Boyles distorts polling results to attack Rocky Mountain News columnist

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In attacking Mike Littwin's September 19 Rocky Mountain News column about immigration, KHOW-AM host Peter Boyles repeatedly misrepresented the results of a poll that Littwin cited.

On September 19, KHOW-AM host Peter Boyles distorted the results of an April USA Today/Gallup poll to criticize the September 19 column by Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin, who factually cited figures from the poll in asserting that most Americans agree illegal immigrants should be allowed to become U.S. citizens. Boyles said, "He [Littwin] claims ... that 63 percent of those people in that poll said the illegals should be allowed to become citizens." Boyles then stated that "the number I can find for 60 percent is 60 percent of American citizens think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals. Is there any conflict between Mike's column and what that poll actually said? You bet there is. Light years difference." However, Boyles's statement that "60 percent of Americans think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals" was a misrepresentation of the poll question that generated the 60 percent response. Boyles later denied he called the Littwin citation into question.

In his September 19 column, Littwin reported that several recent polls suggest that a majority of people "believe - like George W. Bush believes and the majority of the U.S. Senate believes - in what some call a 'path to citizenship' and the talk-radio Tancredo-ites call 'amnesty.' " Littwin cited a September 10-12 Rocky Mountain News/CBS4 poll that found that "[i]n Colorado, 61 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to become citizens if they meet certain requirements - and 15 percent say they should be deported." Littwin then noted that a "USA Today/Gallup poll from April had the numbers [those for path to citizenship and those for deportation] at 63 and 18 percent, respectively."

On the September 19 broadcast of The Peter Boyles Show, Boyles questioned Littwin's citation of the April USA Today/Gallup poll. Boyles said, "A USA Today/Gallup poll from April had the numbers saying 63 and 18 percent. I don't know what Gallup poll he is looking at." He later stated, "I can't find it anywhere in the poll -- it doesn't mean it isn't there -- I haven't been able to find it." As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Boyles previously has called into doubt other citations used by journalists because he, or his friends, claimed they could not find the citation.

In fact, question number 15 of the poll asks, "Which comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States?" From the USA Today/Gallup poll conducted between April 7-9, 2006:

Should the government deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work, but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens, but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time?

2006 Apr 7-9

Deport all

Remain in the U.S. in order to work

Remain in the U.S. and become citizen

No opinion

18

17

63

2

Boyles further claimed that Littwin ignored a result in his column that showed that 60 percent of those polled felt "we collectively should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals." While it is true that Littwin didn't include this figure in his column, it is not true that the poll showed that 60 percent felt "we collectively should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals."

Question 20 of the April Gallup poll asked respondents if they thought that "not allowing illegal immigrants to use American schools and hospitals" would be very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not at all effective "as a way to reduce illegal immigration to the United States." It did not ask whether respondents supported or opposed denying illegal immigrants access to American schools and hospitals. Among those responding, 60 percent said it would be "very" or "somewhat" effective.

Later in the broadcast, when a caller read from the poll confirming that, indeed, the poll did show that 63 percent of those polled believed that "illegals already in this country [should] be allowed to stay in this country after they meet certain requirements over a certain period of time," Boyles denied calling the figure into question:

CALLER: Should the illegals already in this country be allowed to stay in this country after they meet certain requirements over a certain period of time: 63 percent.

BOYLES: Indeed, but what's missing?

CALLER: So he's spot on on that one. He is dead right. What he said is absolutely true.

BOYLES: But look at the rest of it. Those --

CALLER: I know. I'm not saying the rest of its right, but you put up that this isn't true. That what he said is not true.

BOYLES: No, I didn't say that.

CALLER: It absolutely is true.

From the September 19 broadcast of The Peter Boyles Show:

BOYLES: The illegal immigration, the Rocky Mountain News/CBS Channel 4 poll, is pretty startling, according to the survey, and we talked about this yesterday. "61 percent of people in the state believe like George W. Bush and believe the majority of the U.S. Senate believes," now remember, this was the Arlen Specter bill, the path to citizenship that the House immediately turned back. That's absent in Littwin's column this morning.

But he cites the Gallup poll, a Gallup poll in April. And he writes, "In Colorado, 61 percent of us say illegal immigrants should be allowed to become citizens if they meet certain requirements and 15 percent say they should be deported. A USA Today/Gallup poll from April had the numbers 63 and 18 percent." I don't know what Gallup poll he's looking at, but this is the Gallup poll in April that is being cited this way. This is the poll, and in Littwin's column this morning, he cites the April Gallup poll in saying that the numbers were 63 percent and 18 percent. 63 percent of the American people, claims Mike in reading that Gallup poll, for citizenship. Let me read you that Gallup poll. This is April. 81 percent of us believe illegal immigration is out of control. These are the lead variables in that Gallup poll, missing in Mike's column. 96 percent of us believe controlling the U.S. borders to halt the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S. is most important. Missing in Mike's column. 60 percent of us think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals. Same April Gallup poll, reading Littwin's column. Geez, it's not there.

[...]

