Newman, James overstated poll results on opposition to immigration reform bill

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On their June 26 broadcasts, Newsradio 850 KOA's "Gunny" Bob Newman and Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Scott James falsely claimed that "78 percent" of Americans oppose immigration reform legislation that the U.S. Senate had been considering. In fact, the Rasmussen Reports poll on which they apparently based their assertions found that "[f]ifty percent [of American voters] ... oppose the Senate bill" while "28 percent are not sure."

On the June 26 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, "Gunny" Bob Newman baselessly asserted that "78 percent of Americans are opposed to" immigration reform legislation that the U.S. Senate had been considering before it failed to advance to a vote on June 28. Similarly, on the June 26 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with the James Gang, host Scott James asserted that "fully 78 percent of us say we don't want" the bill. Later in his broadcast, referring specifically to a Zogby poll, James misread a key result and did "some quick math" to conclude erroneously that "72 percent [were] again' it." In fact, the sponsor of the poll, United Press International (UPI), reported that 56 percent of respondents opposed the measure.

Newman and James made their comments after the Senate voted earlier that day to resume consideration of the immigration bill -- most recently designated Senate Bill 1639 -- following suspension of action on it June 7.

From the June 26 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The "Gunny" Bob Show:

NEWMAN: -- our government, as evidenced by the resurrection of the amnesty bill in the U.S. Senate today -- that's right, it's back. Evidenced by that, that our government is now no longer -- at least when it comes to the Bush administration and the Senate, the upper house of the legislative branch -- is under the control of the government of Mexico rather than the people of America. 78 percent of Americans are opposed to this amnesty bill. Yet the president spent a huge amount of time and sent all of his power and people over to the Senate and brought that bill back to life this afternoon. Think it was 64 to 35 on the vote count. Brought it back to life.

From the June 26 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with The James Gang:

JAMES: I'm fascinated with, how is it that more folks in this great nation know more about this story than about the cloture vote today and what's -- how, how you're about ready to be duped on an immigration bill that fully 78 percent of us say we don't want. I just, I ca -- I can't understand the math here. You know we're at -- of course, right now we've got an immigration bill that's more popular than the Congress that's trying to pass it, so what the hell. Congress at 14 points, immigration bill at 22 points. Congress is saying, geez look here. We could pick up 8 points.

The assertion by Newman and James that 78 percent of Americans opposed the immigration bill appeared to be based on a Rasmussen Reports poll released June 25 that found "just 22% of American voters currently favor the legislation." However, rather than finding that the other 78 percent of Americans "[o]ppose" the measure, the Rasmussen Reports poll found that "[f]ifty percent ... oppose the Senate bill" while "28 percent are not sure." Newman and James appear to have subtracted the 22 percent support for the bill from a total of 100 percent to conclude that 78 percent of Americans opposed the bill.

Survey of 1,200 Likely Voters
June 22-24, 2007

Senate Immigration Bill

Favor

22%

Oppose

50%

Not Sure

28%

In addition to the Rasmussen Reports poll, James appears to have referred to a Gallup poll released June 21 that found "all-time low" American confidence in Congress when he remarked, "Congress at 14 points, immigration bill at 22 points."

Later, James read from a June 25 article about a Zogby International poll published on the Zogby website in claiming that "28 percent of Americans conveyed that they had a favorable view" of the Senate legislation:

JAMES: New press release today from Zogby International. Analysts found that a large part of the American population wants the current immigration laws reforced -- enforced. Internet survey sponsored by United Press International conducted between June 15 and June 18 elicited the responses of 8300 adults nationally. Top immigration issue. When specifically prompted about the quality of the new legislation reform bill, 28 percent of Americans conveyed that they had a favorable view of the legislation. I've done some quick math; that means there's 72 percent again' it.

However, despite James' "quick math" and his claim that 72 percent of Americans were "again' " the legislation, he misread the article. It reported the Zogby poll's finding that 38 percent of Americans -- not 28, as James read it -- had a favorable view of the legislation:

In a new press release by Zogby International, survey analysts found that a large part of the American population wants the current immigration laws enforced.

The internet survey, sponsored by United Press International, was conducted between June 15th and June 18th and elicited the responses of 8,300 adults nationally.

Top Immigration Issue

When specifically prompted about the quality of the new immigration reform bill, 38% of Americans conveyed that they had a favorable view of the legislative proposal. Zogby analysts also found that those in favor of the bill considered the guest worker programs and pathways to citizenship a critical feature of the legislation.

Further contradicting James' assertion that opponents of the bill in the Zogby poll must have constituted 72 percent of the total, UPI reported on June 21 that "[a] Zogby Interactive poll of 8,300 representative adults nationwide found only 38 percent supported the bill currently being considered by the Senate, while 56 percent opposed it."

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