Post publisher Singleton ignored exit polling in claiming Iraq "biggest single issue in the last election"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Denver Post publisher William Dean Singleton, appearing as a guest on The Peter Boyles Show, misleadingly claimed that "the hot issue" of the November 2006 election was the Iraq war. However, exit polls showed voters regarded corruption and ethics in government as the top issue, while the economy and terrorism ranked higher with more voters than the war.

As a guest during the February 23 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show, publisher William Dean Singleton of The Denver Post claimed that the war in Iraq "was the biggest single issue in the last election" leading to a Democratic takeover of Congress. But he ignored a national exit poll conducted for a group of major news organizations indicating that voters considered corruption and ethics in government the most important issue in the November 7, 2006, midterm election. In addition, the poll found that voters cited the economy and terrorism as important issues more often than the war in Iraq.

Host Peter Boyles asked Singleton about the November 7 election, "Did the Democrats win nationally, or did George Bush lose?" Singleton replied that "I think ... the centrists came out to vote" and that "the hot issue was the war." Boyles agreed, and Singleton continued:

Every reason we went to Iraq turned out to be questionable reasons in retrospect. And the American people don't like war, even a war that's justified. They don't like war. They don't like to see body bags. They don't like to see young people coming home in caskets. And a war has to be prosecuted very rapidly or the American people turn against it. And this war has lasted a long time, and the American people turned against it. Increasingly, they couldn't find any reason why we were really there. And I think that was the biggest single issue in the last election. I think they wanted to send a message.

However, Singleton's response and Boyles' agreement ignored exit polling from the election. On November 7, 2006, the Associated Press reported, "The Iraq war hurt Republican candidates in the midterm elections, but corruption and scandal were bigger problems for them, exit polls found. Three-fourths of voters said corruption and scandal were important to their votes, and they were more likely to vote for the Democratic candidates for the House. Iraq was important for just two-thirds, and they also leaned toward Democrats."

The AP article was based on the National Election Pool exit polling conducted on behalf of the AP, CNN, Fox News, and the three major broadcast television networks. According to the poll, 36 percent of voters called the war in Iraq "[e]xtremely important," but more said the same about terrorism (39 percent), the economy (39 percent), and "[government] corruption and scandals" (41 percent). Weighing the same issues as "[v]ery" and "[e]xtremely" important, a combined 68 percent of voters cited the war in Iraq, 72 percent named terrorism, 74 percent cited corruption and scandal, and 82 percent mentioned the economy.

From the February 23 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show:

BOYLES: Did the Democrats win nationally, or did George Bush lose?

SINGLETON: Well, I think -- I think the, the centrists came out to vote.

BOYLES: But what because of?

SINGLETON: Well, the hot issue was the war.

BOYLES: Mm-hmm.

SINGLETON: I mean --

BOYLES: I agree.

SINGLETON: -- the hot issue was the war. I mean, American people -- the American people weren't sure of the war to begin with, but they followed their president into it, and a long series of things happened. There were no weapons of mass destruction, as we were told there were. Every reason we went to Iraq turned out to be questionable reasons in retrospect. And the American people don't like war, even a war that's justified. They don't like war. They don't like to see body bags. They don't like to see young people coming home in caskets. And a war -- a war has to be prosecuted very rapidly or the American people turn against it. And this war has lasted a long time, and the American people turned against it. Increasingly, they couldn't find any reason why we were really there. And I think that was the biggest single issue in the last election. I think they wanted to send a message.

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