Moderator Chris Matthews asserted during the October 9 Republican presidential debate, "Polls show that Republicans are known as the party of national security and of moral values." But recent polling shows Democrats either tied or at a slight advantage against Republicans on the issue of national security, as well as holding an advantage in sharing voters' moral values.
During the October 9 Republican presidential debate on CNBC, moderator Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, asserted, "Polls show that Republicans are known as the party of national security and of moral values." Recent polling, however, shows Democrats either tied or at a slight advantage against Republicans on the issue of national security, as well as holding an advantage in sharing voters' moral values. Matthews has previously acknowledged that the Republicans no longer have an advantage on "moral values."
Recent polls have shown mixed results on which political party the American public trusts more on terrorism and national security:
- A poll taken September 12-13 and September 17-20 by Rasmussen Reports found a statistical tie between the parties: 44 percent trusted the Democrats more on national security and the fight against terrorism, while 43 percent preferred the Republicans.
- As Media Matters for America has noted, a September 14-16 Gallup poll asked: "Looking ahead for the next few years, which political party do you think will do a better job of protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats?" Forty-seven percent answered Democrats, while 42 percent said Republicans.
- As Media Matters has also noted, a July 27-30 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that the Democrats and Republicans were tied at 29 percent on the question of which party would do a "better job" "[d]ealing with the war on terrorism." Thirty-eight percent of respondents said both or neither would do a "better job." The same poll gave the Republican Party a 12-point advantage on who would do a "better job" "[d]ealing with homeland security," slightly up from a 10-point advantage in March 2006, but significantly less than the 29-point advantage it held in January 2004.
Recent polls also undermine Matthews' assertion that Republicans are "known as the party of... moral values." As Media Matters has noted, a March 7-11 poll by The New York Times and CBS News found that 46 percent of Americans think the Democratic Party "comes closer [of the two parties] to sharing your moral values," with 41 percent favoring the Republicans.
Matthews has persisted in asserting a Republican advantage on national security and moral values, even though he has previously acknowledged that this is no longer an advantage for the GOP. A year to the day before Tuesday's debate, on the October 9, 2006, edition of Hardball, referring to a then-current Newsweek poll, Matthews said that it was "stunning" that Democrats, according to the poll, were "perceived to be more priestly, more honorable on moral questions -- I guess that includes social questions and sexual questions -- than the Republicans." The poll found Democrats were "more trusted to fight the war on terror" by 44 percent to 37 percent and "more trusted" on "moral values" by 42 percent to 36 percent.
Furthermore, Matthews has consistently misrepresented or disregarded polling that undermined his claims about Republican advantage -- a pattern that has been documented by Media Matters. In 2006, he repeatedly asserted that Americans trust the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party on taxes, even though contemporaneous polling contradicted him:
- On the March 13, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews claimed that "people trust Republicans more than Democrats" to handle taxes, but as Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) noted: "[I]f you look at even your own data and your own polling, they don't."
- On the March 28, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews acknowledged that "the latest polling shows that people trust Democrats more" on taxes, but he still stated that the polls referred to "tax cutting" and suggested that the results were surprising because "nobody has ever accused the Democrats of tax cutting."
- During coverage of an October 11, 2006, press conference by President Bush, Matthews asserted that the "Democrats cannot match" Bush on taxes. Two days later on Hardball, Matthews again asserted that "terror and taxes are the Republican strong points."
- On the October 19, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews claimed that "Republicans know from the polls they got two strengths right now" -- "terrorism" and "taxes" because "Republicans are good at cutting taxes" -- and then added: "whether the current polls back that up or not."
On the April 19 edition of Hardball, discussing then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' April 19 appearance at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, Matthews baselessly asserted that "[t]wo-thirds of the American people say -- I mean, they don't like it, but they don't think he's [Gonzales] telling the truth -- but they say leave him alone." In fact, polling at the time indicated that a plurality of respondents believed Gonzales should resign, while other polls showed the public divided on the subject, as Media Matters noted.
On the April 3 edition of Hardball, Matthews claimed Midwestern voters "may not like people like" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), a claim that was at odds with polling available at the time.
From the October 9 Republican presidential debate:
MATTHEWS: Polls show that Republicans are known as the party of national security and of moral values. But polls also show that voters look now, at least, to the Democrats to handle the economy. How are you going to win back their confidence -- in order -- Congressman [Ron] Paul [R-TX]?