New York Times Uses Skewed Poll to Promote Falling Bush Approval

September 15th, 2005 12:29 PM

The New York Times buries its latest poll story on Bush on Page 18, perhaps recognizing the lack of news in the findings. Yet reporters Todd Purdum and Marjorie Connelly try their best in, "Support for Bush Continues to Drop as More Question His Leadership Skills, Poll Shows."

They open: "A summer of bad news from Iraq, high gasoline prices, economic unease and now the devastation of Hurricane Katrina has left President Bush with overall approval ratings for his job performance and handling of Iraq, foreign policy and the economy at or near the lowest levels of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll."

The Times admits, contrary to its headline, that "The hurricane, alone, does not appear to have taken any significant toll on Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating, which remains stuck virtually where it has been since early summer. But the findings do suggest that the slow federal response to the hurricane has increased public doubts about the Bush administration's effectiveness. Fifty-six percent of Americans said they were now less confident about the government's ability to respond to a terrorist attack or natural disaster."

But the Times doesn't mention in its story that the public perception of Bush's handling of Katrina has actually improved this week, from a 20-point gap in a CBS poll a week ago (38%-58% approval-disapproval) to a 6-point gap in this latest poll (44%-50%). For that tidbit you have to dig into the poll questions online. (It's Question 8.)

Only in the fine print of a sidebar paragraph does the Times admit its poll is skewed: "Black Americans were sampled at a higher rate than normal to permit the analysis of black attitudes in greater depth." 211 out of 1088 respondents to the poll were black, almost 20%, compared to the 13% black share of the population. The story doesn't bother mentioning this, although black voters skew Democrat, which would affect Bush's polling numbers.

Tom Elia points out the skewed political breakdown of the respondents: Democrats 38%, Republicans 28%, Independents 28%, and "Don't Know" 9%.

There are also liberally loaded questions such as Question 39: "Would you be willing or not willing to pay more in taxes to provide job training and housing for people affected by Hurricane Katrina?"

Question 26 asks: "How much do you think George W. Bush cares about the needs and problems of blacks?"

Question 53 asked respondents to parcel out blame for post-Katrina conditions, and the public spread it around, with the feds garnering a 10% share, the state of Louisiana 7%, the city of New Orleans 12%, FEMA 11%, with 12% blaming the residents who didn't evacuate. Bush himself got 8%. Apparently the public doesn't agree with the Times' emphasis on blaming Bush.

Question 55 brings up another liberal Times talking point: "Some people say that the fact that some National Guard troops and material are currently in Iraq slowed down the federal government's response to the hurricane and flooding in New Orleans."

Again, the public doesn't agree with the Times' liberal spin: 43% said it was not a factor, while 30% said it was a minor factor and 24% a major one.