Twisting logic, Stephanopoulos spun Bush's anemic poll numbers as "an opportunity"

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

On ABC's World News Tonight, ABC's George Stephanopoulos, discussing a May 15 ABC News/Washington Post poll, said that "a president just shouldn't be at 33 percent when you've got 89 percent of the country optimistic about their future." Stephanopoulos focused on the administration's handling of Iraq as an "opportunity ... if things can turn around in Iraq" while omitting other results, both from that poll and others, that provide other reasons for Bush's low approval ratings.

During the May 16 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight, ABC chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, discussing a May 15 ABC News/Washington Post poll, said that "a president just shouldn't be at 33 percent when you've got 89 percent of the country optimistic about their future." Stephanopoulos was responding to anchor Elizabeth Vargas's point that the "polls show this remarkable disconnect" because "[p]eople are very unhappy about the president and his administration but are very happy with their personal lives." Stephanopoulos's only apparent explanation for this "disconnect" was the administration's handling of Iraq, asserting that the disconnect "is a challenge and an opportunity for the president. The opportunity is, if things can turn around in Iraq ... everything else should turn around as well."

However, Stephanopoulos omitted other results, both from the ABC poll and others, that provide other reasons for Bush's low approval ratings and that cast doubt on Stephanopoulos's assertion that these low numbers actually present Bush with an "opportunity ... if things can turn around in Iraq." For example, the ABC poll also found that a majority of Americans disapprove of Bush's performance on every major issue except terrorism and privacy rights -- the economy (60 percent), taxes (54 percent), immigration (56 percent), gas prices (76 percent), and the budget deficit (67 percent). In addition, the poll found that 53 percent of Americans are "pessimistic" about "the policies Bush will pursue" in the "next 12 months," while only 43 percent were "optimistic."

Moreover, according to recent polls, Americans also do not view the president favorably: his personal favorability ratings are currently in the 30s (with one recent poll placing it at 29 percent), while his unfavorable ratings are in the 50s. An April 30 USA Today/Gallup poll also found that a majority of Americans believe Bush is not "honest and trustworthy" (56 percent), does not share their values (58 percent), and does not "care about the needs of people" like themselves (61 percent).

From the May 16 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:

VARGAS: Good evening. We begin with President Bush and the growing dissatisfaction in this country with the job he is doing. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that the president's approval now stands at just 33 percent, tying a 25-year low. The poll finds there is one significant reason behind the widespread unhappiness, and that is the war in Iraq. Just 32 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the war. Until that changes, it will be very difficult for Mr. Bush to get traction on any other issue. ABC's chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, joins us tonight in New York with more. This is not good news for the administration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Elizabeth, everything President Bush says and does is seen through the filter of Iraq. And the American people are judging it a failure. Look at these poll numbers. Fifty-nine percent call the war in Iraq a mistake. It took several more years back in the 1970s, far deeper into the Vietnam War, for the American people to reach that same judgment about Vietnam. Fifty-five percent, today, of the American people are pessimistic about the situation in Iraq. That's a big jump from December, where there was hope over elections. But the failure to form a government is really taking its toll.

VARGAS: In the meantime, the polls actually show this remarkable disconnect. People are very unhappy about the president and his administration but are very happy with their personal lives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This is the most fascinating finding with the poll. Sixty-nine percent of the American people think the country is on the wrong track. But 58 percent of the American people think their local community is on the right track, is going in the right direction. And 89 percent of the American people are optimistic about their own, personal future. You know, a president just shouldn't be at 33 percent when you've got 89 percent of the country optimistic about their future. This is a challenge and an opportunity for the president. The opportunity is, if things can turn around in Iraq, if they can get stabilized and that starts to turn around, everything else should turn around as well.

VARGAS: All right. George Stephanopoulos, thank you.

Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
George Stephanopoulos
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight
Stories/Interests
Polling
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