The Good News About the Good News

An ABC News article written up at AMERICAblog (via Firedoglake) makes much of a figure from a poll stating that “31 percent of Americans believe the media make things in Iraq sound worse than they are”. The story on the ABC site makes no mention of which poll this figure comes from, nor does it mention that the other 69% of those polled either have no opinion, agree with the coverage, or think it’s being sugar-coated.

The video report accompanying the article interviews several people from the minority of respondents who believe there’s not enough “good news” coming from Iraq, paying scant lip service to the majority (more than twice as large) who don’t share their view. So I thought I’d try to track down the actual poll.

In the video segment, the 31% figure has an attribution of “Source: CBS News, Mar 9-12, +/-3”. A quick Google search for “‘31%’ makes things worse” and you come up with a PDF of the poll. At the bottom of page 8:

Most Americans are skeptical of the President’s 
description of the situation in Iraq. 66% think 
President Bush makes things in Iraq sound better 
than they are – the highest number to date. 23% 
think he describes things accurately.

                           Now   1/2006   1/2005
   Better than they are    66%     58%      55%
   Worse than they are      6       5        6
   Accurately              23      31       35

Views on how the media explains the situation in 
Iraq are more mixed. 35% say when the media
talks about Iraq they describe the situation 
accurately, but almost as many – 31% - say they 
make things sound worse in Iraq than they really 
are. A quarter of Americans say the media makes 
things in Iraq sound better than they area.

   Better than they are           24%
   Worse than they are            31
   Accurately                     35

By my count, that leaves 10% undecided. A clear 59% of the respondents think that the picture coming out of Iraq is accurate or actually worse than the media is reporting (that’s 65% of the decided respondents). But both CBS and ABC make special note of the 31% which — by the way — is barely more than the number of people who think the media is describing things as better than they really are.

More egregiously, ABC’s report highlights only the 31% figure, without noting that that is a decided minority of the repondents or providing a reference to the poll in their Web article, which is already being picked up on the right blogosphere as some sort of proof of vindication. Can’t they do math over there?

[UPDATE 2006/03/26 17:30]

This is the party breakdown from page 11 of the poll:

q47 When the news media talks about how things 
are going for for the United States in Iraq today,
do you think they are making things in Iraq sound
better than they really are, making things sound
worse than they really are, or are they describing
the situation in Iraq accurately?

                                 *** Party ID ***
                               Total  Rep  Dem  Ind
Sound better                     24     8   30   31
Sound worse                      31    57   14   26
Describing accurately            35    30   43   31
DK/NA                            10     5   13   12

[UPDATE 2006/03/28 08:30]

Looking at the party ID figures again, it’s sort of interesting that a higher percentage of Democrats than independents think the media is giving an accurate picture in Iraq. The percentage of Republicans who think the media’s assessment of Iraq is correct is equal to percentage of independents with the same view. The number of independents who think the media is making things sound better than they are is equal to the number who think it’s described accurately (with those who don’t think the good news is getting out coming in close behind).

Crossposted to Daily Kos for comments.