Searching for the GOP's silver lining, ABC's Gibson misrepresented his own network's poll
Research ››› ››› SIMON MALOY
ABC News' Charles Gibson claimed that a poll's finding that "the Foley scandal is dwarfed by other concerns," such as the Iraq war, terrorism, and the economy, "would seem to be good news for Republicans." In fact, the poll also found that, by significant margins, more Americans trust Democrats over Republicans to handle the Iraq war, terrorism, and the economy.
In discussing an October 5-8 Washington Post/ABC News poll with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos on the October 9 broadcast of ABC's World News, anchor Charles Gibson claimed that the poll's finding that the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley "is dwarfed by other concerns," such as the Iraq war, terrorism, and the economy, "would seem to be good news for Republicans." In fact, the poll also found that, by significant margins, more Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the Iraq war, terrorism, and the economy. Neither Gibson nor Stephanopoulos explained how greater concern over Iraq, terror, and the economy, compared to the Foley scandal, "would seem to be good news for Republicans" when their own poll shows that Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle those issues.
From the October 9 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
GIBSON: Republicans fear the Foley scandal could cost them congressional seats in November. But according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll out tonight, just 18 percent of voters consider the scandal an important issue. In contrast, 83 percent see Iraq as a major issue. Terrorism and the economy also rank much higher as concerns for voters. So we turn to our chief White House -- Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos. And George, I'm gonna put these numbers up right next to you, because it does show that the Foley scandal is dwarfed by other concerns. And that would seem to be good news for Republicans, but other numbers in the poll might not be such good news for the Republicans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right, Charlie. A lot of flashing red lights for Republicans in this new poll. We find that only 32 percent of the country approves the job Congress is doing. Only 39 percent approve of the job the president's doing, 66 percent of the country thinks we're going in the wrong direction, and by a 13-point margin, they prefer Democrats over Republicans come November. So what this basically shows is that the bump that the president and his party got in September by focusing on terrorism, by falling gas prices, has gone away. They're back to the same low numbers they've been fighting all year.
GIBSON: All right. You just mentioned that the approval numbers for Congress are very, very low, and that would, obviously, seem to be problems for incumbents. But there's always that old conventional wisdom, George, that people don't like the Congress as a whole, but then they turn around and vote for their member who is already there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is still holding up, Charlie. You look at this poll, and 60 percent still approve of their individual member of Congress. And I think that's a testament and it validates the Republican strategy this year, which is "all politics is local." They stole it from [former House Speaker Thomas P.] "Tip" O'Neill [D-MA]. They basically built a levee around their members, and the question is, can it fight back this national wave?
GIBSON: All right, George Stephanopoulos reporting on the poll from Washington. Thanks.
According to the ABC News/Washington Post poll, when asked which issues were important to their vote, 83 percent of respondents chose the Iraq war, 78 percent chose terrorism, and 77 percent chose the economy. When asked which party they "trust to do a better job handling" Iraq, 51 percent of respondents chose Democrats, compared with 38 percent who chose Republicans. On terrorism, 47 percent chose Democrats, compared with 41 percent who chose Republicans. On the economy, 54 percent chose Democrats, while 37 percent chose Republicans. In fact, as ABC's poll analysis noted, "Democrats lead in public trust to handle each of seven areas tested in this poll." The other areas included immigration, health care, ethics in Washington, and the "main problems the nation faces over the next few years."
Moreover, the October 5-8 poll's findings on Iraq and terrorism represented a clear shift from the previous month -- according to a September 7 Washington Post/ABC News poll, the percentage of respondents who trusted Democrats and Republicans to handle the Iraq war was approximately equal (43 for Democrats, 44 for Republicans), and a higher percentage of respondents trusted Republicans (47 percent) to better handle terrorism than Democrats (40 percent).