A Big Story Isn’t Complete Without a Poll Telling People What Their Opinion Should Be

October 29th, 2005 10:54 PM

Less than 36 hours after the indictments of I. Lewis Libby were announced, America’s first poll results concerning the matter were released just in time for them to be part of all the Sunday political talk shows tomorrow morning.

As reported by the Washington Post, the results of a new Washington Post/ABC News survey suggest that:

“55 percent of the public believes the Libby case indicates wider problems "with ethical wrongdoing" in the White House, while 41 percent believes it was an ‘isolated incident.’ And by a 3 to 1 ratio, 46 percent to 15 percent, Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined rather than risen under Bush.”

The poll also puts Bush’s job approval at 39 percent. Yet, one has to wonder about its methodology. As the article indicated, “The survey of 600 randomly selected Americans represents a snapshot of initial reactions to the Libby indictment.” To be sure, 600 is an extremely small sample. Moreover, there is no indication of what the breakdown was of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents surveyed, which is particularly important given the belief by most pollsters that weekend surveys normally produce a greater percentage of Democratic respondents than is representative of the population. Regardless, the article by Post journalists Richard Morin and Claudia Deane made some pretty grave conclusions from this data:

“Taken together, the findings represent a serious blow to a White House already reeling from the politically damaging effects of the slow government response to Hurricane Katrina, the continuing bloodshed in Iraq, the ongoing criticism of its since-repudiated claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and the bungled nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court./>”

Yet, they waited until the very last paragraph of their article to state the following result of this poll:

“Most Americans believe Bush had nothing to do with the incidents that resulted in the indictment brought against Libby: 55 percent said the president was not at fault, while 12 percent said he probably did something illegal, and 21 percent said he did something ‘unethical but not illegal.’"