Conservative nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker justified citing an International Republican Institute (IRI) poll, which found that the majority of Iraqis are optimistic about their country's future and its upcoming elections, by claiming that it was the only survey with the "capacity to poll nationally" in Iraq. However, the nonpartisan Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS) conducted a national poll of Iraqis during the same month as the IRI poll and found, as a Reuters article noted, that "overall enthusiasm for the elections was tainted by security fears and other concerns about the political process." Parker's erroneous claim occurred on the December 12 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show; her inclusion on that program's panel marked the 22nd time in 2004 that the show's panel skewed to the right.
As the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) noted in a November 2004 report on public opinion in Iraq, both the IRI and ICRSS polls were national in scope. Among the findings of the IRI poll, conducted September 24 to October 4, were that "[o]ver 58 percent of those polled believe that elections will, in fact, be held by the January 31st deadline," and that "[o]ver 85 percent of respondents say they are determined to cast their ballots in this historic election." But as CSIS noted in its November report, "the September 2004 poll by ICRSS contradicts this rosy assessment [by IRI]." The ICRSS survey, conducted September 15 to 22, indicated that "59 percent of Iraqis polled said they feared intimidation by armed groups could restrict access to polling stations," approximately 55 percent "had little faith that the Iraqi army could maintain security during the elections," and only 67 percent were "very likely" to vote in the election. The Washington Times reported on December 13 that a "U.S. official" noted that "fewer than 1 percent of eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive, forcing authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists."
The International Republican Institute describes itself as "a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide." The Institute's Board of Directors is chaired by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and features several prominent Republicans, including current legislators (such as Senator Chuck Hagel and U.S. Representative David Dreier) and former high-ranking administration officials (such as former Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft).
Matthews's other panelists on the December 12 show were Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report contributing editor; David Gregory, NBC White House correspondent; and Katty Kay, BBC Washington correspondent. Placement of the conservative Parker with these non-aligned journalists skewed the panel to the right, an imbalance found in many of Matthews's panels this year, as Media Matters for America has documented.