NY Post, Fox News touted flawed GOP poll to claim "America Says Let's Win [Iraq] War"
Research ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN
The New York Post and Fox News touted a poll that found that "57 percent of Americans supported 'finishing the job in Iraq' -- keeping U.S. troops there until the Iraqis can provide security on their own." But neither the Post nor Fox News noted that the company that conducted the poll considers itself a "Republican polling firm" and that poll questions apparently were, according to the head of a different Republican polling firm, "designed to register certain responses."
In a February 21 article, headlined "America Says Let's Win War," the New York Post touted the results of a Public Opinion Strategies poll on the Iraq war -- which has been reportedly dismissed by a Republican pollster as "designed to register certain responses" and conflicts with recent nonpartisan national polling -- to declare that "[i]n a dramatic finding, a new poll shows a solid majority of Americans still wants to win the war in Iraq -- and keep U.S. troops there until the Baghdad government can take over." The Post reported that the "poll found that 57 percent of Americans supported 'finishing the job in Iraq' -- keeping U.S. troops there until the Iraqis can provide security on their own." The question to which the Post referred asked respondents to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: "I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people." The Post also similarly highlighted responses to several of the poll's other loaded questions.
Similarly, during the noon ET hour of Fox News Live, anchor Gregg Jarrett pointed to the poll during a discussion with Fox News military analyst retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney to suggest that the poll shows "that Americans have perhaps a deeper understanding of what is happening in Iraq than, you know, maybe some members of Congress and even some journalists give them credit for." McInerney agreed and stated "they asked the right questions in that poll. ... Americans want to win."
According to blogger Greg Sargent, Republican pollster David E. Johnson, CEO of the Strategic Vision polling firm, criticized the poll as, in Sargent's words, "leading and designed to elicit the answers they got." Johnson also stated, according to Sargent, that "this poll is not the quality we've come to expect from national polling firms." Specifically, Johnson pointed to the question asking if respondents agreed with the statement "I support finishing the job in Iraq" as problematic. Johnson said the question was "designed to elicit a positive response by putting respondents in the position of saying that they don't support 'finishing a job.' ... It's not a straightforward wording at all. It's also put in the first person to personalize it. In polling when you use the first person you generally get a more positive response." Johnson also asserted that the "wording" of the poll's statement "Victory in Iraq, that is creating a young but stable democracy in Iraq and reducing the threat of terrorism at home, is no longer possible for the US" was "completely unprofessional" because"[i]t's designed to confuse the respondent. People are being asked whether two different things can be accomplished -- establishing democracy in Iraq and reducing the threat of terrorism at home -- and doesn't clarify which one people are talking about."
The Public Opinion Strategies poll, conducted February 5-7, asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of politically charged statements. The weblog The Carpetbagger Report described these as, "basically the White House's carefully-worded talking points" that are "designed to register certain responses." For instance:
- Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war. (56 percent agreed, 43 percent disagreed)
- The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq. (53 percent agreed, 46 percent disagreed)
- I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people. (57 percent agreed, 41 percent disagreed)
- The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism. (57 percent agreed, 41 percent disagreed)
- A stable Iraq is the best way to protect America from the nuclear threat of Iran. (47 percent agreed, 49 percent disagreed)
- Victory in Iraq, that is creating a young but stable democracy and reducing the threat of terrorism at home, is no longer possible for the US. (43 percent agreed, 53 percent disagreed)
- Losing the war in Iraq would mean that the United States is no longer a superpower, but just another power. (31 percent agreed, 66 percent disagreed)
- I don't really care about what happens in Iraq after the US leaves, I just want the troops brought home. (25 percent agreed, 74 percent disagreed)
The poll also asked respondents, "Which one of the following statements regarding the US involvement in Iraq do you MOST agree with": a) "The US should immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq." b) "Whether Iraq is stable or not, the US should set and hold to set a strict timetable for withdrawing troops." c) "While I don't agree that the US should be in the war, our troops should stay there and do whatever it takes to restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country" or d) "The Iraq War is the front line in the battle against terrorism and our troops should stay there and do whatever it takes to restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country." The Post characterized these statements as giving respondents "a choice of four policies" and concluded that "an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops was the least popular" policy option.
