs on it is not only linked to this case but that it actually bears some culpability for Loughner’s mania. So egregiously unfair is that result that even the solidly left-wing Salon writes of it, “that number should be 0 percent.” The partisan breakdown:

Fully 56 percent of Democrats think the map is at least somewhat to blame, and even 12 percent of conservatives think it bears a “great deal” of responsibility. Tea partiers aren’t immune from the disinformation either:

That’s the core of her base, and even 16 percent of these people think there’s some sort of culpability. Not surprisingly, the less education you have, the more likely you are to be misinformed:

ABC has a new poll of its own out tonight showing that 78 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the aftermath of the shooting compared to just 30 percent approval for Palin (versus 46 percent who disapprove). But look back at the CNN numbers above: Between the heavy breathing over her use of the term “blood libel” and the mind-boggling extent to which people have been misled about her role — or rather, non-role — in all of this, how could her approval numbers be otherwise? Thirty-five percent of the public must have watched her speech last Thursday morning and thought, “I can’t believe this woman who just inspired a mass murder thinks people should feel bad for her.”

The most interesting numbers to me of all of these are the ones among conservatives and Republicans who think she bears some sort of blame. Partly that’s because you would think their misimpression would have been corrected by now by their exposure to conservative media — either Fox or talk radio or blogs, etc. But that assumes that all of this is being driven by innocently mistaken impressions, which surely isn’t the case. Some of it, I suspect, is coming from centrist conservatives who loathe Palin and want to see her influence reduced before 2012 at all costs, and if that means kinda sorta blessing an Orwellian narrative about her alleged culpability in all this, well, hey — it’s for a greater good. She may not technically have influenced Loughner in reality, but she shouldn’t have used that crosshairs metaphor so holding her partly responsible is, shall we say, “rough justice.” I can’t prove that’s what’s happening, but then proof is no longer required before making charges, is it? The hard fact to take away from all this if you’re a Palin fan is that Scarborough’s probably right: She has been damaged by this, however unfairly, and it’s going to make it that much harder for her to win back independents and centrists if she runs next year. That’s what happens when 35 percent of the public is as politically aware as Joan Rivers.