So how did the New York Times play the poll they conducted jointly* with CBS News, the one that sampled a much higher percentage of Democrats than Republicans? Tucked away on page A14, the Times story was headlined: "Amerians Are Cautiously Open to Gas Tax Rise, Poll Shows."
According to the article by Louis Uchitelle and Megan Thee, even most of this biased sample of Americans is against raising the gas tax, but the Times helpfully tested different ways that money-hungry politicians might be able to talk them into it:
Eighty-five percent of the 1,018 adults polled opposed an increase in the federal gasoline tax, suggesting that politicians have good reason to steer away from so unpopular a measure. But 55 percent said they would support an increase in the tax, which has been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993, if it did in fact reduce dependence on foreign oil. Fifty-nine percent were in favor if the result was less gasoline consumption and less global warming. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
"The tax would have to be earmarked for certain specific projects," one of the people polled, Rich Arnold, 54, a Republican who teaches criminal justice at Louisiana State University, said in a follow-up interview. He added, "If it was a tax that would sponsor research for fuel cells or alternative fuel sources, I could buy that."...
Twenty-four percent of those polled said they would support a higher federal gasoline tax if the new revenue was used to help fight terrorism, and 28 percent would go along with a gasoline tax increase if, as an offset, their income taxes or payroll taxes were lowered. Betty Forde, 46, an administrator for the New York City Police Department, fell into this category.
"Taxes in general are very high," said Ms. Forde, who earns $50,000 a year and does not own a car or drive.
*TimesWatch editor Clay Waters brought to my attention the fact that the NYT story on Bush's low approval rating (page A15) referred to it only as a CBS News poll. The NYTimes.com posting of the "complete results" (PDF) indicates that the two news organizations only collaborated on eight questions (32, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71 and 76) related to the gas tax. But it's the same survey: 1018 adults polled by phone between Wednesday and Sunday.
In this case, the Times and CBS seem to be in just a limited polling partnership.