Glenn Beck touted slanted poll on whether U.S. should stay in Iraq
On February 21, Glenn Beck touted a Public Opinion Strategies poll, which he said "shows that 57 percent of Americans want to stay in Iraq and finish the job, until we win the war." Beck did not mention that the company that conducted the poll considers itself a "Republican polling firm" or that, according to Greg Sargent, the poll has reportedly been dismissed by a Republican pollster as "leading and designed to elicit the answers they got."
On the February 21 edition of his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck  touted "a new poll," which he said "shows that 57 percent of Americans want to stay in Iraq and finish the job, until we win the war." Beck then said: "[T]hank you. Thank you, America. Sounds like a plan. I couldn't agree with more." But as Media Matters for America has previously noted , the poll in question, conducted February 5-7 by the self-described "Republican polling firm" Public Opinion Strategies and trumpeted  on the front page of the February 21 edition of the New York Post, conflicts with recent nonpartisan polling; it has also reportedly been dismissed  by a Republican pollster as "leading and designed to elicit the answers they got," in the words of blogger Greg Sargent.
The poll  asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements. In touting the poll's finding that 57 percent of Americans want to stay in Iraq, Beck was presumably referring to a question asking respondents if they agreed with the statement: "I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people." Fifty-seven percent of respondents agreed, while 41 percent disagreed.
According to Sargent, Republican pollster David E. Johnson, CEO of the Strategic Vision  polling firm, criticized  the poll as not being of "the quality we've come to expect from national polling firms" and specifically described the aforementioned poll statement as problematic. Johnson said the question was "designed to elicit a positive response by putting respondents in the position of saying that they don't support 'finishing a job.' ... It's not a straightforward wording at all. It's also put in the first person to personalize it. In polling when you use the first person you generally get a more positive response."
The poll also asked  respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with such statements as:
- "Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war. (56 percent agreed, 43 percent disagreed)
- The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq. (53 percent agreed, 46 percent disagreed)
- The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism. (57 percent agreed, 41 percent disagreed)
- Victory in Iraq, that is creating a young but stable democracy and reducing the threat of terrorism at home, is no longer possible for the US. (43 percent agreed, 53 percent disagreed)
- I don't really care about what happens in Iraq after the US leaves, I just want the troops brought home. (25 percent agreed, 74 percent disagreed)
Johnson also argued that the wording of the poll's statement "Victory in Iraq, that is creating a young but stable democracy in Iraq and reducing the threat of terrorism at home, is no longer possible for the US" was "completely unprofessional" because"[i]t's designed to confuse the respondent. People are being asked whether two different things can be accomplished -- establishing democracy in Iraq and reducing the threat of terrorism at home -- and [the question] doesn't clarify which one people are talking about."
Further, recent nonpartisan polls yielded results that conflict with the Public Opinion Strategies poll. For instance, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey , conducted February 7-11, asked respondents to indicate whether "the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized" or "bring its troops home as soon as possible." The majority, 53 percent, responded that the "U.S. should bring its troops home." The Pew poll also asked: "Do you think the war in Iraq has helped the war on terrorism, or has it hurt the war on terrorism"; 47 percent indicated that they believed the Iraq war has "hurt the war on terrorism." Further, the Pew poll found that 55 percent were more "concern[ed]" that "the U.S. will wait too long to withdraw its troops from Iraq," rather than "leave Iraq before a stable democracy is in place." According to the Pew poll, 47 percent of respondents said that the United States will "probably" or "definitely fail in establishing a stable democratic government in Iraq," versus 44 percent who said they thought the United States would "definitely" or "probably succeed."
Beck did not note that Public Opinion Strategies  is a Republican polling firm. Following the November 2006 midterm elections, the firm issued a press release  describing itself as a "Republican polling firm" and carried the headline, "Public Opinion Strategies Mourns Republican Losses, Congratulates Many Individual Winners in Tough Races."
From the February 21 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: You know, everybody is talking today about how Britain has decided to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq. But the surprising part of the story, at least for me, is that they only have 7,000 troops left there in the first place. They've been withdrawing people for years. We're sending three times as many as part of this surge alone.
Denmark -- also withdrawing their entire contingent of 450 troops. Lithuania -- seriously considering its troop withdrawal of 53. How will we ever go on without Lithuania? By the way, anybody mention that Australia is upping their commitment?
Now, when it comes to Great Britain, I don't believe this is an abandonment but rather a sign of hope. As Iraqi troops take control, foreign troops leave. That's been the plan all along, hasn't it? Let international troops make the country safe, then go home.
A new poll today shows that 57 percent of Americans want to stay in Iraq and finish the job, until we win the war. Man, thank you. Thank you, America. Sounds like a plan. I couldn't agree with more.
But understand this: We will have to win this war. Not Great Britain, not Denmark, not Lithuania, certainly not the weasels in France. It has always been on our shoulders.