In reporting on a newly released ABC News/Washington Post poll on the favorability of presumptive 2008 presidential nominees Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John McCain, the Post and ABC's Good Morning America focused almost entirely on numbers that indicate Clinton is "polarizing" and on the percentage of respondents who "would definitely not vote for" her in 2008. In its article, the Post also included an assertion about how people view Clinton that was contradicted by the poll results.
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In reporting on a newly released ABC News/Washington Post poll on the favorability of presumptive 2008 presidential nominees Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Post and ABC's Good Morning America focused almost entirely on numbers that indicate Clinton is "polarizing" and on the percentage of respondents who "would definitely not vote for" her in 2008. In its article, the Post also included an assertion about how people view Clinton that was contradicted by the poll results. Additionally, both the Post and ABC ignored Clinton's overall favorability rating of 54 percent, and paid little attention to McCain's numbers, which, according to an analysis by ABC News' Dalia Sussman, indicate that "Clinton's challenge is the mirror image of McCain's" in a presumed 2008 presidential bid.
In a May 30 article on the poll's findings, Post staff writer Dan Balz wrote: "Hillary Clinton has a populist streak that sometimes takes on an angry edge, in contrast to her husband." However, Balz offered no evidence or documentation to support this assertion. In fact, the poll indicated that strong majorities of Americans do not view Clinton as "angry" -- 67 percent of respondents do not think Clinton "seems to be an angry person," and 58 percent consider her "an open and friendly person."
Balz also wrote:
That she polarizes the electorate is clear from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey found that 84 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of Clinton, while 73 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view. As a point of contrast, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a leading potential candidate for the Republican nomination, is viewed favorably by 65 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats.
Although she has drawn criticism from the left for supporting the Iraq war, Clinton remains more popular among liberal Democrats than among moderate Democrats. Overall, 37 percent of Americans said she is too liberal, which is less than the 45 percent recorded for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 campaign and almost identical to perceptions of then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
Clinton's advisers argue that most Americans have formed opinions about her based not just on Iraq or health care but also on how she has conducted herself through personal circumstances. In the Post-ABC News poll, for example, 68 percent said they see Clinton as a strong leader, 16 percentage points more than Bush received a few months ago.
Balz did not mention Clinton's 54-percent overall favorability rating, or that Clinton's rating is nearly identical to McCain's 55 percent. Also, in presenting McCain's favorability numbers among Republicans and Democrats as "a point of contrast" to Clinton's "polarizing" numbers, Balz completely ignored ABC News' analysis of the poll, posted on the ABC News website, which indicated that McCain's 65-percent favorability rating within his own party may be a problem for McCain in 2008. According to Sussman's May 28 analysis of the poll:
Indeed, Clinton's challenge is the mirror image of McCain's. She's strong in her base -- good for getting nominated -- but weaker in the center, and strength there is critical in a general election. McCain, despite recent attempts at repositioning, remains better placed for a general election but with less of the partisan base it takes to win the nomination in the first place.
For example, 37 percent of Democrats at this early stage say they'd "definitely" support Clinton, while just 11 percent of Republicans say they're definitely with McCain. It's very similar among ideological groups: Thirty-five percent of liberals are definitely for Clinton, compared with 10 percent of conservatives "definitely" for McCain.
What McCain lacks in base support he gains in the center. More than half of Democrats say they'd at least consider him, compared with just one in four Republicans who'd at least consider Clinton. And Independents -- the quintessential swing voters -- are 12 points more likely to say they'd at least consider McCain than Clinton.
All told, two-thirds say they'd at least consider voting for McCain, while 57 percent would at least consider Clinton. Either, it should be noted, is enough to elect a president.
On the May 30 broadcast of Good Morning America, co-anchor Robin Roberts and ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper focused almost exclusively on the poll's finding that 42 percent of respondents "would definitely not vote for" Clinton in 2008. Roberts noted simply that the poll was "a potential warning sign" for Clinton because "42 percent of those polled said they would definitely not vote for her for president." Tapper repeated the statistic cited by Roberts and noted that "two-thirds of those polled think of [Clinton] as a strong leader with strong family values," but made no mention of Clinton's overall favorability rating, nor did he note any of McCain's numbers discussed in Sussman's analysis.
From the May 30 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America:
ROBERTS: Now to Hillary Clinton and the big question: Will she or won't she make a run for the White House? Speculation has reached a fever pitch, and now there is a potential warning sign for the Senator from New York. In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 42 percent of those polled said they would definitely not vote for her for president. Here's ABC's Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: In a glitzy, highly produced, 18-minute, emotional video to be shown tomorrow, Hillary Clinton's Senate re-election campaign uses the unbiased, expert testimony of her husband to say pundits can be wrong.
BILL CLINTON: The so-called experts counted her out a lot of times.
TAPPER: That message has resonance not just on her Senate race, but her possible presidential campaign, because some pundits are counting her out there, too. A new ABC News poll shows that, while two-thirds of those polled think of her as a strong leader with strong family values, there is that 42 percent who say they would never vote for her. And while Clinton has attempted to moderate her image, fueling chatter about 2008 with two recent high-profile policy speeches on the economy and energy, her problem is whether she can expand her support beyond liberals. So, her new campaign video promotes how she's been able to win over skeptics in New York State.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't vote for her. I think I will this next election.
DONNA BRAZILE (Democratic Strategist): Upstate New York is like Middle America. They're the voters that she needs to win.
TAPPER: But regardless of how voters in Buffalo and Poughkeepsie feel in 2006, Democratic officials in red states worry Hillary Clinton, as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, will hand the party its third straight loss. In the American heartland, it's people like Nora Walcott, who heads the Democrats in Greene County, Missouri, who will have an influence.
WALCOTT: We really do need a nominee, I think, who can appeal to those moderate Republican voters; those independents. And I'm just not personally sure that Senator Clinton is that candidate.
TAPPER: Adding to the complications, of course, is the "Bill factor" -- former president Bill Clinton and his political skills, his fund-raising prowess, and what on morning television we'll refer to as his history of creating drama. Back to you in New York.