But recent nonpartisan polls yielded results that conflict with the Public Opinion Strategies results. For instance, a CBS News poll conducted February 8-11 asked respondents: "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?" Twenty-six percent of respondents said the U.S. should "increase" troops; 17 percent said the U.S. should "keep the same number" of troops; 23 percent responded that the U.S. should "decrease the number" of troops in Iraq and 28 percent said they favored "remov[ing] all" U.S. troops from the country. The CBS poll also asked respondents if they "agree[d] or disagree[d] with the following statement: Even when they have some objections or reservations, Congress should cooperate and support President George W. Bush's legislative proposals in order to give them a chance"; 54 percent of the respondents disagreed, while 39 percent agreed.
Additionally, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, conducted February 7-11, asked respondents to indicate whether "the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized" or "bring its troops home as soon as possible." The majority, 53 percent, responded that the "U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible." The Pew poll also asked: "Do you think the war in Iraq has helped the war on terrorism, or has it hurt the war on terrorism"; 47 percent indicated that they believed the Iraq war has "hurt the war on terrorism." Further, the Pew poll found that 55 percent were more "concern[ed]" that "the U.S. will wait too long to withdraw its troops from Iraq," rather than "leave Iraq before a stable democracy is in place." According to the Pew poll, 47 percent of respondents said that the United States will "probably" or "definitely fail in establishing a stable democratic government in Iraq," versus 44 percent who said they thought the United States would "definitely" or "probably succeed."
Further, neither the Post nor Jarrett noted that Public Opinion Strategies is a Republican polling firm. Indeed, following the November 2006 midterm elections, the firm issued a press release that described itself as a "Republican polling firm" and carried the headline, "Public Opinion Strategies Mourns Republican Losses, Congratulates Many Individual Winners in Tough Races."
According to a February 19 article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "Davis Lundy, owner of the Chattanooga-based strategic communications and public affairs firm The Moriah Group, commissioned the Public Opinion Strategies survey" because Lundy did not believe the Democrats won control of Congress due to a "mandate on Iraq." Instead, the Times Free Press reported, Lundy believed there "was a clash between the extremes in both parties over Iraq that dominated the news but didn't represent the true will of the American people." Lundy founded the Moriah Group, according to the firm's website, when he "took on the successful political campaign for U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp [R-TN]."
From the 12 p.m. ET hour of the February 21 edition of Fox News Live:
JARRETT: You know, General, there's a new poll just out by Public Opinion Strategies. A solid majority of Americans, 57 percent, support finishing the job in Iraq. And a similar majority believe victory is still possible in Iraq. And here's the most surprising part, General, only 17 percent want an immediate withdrawal of troops. Does that poll suggest to you that Americans have perhaps a deeper understanding of what's happening in Iraq than, you know, maybe some members of Congress and even some journalists give them credit for?
McINERNEY: I think it does, Gregg. And, as a matter of fact, they asked the right questions in that poll. A lot of the time they don't ask the right questions. They asked the right questions. Americans want to win. That was the deciding factor in the election in November. The president has put in a new strategy. And, by the way, I talked to Major General Bill Caldwell in Baghdad this morning and -- along with some other news analysts. The fact is, there are a lot of very positive signs pointing out that the battle for Baghdad that we've now started on, led by the prime minister, [Nuri Kamal al-]Maliki, is bringing some very favorable results. It's not there yet. I don't want to give you a happy face, but the point is it's a very encouraging sign. [British] Prime Minister [Tony] Blair said 80 to 90 percent of the activity in Iraq is within a 30-mile radius of Baghdad. That's the center of gravity.