New York Times drew faulty comparison between polls of Catholic voters

››› ››› DUNCAN BLACK

The item below was based on The New York Times' erroneous reporting of the recent Pew poll results. The paper incorrectly reported: "A Pew poll last weekend showed that Mr. Bush was beating Mr. Kerry among white Catholics, 40 percent to 33 percent." In fact, that poll showed President George W. Bush beating Senator John Kerry among white Catholics by 49 percent to 33 percent.

We stand by our assertion that the Times should not have contrasted the results of polls sampling all Catholics with those from a poll of only white Catholics; however, the correct numbers from the Pew poll do suggest that Bush's advantage over Kerry among white Catholics is greater than the advantage he enjoyed in 2000 over then-Vice President Al Gore among this same group. We apologize for the error.


In an attempt to contrast the level of support former Vice President Al Gore received from Catholic voters in the 2000 election and the support Senator John Kerry currently has from those same voters, an October 7 New York Times article drew a faulty comparison between two polls.

From the article, written by Times reporter Jodi Wilgoren and executive editor* Bill Keller:

A Pew poll last weekend showed that Mr. Bush was beating Mr. Kerry among white Catholics, 40 percent to 33 percent, and among white Protestants, 60 to 30 [percent]. In contrast, the last Catholic to run for president, John F. Kennedy, received 78 percent of the Catholic vote in 1960; 52 percent of Catholics voted for the Democrat in 2000 and 55 percent in 1996.

The comparison is faulty because the cited Pew poll (conducted October 1-3 among 1,002 registered voters) assessed only the voting inclinations of white Catholics, whereas the exit polls from the 2000 election sampled all Catholic voters.

As National Catholic Reporter news editor Teresa Malcolm reported in the November 24, 2000, edition of National Catholic Reporter, exit polls taken by Voter News Service during the 2000 election show that 52 percent of white Catholics voted for Bush and 45 percent of them voted for former Vice President Al Gore. The seven-point gap between Bush and Gore with white Catholics is identical to the gap between Bush and Kerry in the Pew poll and contradicts the Times' claim that there is a "contrast" between the recent Pew poll and the exit poll results from 2000.

Correction: 

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Religion, 2004 Elections
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