CNN Uses Suspicious Newsweek Poll to Boost Democratic Congress

October 26th, 2007 10:23 PM

Already being suspicious of media polling, my eye was caught by the article titled: "Approval of Congress at 22 percent." The article begins by stating that:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Friday shows the approval rating for all members of Congress sits at a dismal 22 percent, while 75 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job.

This statement was followed by a link that directed readers to the "full poll results." Upon clicking the link, you are directed to a 4-page PDF summary of the poll itself.

The report indicates that just over 600 Americans were asked the following question: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job? The current poll results, as well as those of a year ago, were listed as follows: Oct. 12-14, 2007 (Approve-22%; Disapprove-75%; No opinion-3%); and Oct. 6-8, 2006 (Approve-28%; Disapprove-63%; No opinion-9%).

Following these results, however, is an extensive list of polling data on congressional approval ratings going back to April 1974 (presumably the oldest polling data available). The historical polling data is labelled "GALLUP CNN/USA TODAY/GALLUP TRENDS." It should also be noted that the polling is not listed on a monthly or yearly basis. Some years had monthly results on the poll question, while other years (particularly in the 1970's) listed as few as one poll per year.

I then wondered how the current approval/disapproval ratings stacked up to the historical data. In scanning the polling data, there was only one prior poll which indicated a disapproval rating over 75%. This result came from the poll dated "1992 Mar 3." The poll also had a record low percentage of people who had no opinion (3%), and was the only poll taken on a single day. This particular poll, notably, has a "^" character next to it, which is referenced at the end of the summary as "Gallup/Newsweek."

Of all the historical data included in the summary (from 1974 to 2006), there are no other notations for a "Gallup/Newsweek" poll, nor any other type of poll for that matter. That poll, out of nearly 100 listed, is the only one with a special notation on it.

If not for this one "Gallup/Newsweek" poll result from 1992, the current CNN polling would be quite remarkable. In fact, the headline would have to be something such as "Congress Has Highest Disapproval Rating in Polling History." But as it stands with the single renegade Newsweek poll, the current Democratic Congress is not quite the worst ever.

A search for a similar CNN poll summary from the past came up empty, as well as finding any information on the 1992 Newsweek poll.

So is it just a coincidence that the single "Gallup/Newsweek" poll just happens to be the record-breaker for Congressional disapproval? Or did CNN jam a square peg into a round hole in order to spare the current Democratic Congress from being the worst in polling history?

Other aspects of the article are troubling as well. The article states the following in defense of Democrats.

Even though the overall approval rating of Congress leaves much to be desired, Democrats can find a bit of a silver lining in the new survey. Approval of congressional Democrats stands at 43 percent, twice that of Congress in general.

However, the 43% figure is not included anywhere in the summary.

The poll results were also accompanied by a video piece from Bill Schneider, who, in commenting on the historical data stated, "Congress was down in the late 1970's after Watergate," with a screen feature showing Congressional approval ratings at 19% in 1979. Schneider attributed these results as being part of the downfall of then-President Jimmy Carter. So it was the hangover from the 1974 Watergate scandal that caused record low approval ratings in 1979?

The final gem from Schneider is his prediction that the presidency could change as it did in 1980 and 1992 (i.e. party changes), but that "no one is betting that the Democrats will lose their majorities in the House and Senate."

It truly doesn't matter what the polls results are. The media will report the polling through its liberal prism.