CNN's Polling Before and After Obama Speech Skewed Democratic

CNN Poll Graphic from 10 September 2009 American Morning | NewsBusters.orgUpdate (NB Staff): MRC/NB's Brent Bozell reacts to CNN poll (posted below page break).

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation’s poll on President Obama’s health care speech to Congress on Wednesday significantly oversampled Democrats. The pollsters interviewed 427 Americans before and after their speech- only 18% were Republicans, while 45% were Democrats. Due to this skewing, CNN didn’t really play up the poll’s results on air, but they tried to do that on their CNN.com website.

The joint poll asked two questions before and after the speech. The polled were asked, “Do you think the policies being proposed by Barack Obama will move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction?” During the pre-speech period between September 5 and 8, 60% answered “right direction,” and 35% answered “wrong direction.” Immediately after the speech, the pollsters found that the “right direction” statistic went up to 70%, while the “wrong direction” number went down to 27%.

The second question asked, “From everything you have heard or read so far, do you favor or oppose Barack Obama’s plan to reform health care?” Prior to the speech, 53% favored, and 36% opposed. After the speech, the “favor” number jumped to 67%, while the “oppose” statistic fell to 29%.

CNN’s senior political correspondent Candy Crowley detailed the poll’s results on Anderson Cooper 360 less than an hour after the President delivered his speech on Wednesday evening, and the following morning on the American Morning program. Both times, she noted the oversampling of Democrats. She led her analysis on AC360 with a disclaimer: “Let- let me just sort of caveat this to death before we do it, and that is that- first of all, these are just people who watched the speech...It also skews heavily Democratic. We think that the Democratic sample in this flash poll is eight to 10 points higher than it is in the general population.”

However, the CNN correspondent continued that “the President did very well in this poll,” and delivered the poll results. Afterwards, she concluded with another caveat: “I think we have to just understand that these are not- you know, that polls go up and down, particularly flash polls. This is an interesting look. Obviously, Democrats loved what they saw tonight.” Crowley’s colleague, John King, replied that the results were “a reason to celebrate based on the numbers, but not overcelebrate.”

The next morning, just after the beginning of the 7 am hour of American Morning, substitute anchor Carol Costello brought on Crowley, and she repeated her point about the oversampling of Democrats:

CROWLEY: I think we can’t tell that right now. I want to show you some numbers we got last night- a flash poll. There are some shortcomings to a poll like this. First of all, this isn’t all of America. This is from people who watched the speech. It is heavily weighted to Democrats. But I think we have some important numbers here.Look at the post-speech numbers versus the pre-speech numbers on- do you support the President’s health care plan. So pre-speech, 53 percent favored- post-speech, 67 percent- again, heavily weighted towards Democrats, but one of the constituencies the President needed to talk to was his own party, who kept saying step up, step up- you need to be the leader in this- and so, I think that is good news for him, even given that it’s just among Democrats. But if you look at that speech- and one more little historical caveat, and that’s that the 67 percent approval of his health care plan is exactly what [former] President Bill Clinton got right after the speech he gave on health care and that-

COSTELLO: And we all know how well that turned out.

CROWLEY: That’s right. So we don’t want to go too far in extrapolating things. But I think this certainly was a speech that attempted to reach an awful lot of different constituencies, but Democrats were among the most important.

Screen cap from CNN.com on 10 September 2009 | NewsBusters.orgCNN.com’s home page touted how the poll “finds big swing after Obama speech” [see graphic at right], while the article about the poll itself ran with the headline, “CNN Poll: Double-digit post-speech jump for Obama plan.” The unsigned article didn’t mention the over-representation of Democrats until the third paragraph: “The audience for the speech appears to be more Democratic than the U.S. population as a whole. Because of this, the results may favor Obama simply because more Democrats than Republicans tune into the speech. The poll surveyed the opinions of people who watched Wednesday night's speech, and does not reflect the views of all Americans.”

Update (NB Staff | 13:05 EDT): MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell released the following statement regarding the CNN poll:

CNN has no business airing a ‘poll’ that is straight partisan reaction from those already in the can for ObamaCare. Caveat or no caveat, CNN was dead wrong to run this and on national television proclaim, ‘We have important numbers here.’ It is an embarrassment that their news directors deemed it newsworthy to begin with. This network simply cannot be trusted to cover this hugely important story fairly.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center