CBS mischaracterized own poll to declare Americans are "split on troop 'surge' "

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

A CBSNews.com article misrepresented the findings of the network's own poll to claim that "45 percent are in favor of the so-called troop 'surge,' while 48 percent are opposed." The poll question resulting in the 45 percent-48 percent split did not address President Bush's expected proposal for an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq.

A January 8 CBSNews.com article headlined: "Poll: Americans Split On Troop 'Surge' " misrepresented the findings of the network's own poll, released the same day. The article claimed that the poll found that "Americans are nearly evenly divided on the idea of a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq -- which President Bush is widely expected to call for when he announces his new strategy for the war later this week." In the next sentence, the article, which bears no byline, then said: "In the latest CBS News poll, 45 percent are in favor of the so-called troop 'surge,' while 48 percent are opposed." But that sentence mischaracterizes the actual question that produced the 45 percent-48 percent split.

Specifically, that question asked: "Would you favor or oppose a short-term increase in the number of US troops in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, to try to gain control of the city?" Contrary to the article's claim, the question did not describe the troop increase that "Bush is widely expected to call for." It did not ask about an overall increase in troops, merely about an increase in troops in Baghdad, which presumably could be accomplished by transferring troops from other parts of the country. Moreover, contrary to the article's claim, the administration has not indicated that Bush's proposal will be for a "short-term" increase, as Media Matters for America has noted. In fact, according to The New York Times, Bush's announcement on January 10 will call for a strategy that "may take another 'two or three years' to gain the upper hand in the war."

The actual question about increasing overall troop levels produced a different result from what the CBSNews.com article claimed. The question read: "[W]hat should the U.S. do now -- should the U.S. increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, keep the same number of U.S. troops in Iraq as there are now, decrease the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, or remove all its troops from Iraq?" The poll found that just 18 percent favored increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, while 59 percent "would like troop levels in general either lowered (30%) or brought to zero with a full withdrawal (29%)." These results appeared further down in the CBSNews.com article.

From the January 8 CBSNews.com article:

Americans are nearly evenly divided on the idea of a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq -- which President Bush is widely expected to call for when he announces his new strategy for the war later this week.

In the latest CBS News poll, 45 percent are in favor of the so-called troop "surge," while 48 percent are opposed.

However, most Americans -- 55 percent -- don't think a troop increase would actually help stabilize Baghdad; just 35 percent think it would.

A majority -- 59 percent -- would prefer to see troop levels either reduced (30 percent) or brought to zero with a full withdrawal (29 percent).

Most Americans expect Mr. Bush will announce changes in the U.S. strategy in Iraq, but not the kinds of changes they want.

Forty-three percent say the U.S. should keep fighting the war but with a new strategy, which is what 55 percent say the president will do. But 52 percent want the U.S. to start ending its involvement in Iraq, which only 6 percent think the president will do.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Military Personnel & Veterans, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
CBS
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