Jewish World Review Oct. 9, 2002 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
The New York Times' lead article in Monday's edition blares the headline "Public Says Bush Needs To Pay Heed To Weak
Economy" basing its conclusion on a telephone survey of 564 registered voters conducted during the first few days of October.
The phrasing of the questions is so slanted and biased that it amounts to journalistic "push polling" - the use of polling to generate
pre-determined answers to vindicate a specific point of view. It was just such polling that led the Democratic Party astray over the
summer and played an important role in catalyzing their criticism of Bush over Iraq. Now The Times returns with another poll, on
the verge of the Congressional vote on a use-of-force resolution, to suggest that voters are more pre-occupied with the economy
than with Iraq as an issue.
The Times' poll asks voters if they would "be more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate because of their positions on the
economy or foreign policy?" The use of the dry, almost academic word "foreign policy" throws the results way off and allows The
Times to report that voters want more focus on the economy by 57-25. But when Fox News asked a similar question on
September 8-9 in a survey of 900 voters, it compared not economy vs foreign policy, but economy vs national security. The results
were quite different, and even split, with 32% stressing the economy and 31% zeroing in on national security. What a difference a
The Times then asked what voters would "like to hear the candidates talk more about, the possibility of war with Iraq or improving
the economy." Again, a biased question yields the expected outcome: 70-17 for the economy. But surely the question masks
the impatience of voters who favor war with Iraq but are tired of the endless talk about it. Those who favor action and oppose more
debate would register on the "economy" side of this biased question.
While conceding that voters approve of military action against Iraq by 67-27, The Times' poll then tries to undermine this finding by
asking if voters would still back military action if there were "substantial American military casualties" (support drops to 54%) or
"substantial Iraqi civilian casualties" (support drops to 49%). But where is the question about how support would be effected if the
military action is quick and painless as was the 1991 war or a query asking how the public would feel if subsequent examination of
Iraqi sites, after the war, revealed that substantial work on weapons of mass destruction had been going on?
Then, having run doomsday scenarios like high US or Iraqi civilian casualties by the voters, the poll then asks voters if Congress is
"asking enough questions about President Bush's policy toward Iraq?" Invited to criticize Congress, voters do and 51% say that
Congress is not asking enough questions, implying an indecision among Americans that is clearly not really there.
A truly impartial poll would have included a number of questions The Times omits such as:
For decades, responsible journalists refused even to cover public opinion polls. Then, in a turn around, they began to conduct
them and treat their findings as hard news. Now the process has come full circle and journalists appear to be using polls to
generate the conclusions they want and to validate their own pre-existing theses and hypotheses.
- If France or Russia vetoes a resolution in the UN calling for an invasion of Iraq, should the US and Britain still attack Iraq or
should they refrain from attacking Iraq?
- Do you think that UN inspections will be effective in stopping Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction?
- Do you approve or disapprove of the attitude of the Democratic Party toward a possible invasion of Iraq?
When politicians use polling to produce a political outcome, rather than to probe what the public genuinely thinks, newspapers
condemn it as "push polling." Is push polling any better when it is done by a liberal newspaper universally respected for its
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine
01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history
© 2001, Dick Morris