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 site:cbsnews.com” and you come up with a PDF of the poll. At the bottom of page 8:
Most Americans are skeptical of the Presidents 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. PRESIDENT BUSH DESCRIBES THINGS IN IRAQ 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. THE MEDIA DESCRIBES THINGS IN IRAQ 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).