O'Reilly's "Pew poll" diverged from actual Pew poll on 2006 elections, Americans' economic expectations

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

On the September 16 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely reported the results of a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press to understate the number of those polled who say they plan to support Democrats in the 2006 election and the number who believe the economy is getting worse.

From O'Reilly's accurate citation of responses to a question concerning gas prices, Media Matters for America infers that the "new" Pew poll to which he referred was in fact a September 15 poll by that organization. But he falsely claimed that, according to the poll, 45 or 46 percent would vote for a Democrat, while 43 percent would vote Republican "next November." O'Reilly subsequently claimed, also incorrectly, that the poll's "midterm Congress test ballot" found that 45 percent would vote for a generic Republican, while 48 percent would vote for the Democrat. In fact, the poll found that 52 percent of Americans would vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress, while only 40 percent would vote for the Republican. O'Reilly's second claim regarding the generic ballot is, in fact, the result of a Pew poll taken in August 1997.

O'Reilly also claimed that, according to the poll, 9 percent of Americans think that "[a] year from now the economy will be worse," while 36 percent say it will be "better," 47 percent say it will be the "same," and 8 percent did not know. The poll actually reported that 37 percent thought the economy would be worse in one year; 18 percent thought it would be better; 43 percent said the economy would be the same; and 2 percent did not know. The figures O'Reilly cited are, in fact, from Pew's August 2004 results.

From the September 16 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: OK, we got an All Skate going on. It means you can ask me anything you want at 1-877-9-NOSPIN. We got a new Pew Research Center poll out on a whole bunch of stuff, so let me run it down for you. And this will stimulate some conversation, I'm sure.

The first question they ask: Who is mostly to blame for rising gas prices? Thirty-six percent of Americans say oil companies; 27 percent say the Bush administration; 18 percent say OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries]; 9 percent Hurricane Katrina; 8 percent gas-guzzling cars and people who drive too much. How important for SUV drivers to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles? Very important, 48 percent of Americans; somewhat important, 31 percent. So altogether, that's 79 percent who think SUV drivers should switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles. That's big. Eighteen percent say not at all. That's big. Been telling you that but took a lot of heat on that one.

[...]

O'REILLY: Are you going to vote Republican or Democrat next election, next November? And that is a close one. Like, Democrat, 45 percent -- 46 percent; Republican 43, something like that. What else? Anything else here on this dopey poll? A year from now, the economy will be worse, 9 percent; better, 36; same, 47; don't know, 8. I would have been in the don't-know category there. It's hard to predict the economy. Midterm Congress test ballot: vote Republican, 45; vote Democrat, 48. That will change week by week.

Posted In
Elections
Stories/Interests
2006 Elections, Polling
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.