MSNBC’s Alex Witt and Colleagues Repeat Same NBC Poll Finding Nine Times

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll produced a finding that must have delighted the entire NBC staff. The poll found that 53 percent of Americans blame congressional Republicans for the current government shutdown, while 31 percent blame President Obama. For the record, 13 percent said both were equally to blame. The pollsters did not allow respondents to blame Democrats in Congress.

This may have been one finding from a survey of only 800 adults in a nation of more than 300 million people, but MSNBC weekend anchor Alex Witt and her correspondents were so thrilled with the result that they repeated it nine times over three hours of Weekends with Alex Witt on Saturday. [See video below the break.]


NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker was the first to bring up the poll, in the opening minutes of Witt’s 7 a.m. hour. While talking about efforts on both sides to strike a deal and end the shutdown, Welker touted the 53 percent “vast majority” who blamed the GOP: “And if you look at the polls, vast majority of Americans say the blame lays squarely on Republicans, so the GOP really trying to get something done here as well.” A graphic showing the poll results then appeared on the screen.

Minutes later, Witt brought up the finding during a discussion with Emily Heil of The Washington Post. Witt asked, “So as we look at the latest numbers with you, Emily, the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll here. It shows that the public is largely pointing fingers at the GOP for this shutdown. So knowing that, seeing these numbers, does it make it easier for the president to reject Republican offers and stand on what he wants?” Heil then went on about how “devastating” those numbers were for Republicans.

Later, Witt asked this question of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): “Are you and your fellow Democrats at all emboldened by the numbers with NBC News, the poll that’s out this week, which show the majority of Americans blame the Republicans for the shutdown? I mean, did that come up in the negotiations?” Wishful thinking on Witt’s part, maybe?

During the 12 p.m. edition of her show, Witt returned to that same finding. She asked Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) the same question she had asked Rep. Schiff: “Are you and your fellow Democrats at all emboldened in the negotiations by the NBC News poll out this week that show the majority of Americans blame the Republicans for the shutdown. Did that come up in the negotiations?”

A short time after that, Witt asked The Washington Post’s David Nakamura the same question she had asked Heil earlier: “This latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows the public largely blames the GOP for the shutdown. So does this make it easier for the president to reject Republican offers?”

At the top of the next hour, NBC News correspondent Luke Russert pulled out the same poll result while reporting to Witt about the shutdown negotiations: “So you're sort of seeing now as Democrats, they have read the polling, they saw our own NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. They know that they have effectively won this round of the argument.”

Only minutes later, Welker reappeared and continued to celebrate the poll’s impact on the debate: “And as we have been saying, Alex, the pressure really mounting on Republicans based on our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which shows the majority of Americans putting the blame squarely on Republicans.”

A few minutes after that, Witt continued to shove the poll in viewers’ faces. As the results showed up on the screen, she asked The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, “Well, if you look at the numbers from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, what kind of impact does this have on next year's midterm elections?”

And because this dead horse hadn’t been flogged enough already, Witt beat it one last time in the closing minutes of her show. After another guest had brought up a different finding in the same poll, Witt jumped at the chance to discuss it with MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor: “Speaking of that poll, Goldie, I want to go through part of it with you because it shows a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown. Could the GOP's majority in the House be threatened?”

Sheesh. Alex Witt and her NBC friends sure are proud of their poll. Do you think they might be trying to tell us who we should blame for the shutdown? 

Below are each of the nine mentions shown in context:

7:06 a.m.
ALEX WITT: Lots of talking going on yesterday. Does the administration have plans for more conversations with GOP members today?

KRISTEN WELKER: Oh, absolutely. They tell me they will be talking to lawmakers throughout the weekend. And the House will be back in session at 9:00 a.m. today, Alex. The Senate will also be at work. It seems like they are inching toward a deal in part, Alex, because there is just so much pressure right now, so much public frustration and so many calls for them to actually get something done. And if you look at the polls, vast majority of Americans say the blame lays squarely on Republicans, so the GOP really trying to get something done here as well.

7:17 a.m.
WITT: So as we look at the latest numbers with you, Emily, the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll here. It shows that the public is largely pointing fingers at the GOP for this shutdown. So knowing that, seeing these numbers, does it make it easier for the president to reject Republican offers and stand on what he wants?

