Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist John Fund (on leave as an editorial board member) misrepresented the content of a New York Times/CBS News poll of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in order to argue that their views fall outside the political mainstream. Fund grossly distorted one statistic from the poll and "cited" two others that, in fact, appear nowhere in the poll. He also repeated a long-discredited Republican National Committee talking point labeling Senator John Kerry the "most liberal" member of the Senate.
From the August 2 "John Fund on the Trail" column for OpinionJournal.com, the website of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page:
John Kerry may have the most liberal voting record of any senator according to National Journal magazine but he is to the right of the delegates who nominated him. Nine out of 10 delegates polled totally oppose the Iraq war, three-fourths support abortion with no restrictions whatsoever. Only 4% want tax cuts and 95% say that gay marriage should be legally recognized.
As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, an independent analysis of Kerry's lifetime voting record in relation to his Senate colleagues places Kerry "closer to the center of the Democratic Party than he is to the most liberal senators," according to three researchers from the Brookings Institution who summarized the analysis in the July 26 edition of The New York Times. An RNC research brief labeled Kerry the "most liberal" member of the Senate based on a small sample of his votes during a single year.
As for the delegate poll, Fund grossly distorted one piece of data and apparently invented two other numbers out of whole cloth. On abortion, the actual poll asked which position "comes closest to your view":
1. Abortion should be generally available to those who want it.
2. Abortion should be available but under stricter limits than it is now.
3. Abortion should not be permitted?
As MMFA documented on July 26, CNN senior political analyst and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Bill Schneider similarly distorted this poll's findings concerning abortion. Seventy-five percent chose the first option, which is very different from saying that 75 percent "support abortion with no restrictions whatsoever." Two of the three available options entail enacting greater restrictions on abortion than current law, and not even the first option explicitly rules out greater restrictions.
A separate poll question did show that 64 percent of delegates support abortion in "all cases." Fund's claim would have been less misleading had he said 64 percent of delegates -- instead of "three-fourths" -- favored "no restrictions." But even this result is seriously flawed since, like the above-mentioned question, this question similarly failed to offer delegates the option of maintaining current abortion law or easing restrictions without eliminating them. Instead, 64 percent of delegates chose "abortion should be permitted in all cases," option 1 (which is not the state of current law), rather than choosing greater restrictions on abortion (options 2 through 4).
On tax cuts, the poll never asked if delegates "want tax cuts"; rather, it asked the following:
Which comes closest to your view about the tax cuts Congress has passed since 2000:
1. ALL of those tax cuts should be made permanent; OR
2. MOST of those tax cuts should be made permanent; OR
3. MOST of those tax cuts should be repealed or allowed to expire; OR
4. ALL of those tax cuts should be repealed or allowed to expire.
Only 18 percent of delegates chose the fourth option, while 71 percent chose the third (which entails preserving some tax cuts). In sum, 82 percent of delegates favor some tax cuts, not 4 percent. On gay marriage, only 44 percent of delegates said they believed "[g]ay couples should be allowed to legally marry," not 95 percent.