BOYLES: But he makes the fatal mistake of citing the April USA Today/Gallup poll. And he claims in his column this morning that 63 percent of those people in that poll said the illegals should be allowed to become citizens. Michael, I got the poll. Let's see if we can speak with Michael sometime today or tomorrow. I have the poll. 81 percent of Americans, 96 percent, 81 percent, 84 percent. 81 percent say we should significantly increase the number of officials patrolling the border. 60 percent. Now, Mike has a 60 in this. 61 percent he claims in this poll believe that people should be allowed to become citizens. The number I can find for 60 percent is 60 percent of American citizens think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals. Is there any conflict between Mike's column and what that poll actually said? You bet there is. Light years difference.

[...]

BOYLES: The poll itself; I mean, I got it here. It was April the 7th to the 9th, 2006. The Gallup Poll. 81 percent of Americans believe that illegal immigration is out of control. That's totally missing in Mike's column. 96 percent of us believe that controlling the U.S. borders is the most important issue. Missing in Mike's column. 60 percent of us, and this was the 60 that I found, think that we collectively should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals. It's missing in Mike's column.

BOYLES: And this morning the Tancredo attack piece done by Mike Littwin citing a Gallup poll that I have in my hands. I read the piece and I said, wait a minute, I'll go get that Gallup poll. And he claims, and I can't find it anywhere in the poll -- it doesn't mean it isn't there -- I haven't been able to find it. That the April Gallup poll, 63 percent of American people said illegal immigrants should be allowed to become citizens. The 60 number I find in the poll question was 60 percent of the American people believe that illegals should not have access to hospital care and schools. That's the 60 number. But this morning Littwin claims these are all trends and movements.

CALLER: Now, that same poll that you are speaking of there with Littwin and what not like that, April 7th-9th 06. Question 15, should American government rotate or deport illegal citizens: 18 percent. Should they allow the illegals to stay in the country but only a short period of time: 17 percent. Should the illegals already in this country be allowed to stay in this country after they meet certain requirements over a period of time: 63 percent.

BOYLES: Indeed, but what's missing --

CALLER: So he's spot on that one. He is dead right.

BOYLES: Now hang on --

CALLER: What he said is absolutely true.

BOYLES: But look at the rest of it. Those --

CALLER: I know. I'm not saying the rest of it's right, but you put up that this isn't true. That what he said is not true.

BOYLES: No, I didn't say that.

BOYLES: What I said.--

CALLER: It absolutely is true that the majority of Americans would vote for the Senate plan --

BOYLES: Jerry, shhh. Jerry --

CALLER: -- that want those people to be in this country.

BOYLES: Jerry, we can trade. Jerry what I said was, what was missing?

CALLER: But why did he? He didn't need to put that in there --

BOYLES: Oh, really.

CALLER: He wasn't bringing up that point. He was strictly talking about the fact --

BOYLES: No, he wasn't.

CALLER: -- that the majority of Americans do think that illegal immigrants should stay --

BOYLES: No, again --

CALLER: -- should be allowed to stay in this country.

BOYLES: What's missing -- I brought it, I have it in front of me as well -- what's missing, now do you see the significance of people, 60 percent, who say that they should be denied health care, denied schools, do you see those? Do you see the 80 percent who say other things?

CALLER: That's when they're illegal. And I have no problem with those.

BOYLES: Listen to me. Once again. You can take, and I can be selective, and I can say this makes my point with out taking the center of the cake and saying this is how the cake tastes. And there's an old line from statistics that says, I will give you the last comment -- that all Indians walk in single file because the three I saw did, and so you can't take this study and cherry-pick it to make your point. You have to say, and this is what the study says. Now,

[...]

BOYLES: The same polling data says 60 percent think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals. That is missing in Mike's piece.

CALLER: So what?

BOYLES: Listen to me --

CALLER: So what?

BOYLES: Listen to me one more time. He is making a claim that --

CALLER: So what? Why do you not say that --

BOYLES: I will put him on hold just for one minute. I'm just too tired to argue this morning. Mike is claiming the results are in and the demagogues are losing predicated on this epistemological Gallup poll results. And he picks two demos out of it. And he says here, this makes his case, because he said the demagogues are losing. Well, what he fails to tell you, from the column, is in the study, 60 percent of the American people think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals. 81 percent say we should significantly increase the people on the border patrolling. 84 percent want to institute tougher penalties for businesses, and then Mike goes on, and I'll bring Jerry back and give him a final comment. And if he said if you don't like it, join Tancredo. Go down and build a wall, as though very few people want that. In this poll, 48 percent think building a wall along our border is a good idea. All right now, Jerry, you can have the last comment; go ahead.

CALLER: And Pete, you conveniently leave out of that whole thing that 63 percent of the American people in that poll said --

BOYLES: I didn't leave it out.

CALLER: Yes, you did.

BOYLES: No, what I was ... I am going to try you one more time.

CALLER: You didn't mention --

BOYLES: I am going to try it one more time. What I said was that I read that column. I said, what is left out. Gee, this isn't mentioned. I read it every time, Jerry. 61 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to become citizens, 18 percent, and the word "deported" isn't even there. But what I said was, gee what's missing? Now, Jerry, please take the last comment and I have to break.

CALLER: Pete, what's the point with, why not have, why did you not tell them that the poll also said 63% --

BOYLES: I did Jerry. Jerry I read that. Jerry, I read that five times.

CALLER: You read it out of his piece.

BOYLES: That's right.

CALLER: You didn't say. You left it out of the poll.

BOYLES: No, I did not, I kept saying --

CALLER: You said the poll did not say that.

BOYLES: No, what I said was, isn't it interesting that these other variables are missing?

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.