EMILY HEIL: Absolutely. That poll was devastating this week and really had a big effect on how the negotiations have taken shape in the last 24 hours or so. I think it really puts some steel in the spine of the White House if they didn't have enough already to harden their position. And what it did, I think, is really forced Republicans, you know, to recognize exactly what this showdown is doing not just, you know, in the immediate term but long term. These are kind of numbers you don't bounce back from right away. Republicans around town are very glad that the next election is over a year away, because these numbers take a long time to bounce back from. And they are definitely shaping the way this is going to go in the next couple days too.



7:34 a.m.
WITT: Are you and your fellow Democrats at all emboldened by the numbers with NBC News, the poll that’s out this week, which show the majority of Americans blame the Republicans for the shutdown? I mean, did that come up in the negotiations?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it hasn't come up in the negotiations, but I certainly think it's a background that we're all aware of. Democrats don't take any solace in this because the country is really hurting. Certainly we’re glad that the country seems to appreciate that the GOP has been the obstinate party here, but if that means that we're going to have to default on our credit, that doesn't do anyone any good. So right now I think a lot of the action is trying to find a dignified way for the GOP, particularly the House GOP, to walk back from the abyss. And I think it's in the Democrats's interest to help them find that dignified way.

12:08 p.m.
WITT: Senator, I'm looking at your e-mail from earlier this month which is titled here, “Gridlock Should Not Be The Norm In Washington. We Need to Actually Govern,” to which I say Amen. Are you and your fellow Democrats at all emboldened in the negotiations by the NBC News poll out this week that show the majority of Americans blame the Republicans for the shutdown. Did that come up in the negotiations?

SEN. BEN CARDIN: We're concerned about what's been done to our country. I visited small business owners in Baltimore restaurants that are half the number of customers because the federal employees aren't coming in for lunch. I met with federal contractors who had to lay off employees. Our country is hurting. Our objective is to open government, pay our bills and, yes, let's negotiate an agreement on a budget that won't be what the Democrats want or the Republicans want. Let's not use a blame game here on spin game here, let's get this thing done.

12:20 p.m.
WITT: David, a lot of constituents are making their voices heard. Also numbers from polls are saying something. This latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows the public largely blames the GOP for the shutdown. So does this make it easier for the president to reject Republican offers?

DAVID NAKAMURA: Absolutely. As I was saying earlier, that's absolutely what's going on here. The White House believed that would happen and now they’ve been proven right.

1:03 p.m.
WITT: Hey one thing –  we're hearing a lot from Democrats today, House Dems, they all spoke before their session, Republicans did not. Only Democrats, pretty much, have spoken on the Senate floor. So why is that? What's going on?

LUKE RUSSERT: Well, I think there's a lot of consternation within the House Republicans and Senate Republicans because they know that they're going to have to agree to a deal that a lot of their members are not going to like. This has been the by-product of going down the rabbit hole with the Ted Cruz strategy of defunding the government if the president's health care law was still part of the equation. So you're sort of seeing now as Democrats, they have read the polling, they saw our own NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. They know that they have effectively won this round of the argument. So they're out there saying, let's fund the government, let’s extend the debt limit, they want to be front and center right now. Republicans have to go internalize, figure out a way forward that limits their damage as they live to fight another day.

1:06 p.m.
WELKER: All sides continuing to sort of dig in publicly. But privately I think that there is a bipartisan desire to get something done because the anger is mounting. And as we have been saying, Alex, the pressure really mounting on Republicans based on our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which shows the majority of Americans putting the blame squarely on Republicans.

1:11 p.m.
WITT: Well, if you look at the numbers from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, what kind of impact does this have on next year's midterm elections?

DANA MILBANK: You know, it's impossible to say because that poll is a snapshot in time. Obviously, if the election were held today it would be a bloodbath for the Republicans. There's a lot of time to recover, we don't know what the economy will be doing, but it definitely shows them that they really need to pursue some other avenue than the one they have been going down.

1:54 p.m.
WITT: Speaking of that poll, Goldie, I want to go through part of it with you because it shows a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown. Could the GOP's majority in the House be threatened?

GOLDIE TAYLOR: Actually, I don't think that it will be threatened. I do believe that the GOP is wholly responsible for this shutdown and to get it open, maybe we'll get a repeal or delay in the medical device tax. But the House is gerrymandered in red states in favor of the GOP, and so I don't think that their majority is threatened there. I do think, however, that the Senate majority will become stronger in favor of Democrats because of this.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.