MilitaryTimes.com article claiming poll respondents are "[w]ary about Obama" did not note poll was based on voluntary responses

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

MilitaryTimes.com reported: "When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic, according to a Military Times survey." But according to a separate MilitaryTimes.com article, the poll was based on voluntary responses by subscribers to Army Times Publishing Co. newspapers rather than a random statistical sample of service members. A report on the poll on Fox & Friends also omitted this information.

In a December 29 MilitaryTimes.com article headlined "2008 Military Times poll: Wary about Obama," staff writer Brendan McGarry reported: "When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic, according to a Military Times survey." McGarry further reported that "[t]he responses are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole," but he did not mention that according to a separate MilitaryTimes.com article, the poll was based on voluntary responses by subscribers to Army Times Publishing Co. newspapers rather than a random statistical sample of service members, and that therefore no margin of error can be calculated for the poll. A report on the poll on the January 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends also omitted this information, as did the Chicago Sun-Times' website, which posted excerpts of McGarry's article.

According to the separate MilitaryTimes.com article, the poll was "based on responses from those who chose to participate. That means it is impossible to calculate statistical margins of error commonly reported in opinion surveys, because those calculations depend on random sampling techniques." The article added: "The voluntary nature of the survey, the dependence on e-mail and the characteristics of Military Times readers could affect the results."

Additionally, McGarry asserted in his article that the "survey group overall ... over-represents soldiers." Earlier in the article, McGarry described the poll as a "survey of subscribers to Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times newspapers." Presumably, the poll therefore "over-represent[ed]" subscribers to Army Times, not "soldiers" in general, as McGarry suggested.

From the separate article, headlined "Sampling the military":

About 36,000 subscribers received invitations via e-mail to participate. Of those, 5,181 completed the survey. Except where noted, data were filtered to include 1,947 responses from active-duty subscribers.

The responses "no opinion," "declined to answer" and "other" are not shown for all questions. Some charts do not total 100 percent due to rounding.

Although public opinion pollsters use random selection to survey the general public, the Military Times survey is based on responses from those who chose to participate. That means it is impossible to calculate statistical margins of error commonly reported in opinion surveys, because those calculations depend on random sampling techniques.

The voluntary nature of the survey, the dependence on e-mail and the characteristics of Military Times readers could affect the results.

Gannett News Service distributed McGarry's article, and Chicago Sun-Times website also published excerpts. The Sun-Times also did not note that the survey was a voluntary-response poll for which a margin of error cannot be calculated.

On the January 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson reported of the survey: "[I]t was asked how military members, active duty, feel about the next president of the United States as commander in chief. Well, many of them, the majority, say that they feel uncertain or pessimistic. Pretty strong words." Guest co-host Dave Briggs later added that "six out of 10 active-duty service members say they're uncertain or pessimistic about the president-elect, just to not confuse you about that poll." But Carlson and Briggs' suggestion that that the poll was based on a representative sample of "active-duty service members" is false. The hosts did not point out that the poll did not have a random sample, that it was not possible to calculate a margin of error for the poll, or that McGarry reported that "[t]he responses are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole" and that "[t]he survey group overall under-represents minorities, women and junior enlisted service members."

From the January 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: Let's talk a little bit about a new poll that has come out. It's from the Military Times, the 2008 Military Times poll. And it was asked how military members, active duty, feel about the next president of the United States as commander in chief. Well, many of them, the majority, say that they feel uncertain or pessimistic. Pretty strong words. Thirty-five percent do say that they are optimistic; 33 percent, pessimistic; 25 percent, no opinion. Eight percent -- I'm not sure exactly what that was. Can we put the full screen back up again, so we can describe this a little bit better?

CLAYTON MORRIS (guest co-host): Yeah, get out your abacus at home and try to figure out all of these numbers. Apparently a little computer crash there. But that -- those are the numbers. It's interesting, though, that of the six out of 10 of these active-duty service members, that they're saying, "Look, we're" -- they're worried about an Iraqi timetable. They're worried about Barack Obama's Iraqi timetable, and they're also worried about his inexperience, having never been in the military. They're worried about that. Those were the two concerns cited in this poll.

BRIGGS: Well, they're also worried about his stance against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military. Those are the things that he -- they say worries them the most. And again, it's -- I think the numbers confused it a little bit. But six out of 10 active-duty service members say they're uncertain or pessimistic about the president-elect, just to not confuse you about that poll. So, you know, he has time. But his approval rating otherwise among the general public is pretty much through the roof right now, and they are optimistic.

MORRIS: And to be fair, he is not president yet. So, you know, after 100 days in office, maybe do this poll again and see where they feel -- see if they still feel the same way about it.

CARLSON: Exactly. Because a lot of peoples have -- they've changed their mind since he actually won the election. Many people were concerned he was going to govern so far to the left. And so far, at least his picks for his Cabinet posts and such have been very moderate.

Let's talk a little bit about the inauguration, which is coming up in about three weeks from now. And one of the most important things, at least for the ladies, is what kind of dress are they going to wear.

MORRIS: Of course.

CARLSON: And the second-most important question is, Will anyone else have that same dress on?

From McGarry's MilitaryTimes.com article:

When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic, according to a Military Times survey.

In follow-up interviews, respondents expressed concerns about Obama's lack of military service and experience leading men and women in uniform.

[...]

The findings are part of the sixth annual Military Times survey of subscribers to Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times newspapers. This year's survey, conducted Dec. 1 through Dec. 8, included more than 1,900 active-duty respondents.

The responses are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole. The survey group overall under-represents minorities, women and junior enlisted service members, and over-represents soldiers.

But as a snapshot of the professional corps, the responses highlight the challenges Obama faces as he prepares to take command of military careerists with different political and cultural attitudes.

In keeping with previous surveys, nearly half of the respondents described their political views as conservative or very conservative. Slightly more than half said they consider themselves Republicans, 22 percent independents and 13 percent Democrats.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Jake Tapper, Gretchen Carlson, Dave Briggs
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Barack Obama, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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