9News' Schrager failed to note Republican slant of 7th District poll sample

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On the August 21 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m., reporter Adam Schrager summarized a poll that showed 7th Congressional District candidates Ed Perlmutter (D) and Rick O'Donnell (R) each with 45 percent of the vote. Despite noting that "voter registration numbers are split almost equally among Republicans, Democrats, and independents," Schrager did not inform viewers that the poll's sample included far more Republicans than either Democrats or independents.

On the August 21 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m., reporter Adam Schrager summarized a SurveyUSA/9News poll of 535 likely voters that showed 7th Congressional District candidates Ed Perlmutter (D) and Rick O'Donnell (R) each with 45 percent of the vote. Despite noting that in the 7th District "the voter registration numbers are split almost equally among Republicans, Democrats, and independents," Schrager did not inform viewers that the poll's sample included far more Republicans than either Democrats or independents.

However, Schrager acknowledged in a related story posted on the 9News.com website shortly before his August 21 television report that "[w]hile the district is nearly divided evenly among Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated voters," the survey sample included "44 percent Republicans, 33 percent Democrats, and 21 percent independents." Schrager's article further noted, "As of July 14, the Colorado Secretary of State's office reported 112,879 Republicans, 120,603 Democrats and 122,747 unaffiliated voters."

Schrager's online article reported that SurveyUSA defended its unbalanced sample:

Survey USA Director of Election Polling Dr. Joseph Shipman told 9NEWS the poll was accurate.

He said the numbers could be a result of more Republicans describing themselves as likely to vote and Democrats who supported Perlmutter's opponents with primary fatigue, not defining themselves as likely to vote.

"Survey USA, like most election pollsters, does not (give) weight to Party ID Registration," said Survey USA Political Editor Jay Leve. "In any given survey, there may be more or fewer members of a given political party (polled) than are registered in that geography. This permits a given election poll to reflect the greater interest one party may have in a contest than another. Members of one party in some contests are more motivated to vote than members of another. Survey USA polls reflect this. There is a natural ebb and flow to the composition of Survey USA likely voters."

The SurveyUSA/9News poll was conducted August 18 to August 20 and had a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

From the August 21 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

BOB KENDRICK (co-anchor): A 9News poll confirms what political analysts around the country are saying. Colorado's 7th Congressional District race will be among the closest in the country. The district is a horseshoe around Denver, including cities like Aurora and Lakewood. 9News reporter Adam Schrager has been following the race closely. The two major candidates, Adam, in fact are tied.

SCHRAGER: Bob, the reason that this district is expected to be so close is that the voter registration numbers are split almost equally among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. It's a district John Kerry won in 2004. But it's also a district where President Bush's approval ratings these days are higher than in many other parts of Colorado. The seat is vacant because the incumbent, Bob Beauprez, is running for governor. Now, 535 likely voters were questioned by SurveyUSA over the last three days. 45 percent said they'd vote for Republican Rick O'Donnell. 45 percent chose Democrat Ed Perlmutter. Green Party candidate Dave Chandler and Constitution Party candidate Roger McCarville each received 2 percent. 6 percent were undecided. The margin of error is 4.3 percent. 9News political analyst Fred Brown says the fact this is a race with national implications and expected to be very close means we will become very familiar with these candidates by November.

BROWN: They're going to spend every penny they can get, and on advertising, on campaigning, on yard signs, on fliers -- both sides will -- and there's going to be a lot of money pouring in.

SCHRAGER: Looking inside these numbers, the poll includes pieces that both candidates and their campaigns are going to appreciate. O'Donnell, for example, does not seem to be suffering, as we mentioned, from the same voter fatigue with President Bush that is currently afflicting other Republican candidates. Perlmutter, meanwhile, leads by 19 points among independent voters. This race could generate 10 to 12 million dollars in spending, Bob, over the next two and a half months. Translated, that means we're going to see an awful lot of commercials.

KENDRICK: And a lot of your truth tests, I would imagine, as well.

SCHRAGER: You would imagine correct.

KENDRICK: All right, thank you.

SCHRAGER: Thank you.

KENDRICK: For more on this November's election, you can go to 9News.com and just click on the Decision 2006 icon that's on the left-hand side of the page.

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