Pew Poll: Obama-McCain Statistically Tied; AP Decides It Knows Better

The Associated Press is so omnipotent that it can divine what poll results mean, even if it directly contradicts what the pollster says about them.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press announced the results of a poll it did on the presidential race on Wednesday.

AP must not have liked Pew's results or its conclusions, because, in an unbylined report, it totally recast them, as you'll see after the jump.

Here's what Pew had to say about the work it did:

Presidential Race Draws Even
GOP Base Getting Behind McCain

With less than two weeks to go before the start of the presidential nominating conventions, Barack Obama's lead over John McCain has disappeared. Pew's latest survey finds 46% of registered voters saying they favor or lean to the putative Democratic candidate, while 43% back his likely Republican rival. In late June, Obama held a comfortable 48%-to-40% margin over McCain, which narrowed in mid-July to 47% to 42%.

Two factors appear to be at play in shifting voter sentiment. First, McCain is garnering more support from his base - including Republicans and white evangelical Protestants - than he was in June, and he also has steadily gained backing from white working class voters over this period. Secondly and more generally, the Arizona senator has made gains on his leadership image. .....

Here's AP's rewrite:

Poll: Obama with slim edge over McCain nationally

THE NUMBERS
Barack Obama, 46 percent
John McCain, 43 percent

The Democrat Obama led McCain, the Republican, by 8 percentage points in June in the Pew Research Center poll, though by July his lead was 5 points, about the same as now. Since June, McCain has solidified his support among whites, men, Republicans, white evangelicals and whites who haven't completed college. Obama has made few gains, but has retained his overwhelming advantage among blacks and leads by 13 points with women and 24 points among those under age 30.

Even for AP, this is desperately weak:

  • Pew's margin of error was 2.5%. Pew decided that the 3% difference was close enough that it concluded that McCain has drawn even, and that Obama's lead "has disappeared." Oh, but AP knew better than the pollster, and turned it into a "slim lead." It even misdirected readers by "reminding" them that Obama's 5-point July lead was "about the same as now." Really? Twice the margin of error is "about the same" as within a half-point of it?
  • AP's list of where "McCain has solidified his support" ("whites, men, Republicans, white evangelicals and whites who haven't completed college") appears to be calculated to make him appear as the "white guy" candidate. There's only one problem: While McCain picked up 2 points from June to August with white men (up 55-35), he picked up THREE points among white women, and is now leads Obama 46-43. I guess AP didn't want to let that little factoid get in the way of its white male stereotyping.
  • Even AP's statement that Obama "has retained his overwhelming advantage among blacks" is in a sense shaky. Obama's 90-3 advantage has narrowed by 4 points to 88-5. Obviously that's still huge, but considering that the Illinois senator consistently got 90% or more of the black vote in virtually every post-Pennsylvania primary against another Democrat, the fact that there's any narrowing at all against McCain has to be a bit worrisome to Team Obama. But AP blew right by it.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air got the bottom line right, noting that McCain has gained momentum, and that Obama needs to figure out a way to reverse it.

You would have barely a clue from AP's coverage of Pew's poll that this is what has happened. It's hard to believe that this is accidental.

Cross-posted with slight revisions at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.