NBC Touts Slanted Poll Showing Support for Obama's Second Stimulus and Tax Hikes

On Thursday's NBC Today, after acknowledging President Obama's low approval rating, co-host Matt Lauer and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd cheered other results of the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, with Lauer proclaiming: "If there is some good news for the White House this morning it's that 63% of the people in this poll approve of his jobs plan."

Todd followed: "That's right. And also just about the same amount of folks, 64%, believe it should be among the wealthy and corporations that should be paying more money for government services and how we do this and whether it's for – to pay for the President's jobs plan. So philosophically, the President has the public on his side." But then lamented: "He's just not able to somehow convince Congress, not just Republicans, but all of Democrats, to take his position on this."

On Wednesday's Nightly News, Todd noted an important caveat to the support of Obama's supposed jobs plan: "...[it] does get strong support, but only after a brief description is read." Todd didn't bother to mention that on Thursday's Today. On both broadcasts, he ignored  the fact that before a description of the bill was given, only 30% of respondents supported its passage, with 22% opposing it and 44% having no opinion.

The "description" given to respondents read: "The jobs bill would cut the payroll tax rate, fund new road construction, continue to extend unemployment benefits, and give tax credits to companies who hire and train long-term unemployed workers. The plan would be paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing taxes on businesses by closing some corporate tax loopholes." There's no mention of the payroll tax cuts being temporary and the tax increases being permanent.

On the issue of tax hikes on the wealthy, the poll doesn't simply ask if people agree or disagree, but frames the choice this way: "This is a good idea because the wealthy and corporations should pay their fair share and can afford to pay more to help pay for programs and government operations …Or…This is a bad idea because higher taxes will end up taking money from the wealthy and corporations that they could otherwise invest to help grow the economy."

Notice the phrase "fair share" in the statement supporting tax increases but no talk of fairness of people keeping their own money in the statement opposing the increases.

A frustrated Lauer cited the slanted poll results and whined:

But why is there not more momentum or energy behind this? Warren Buffet, as you know, on Wednesday released his financial statement for the previous year. He made about $62 million, paid about $7 million in taxes. He released a statement also saying, "If you could get other ultra-rich Americans to publish their returns along with mine that would be very useful to the tax dialogue. I hope you succeed in getting the ultra-rich to share in the sacrifice many millions of other Americans will soon be asked to do." Why isn't there more momentum for this?

Todd blamed the House GOP's adherence to the Tea Party: "To be totally politically cynical it's because the Republicans and the President are talking to two sets of different swing voters. Republicans believe if they upset the Tea Party base and show any sort of expansion of government, which that's what a tax increase is viewed as by the Tea Party, they will get punished in primaries."


Here is a full transcript of Lauer and Todd's October 13 discussion of the poll:

7:00AM ET TEASE:

ANN CURRY: The front-runner. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Herman Cain taking the lead in the GOP presidential race. What's driving his popularity and can he win his party's   nomination?   

7:09AM ET SEGMENT:

MATT LAUER: Now to politics. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Obama facing tough political headwinds heading into the next presidential election. As GOP candidate Herman Cain takes the lead in the Republican race. Chuck Todd, NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent, is here with some numbers. Chuck, good morning to you. And before we get to Mr. Cain, let's talk about the President, his approval rating at 44%. 51% disapproving of the job he's doing and a whopping 74% of the American people not happy with the direction that the country is headed in, so what other than the economy might be driving these numbers?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama Underwater; NBC News Poll: Majority Disapprove of President]

CHUCK TODD: Look, this is very bad stability for the President, that 44%. A couple things to keep an eye on. In a re-election year your job approval rating and your actual number on election day converge and it's no accident. The 44% he gets there is the exact same 44% we show on whether he should be re-elected against a generic Republican.

This is the second month in a row where the wrong direction number, we were able to say this is the highest of his presidency. In August, that 73% was, and this one. 82%, by the way, Matt, say the entire federal government is unhealthy and needs major reform. So it's a pessimism about not just the economy but about all of Washington and guess who the head of Washington is?

LAUER: Yeah, if there is some good news for the White House this morning it's that 63% of the people in this poll approve of his jobs plan. And there's a very interesting number associated with that, Chuck, on where people think the burden of taxes should fall.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Dealing With Deficits; NBC News Poll: 64% Favor Tax Hikes For the Rich]

TODD: That's right. And also just about the same amount of folks, 64%, believe it should be among the wealthy and corporations that should be paying more money for government services and how we do this and whether it's for – to pay for the President's jobs plan. So philosophically, the President has the public on his side. He's just not able to somehow convince Congress, not just Republicans, but all of Democrats to take his position on this. And so, like you said, the White House will take that as good news and say, "Okay, that's a message we can run on for the re-election."

LAUER: But why, Chuck-

TODD: But the problem is right now he can't get it done.

LAUER: But why is there not more momentum or energy behind this? Warren Buffet, as you know, on Wednesday released his financial statement for the previous year. He made about $62 million, paid about $7 million in taxes. He released a statement also saying, "If you could get other ultra-rich Americans to publish their returns along with mine that would be very useful to the tax dialogue. I hope you succeed in getting the ultra-rich to share in the sacrifice many millions of other Americans will soon be asked to do." Why isn't there more momentum for this?

TODD: To be totally politically cynical it's because the Republicans and the President are talking to two sets of different swing voters. Republicans believe if they upset the Tea Party base and show any sort of expansion of government, which that's what a tax increase is viewed as by the Tea Party, they will get punished in primaries. They're not talking to the same set of voters. You know, back in the mid-'90s, when Gingrich and Clinton finally sat down, it's because they both cared about the same set of swing voters. That's not the case right now.

LAUER: Let me get to the Republican field for 2012. The big headline here is that Herman Cain has now taken the lead with 27% of the people in our poll saying they favor him. Mitt Romney, second. Rick Perry is fading at 16%. When you ask people in this poll how much they know about Herman Cain, what answers do you get?

TODD: Well, first of all, they claim to really like him and a lot of people say – he's the highest favorable rating of any of the candidates. But our pollsters went back, Matt, and re-phoned and re-interviewed folks that said that they were for Cain over Romney. And here were some of the answers, a man in Wisconsin told us, "You know what? He's not a member of the political establishment." A man in Indiana told us, "Well, he's probably the best candidate at the moment," which by the way, "at the moment" is a key phrase there. Another one said to us, in Washington state, "He gives direct answers. He isn't a politician."

You see the theme, Matt. That he is the un-politician in this field. He's the guy that hasn't had elective office. That's why he's resonating. The question is whether he can have this hold for somehow more than a month. Rick Perry didn't have a hold, Michele Bachmann didn't have a hold, and of course the first political flavor of the month about four months ago was Donald Trump.

LAUER: That's right. Alright, Chuck Todd in Washington this morning with the results of our new poll. Chuck, thank you very much.

TODD: You got it.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC