Media conservatives baselessly declare poll finding majority support for public option "fraudulent," "rigged"

››› ››› ADAM SHAH

Numerous conservative media figures have attacked a recently released ABC News/Washington Post poll that found that 57 percent of respondents supported "having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans," with Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich reportedly claiming that "this poll was deliberately rigged and produced a result that's fundamentally false" and that "It's a typical Washington Post effort to slant the world in favor of liberal Democrats" and Rush Limbaugh calling the poll "totally fraudulent." Additionally, Fox News' Gretchen Carlson suggested that the poll should have referred to a "government-run option," and Fox News' Steve Doocy suggested the poll should have instead asked about the "government taking over the health care situation in this nation" - terms similar to the preferred language Republican pollster Frank Luntz has identified for the use of opponents of the public option and health care reform.

ABC/Wash. Post poll found 57 percent of respondents support new government-created health insurance plan

Poll: 57 percent support public option, 40 percent oppose. From the ABC/Washington Post poll, conducted October 15-18:

poll

ABC News polling director: Poll is "in accord with most other recent good-quality surveys measuring political partisanship." Responding to Gingrich's attack on the poll, ABC News polling director Gary Langer wrote:

To examine Gingrich's concern, consider the partisan self-identification reported in other recent publicly released polls rated as airworthy by ABC News standards. They range from 18 to 27 percent Republican, averaging 21 percent -- almost precisely the same as our estimate.

list of polls

Another place to look is at our own ABC/Post polls this year, to see if our 20 percent estimate is an outlier. Not: Per the table below, it's almost identical to the 21 percent Republican self-identification in our last poll, and very near the 23 percent average we've seen across our polls this year:

[...]

Nor is this out of pattern with the long-term trend in political partisanship in this country.

Media conservatives: "[P]oll was deliberately rigged"

Gingrich: "[T]his poll was deliberately rigged and produced a result that's fundamentally false." According to a post on the website of Salt Lake City radio station KSL, Gingrich said on air: "I think this poll was deliberately rigged and produced a result that's fundamentally false." KSL reported that Gingrich also said: "It's a typical Washington Post effort to slant the world in favor of liberal Democrats." [KSL.com, 10/20/09]

Not new for Gingrich to attack poll results he doesn't like as "deliberately rigged." According to The New York Times, in 1995, when Gingrich was speaker of the House, he responded to a CBS News/New York Times poll finding that respondents disapproved of Republican plans for tax and Medicare cuts by saying, " 'This poll is a disgraceful example of disinformation. ... What we get are deliberately rigged questions that are totally phony that come out the morning of the vote' on the House's tax and spending bill." [The New York Times, 10/27/95]

Limbaugh called poll "totally fraudulent," accused Post of "kiss[ing] ass." On his radio show, Limbaugh said of the poll, "It made me so mad because I knew it was fraudulently reported and fraudulently probably compiled." He later that Washington Post editors had seen President Obama and his allies "denouncing Fox News" and wondered, " 'What can I do here to kiss ass with the teacher?' ... Well, very simple. How do you earn the approval of Obama? How do you please him enough to get access? Well, you do a poll. You do a poll on his favorite issue, health care, and you jimmy up the results, and you make it appear that the American people love the public option of your health care plan. And all it took to bring that off was a rebalanced sample: more Democrats, less Republicans." Limbaugh subsequently stated: "It's a totally fraudulent poll." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/21/09]

HotAir.com's Morrissey: ABC, Wash. Post no longer "more concerned about accuracy over political points of view." Morrissey wrote of the poll: "The sampling comprises 33% Democrats, as opposed to only 20% Republicans. That thirteen-point spread is two points larger than their September polling, at 32%/21%. More tellingly, it's significantly larger than their Election Day sample, which included 35% Democrats to 26% Republicans for a gap of nine points, about a third smaller than the gap in this poll. Of course, that's when they were more concerned about accuracy over political points of view." [HotAir.com, 10/20/09]

Doocy on poll: "[H]ey wait a minute, the deck is stacked." Discussing the poll on Fox & Friends, Doocy stated: "[Y]esterday, when we saw this -- it's The Washington Post/ABC poll -- it made us go, 'What? That's -- that's bigger than the margin of error.' Fifty-seven percent of you favor a public option, 40 percent of you are opposed to a public option. So, if you read, however, the small print, you realize, hey, wait a minute, the deck is stacked." [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 10/21/09]

Carlson: "[Y]ou'd think at least they would try and get the same amount of Democrats and Republicans ... to be fair and balanced." Also on Fox & Friends, Carlson stated of the poll: "[T]here's so much in polling -- let's face it. There's so much in the way that you ask the question as well. I mean, the way that you put words together can sometimes sway the way a person answers a question. But on its face, you'd think at least they would try and get the same amount of Democrats and Republicans so that they at least were trying to be fair and balanced." Similarly, Doocy stated: "[W]hy doesn't everybody just say, 'OK, we're going to talk to 33 percent Republicans, 33 percent Democrats, 33 percent independents'? Why don't they just do that? Why don't they do that? ... Is it too easy?"

Fox News asserted: "A Partisan Poll: More Democrats Sampled Than Republicans." While Fox & Friends was discussing the poll, one of the graphics Fox News ran stated: "A Partisan Poll: More Democrats Sampled Than Republicans":

Fox image

Fox News graphic asserted: "Slanted Sampling: Party Affiliation Effects [sic] Poll's Results":

Fox image

Fox & Friends host suggested poll should have used anti-public option language

Doocy suggested poll should ask: "[A]re you in favor of the government taking over the health care situation in this nation?" After noting that the ABC/Washington Post poll asked, "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?" Doocy stated: "On its face you think, "That sounds pretty good." So you can understand why it would be more positive than negative." Carlson then responded: "As opposed to just saying, 'Do you like the government-run option?' That would be more straightforward." Doocy replied: "Right. Or, 'Do you -- are you in favor of the government taking over the health care situation in this nation?' " [10/21/09]

Pollster Luntz suggested health reform opponents use term "government takeover." In a memo titled "The Language of Healthcare 2009," Luntz asserted: "You'll notice we recommend the phrase 'government takeover' rather than 'government run' or 'government controlled' It's because too many politician say 'we don't want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain' without explaining those consequences. There is a better approach. 'In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you'll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can't have that in America.' " [Rule Five in Luntz's "THE 10 RULES FOR STOPPING THE 'WASHINGTON TAKEOVER' OF HEALTHCARE"]

Fox News asserted poll questions were "murky," "questionable." During the Fox & Friends segments discussing the poll, Fox News ran graphics asserting that the poll questions were "murky" and "questionable":

Fox image

Fox image

Fox & Friends suggested ABC/Wash. Post health reform finding is an outlier, but it is in line with several polls

Doocy: "[A]ll the other polls, you know, it's within the margin of error or it's a dead heat." Doocy stated: "[T]he key, [co-host] Brian [Kilmeade], is to read the fine print. You go in and figure out, OK, if so many -- because all the other polls, you know, it's within the margin of error or it's a dead heat." Later, Doocy said: "Of course, when it comes to the public option, it seems like every major polling outfit has asked people, 'Are you for it or are you against it?' And, for the most part, the big polls are pretty much neck and neck or within the margin of error. And that's why yesterday, when we saw this -- it's The Washington Post/ABC poll -- it made us go, 'What? That's -- that's bigger than the margin of error.' "

Several polls are in line with ABC/Wash. Post poll on public option. Contrary to Doocy's assertion that no other polls have shown significant support for the public option, CBS News polling director Sarah Dutton stated in an October 20 blog post: "While the debate in Congress over including a 'public option' in health care reform legislation continues, Americans' views on a government-administered health plan are clearer: more than half support it. Recent CBS News Polls have shown that a majority of Americans consistently supports a public option." Dutton later added: "And although support has dropped ten points since June, 62 percent favored it in an early October CBS News Poll, while just half as many, 31 percent, opposed it." Dutton also stated, "Recent polls conducted by other media and polling organizations also find a majority in support of a public option," and cited an August CNN/Opinion Research poll and a September Pew poll. Additionally, an October 8 Quinnipiac University poll asked: "Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?" The poll found that 61 percent of respondents supported such a plan, while 34 percent opposed it.

Transcript

From the October 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: All right. Yesterday, we mentioned a poll coming out of The Washington Post and ABC. And also a Rasmussen poll. They were asked about the public option. Hey, America, what do you think, now that we've debated it to this point. We're in the fall. Are you for it or against it? Well, I was surprised by this poll --

DOOCY: That -- shocking.

KILMEADE: -- because the WABC [sic: ABC]/Washington Post poll said 57 percent of you -- yes, you watching -- are for it, 40 percent are against it. I'm thinking, wow, that is a dramatic change and so different from the Rasmussen poll.

DOOCY: So, the key, Brian, is to read the fine print. You go in and figure out, OK, if so many -- because all the other polls, you know, it's within the margin of error or it's a dead heat. But for it to be so -- you know, how did the public opinion swing so much? In the fine print, you discover they actually interviewed many more Democrats than Republican. The answer was 51 for, 39 against. Well, 33 percent of those -- those who responded were Democrats. And only 20 percent were GOP. Point spread of 13.

CARLSON: I thought when you did polls that you were supposed to try and get an even mix.

DOOCY: You probably should. They don't.

CARLSON: I mean, because there's so much in polling -- let's face it. There's so much in the way that you ask the question as well. I mean, the way that you put words together can sometimes sway the way a person answers a question. But on its face, you'd think at least they would try and get the same amount of Democrats and Republicans so that they at least were trying to be fair and balanced.

KILMEADE: Right. And can I further illustrate your point?

CARLSON: Please.

KILMEADE: Happy Days -- Fonzie was trying to lift Richie's confidence.

DOOCY: OK.

KILMEADE: And he wanted to go ask out a girl.

DOOCY: Right.

KILMEADE: And he walked over to her at Al -- at Arnold's.

DOOCY: Right.

KILMEADE: And he said, "You don't want to go out with me, do you?" And of course she said no. Even if she liked him, she didn't like the way the phrase was -- didn't like the way Richie asked the question.

DOOCY: The word structure.

KILMEADE: Exactly. The same thing could be happening with polling.

CARLSON: You know what? I love that analogy.

KILMEADE: Do you remember it?

CARLSON: I --

DOOCY: It doesn't make any sense, but it's great.

CARLSON: I'm just going to do this because we're not supposed to shake hands.

KILMEADE: Right. Oh, because of the swine flu.

CARLSON: Yeah. We're not supposed to touch.

KILMEADE: Evidently, I could be a carrier.

DOOCY: Mm-hmm.

CARLSON: I guess so

DOOCY: We all could be.

CARLSON: All right. So let's look at the question then and let you decide how you think these words were put together. Here's how the question was presented in the poll: "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?" Well, that's a little different than, "Do you support the government-run option or not?"

DOOCY: Yeah, so -- and that sounds very innocuous right there, so you can figure that out. But it does show the disparity between the -- you know, why don't they just -- why doesn't everybody just say, "OK, we're going to talk to 33 percent Republicans, 33 percent Democrats, 33 percent independents"? Why don't they just do that? Why don't they do that?

KILMEADE: Well, they --

DOOCY Is it too easy?

CARLSON: Good question. We need to go back to Happy Days to find the answer to that question.

KILMEADE: Yeah, absolutely.

[...]

DOOCY: Of course, when it comes to the public option, it seems like every major polling outfit has asked people, "Are you for it or are you against it?" And, for the most part, the big polls are pretty much neck and neck or within the margin of error. And that's why yesterday, when we saw this -- it's The Washington Post/ABC poll -- it made us go, "What? That's -- that's bigger than the margin of error." Fifty-seven percent of you favor a public option, 40 percent of you are opposed to a public option. So, if you read, however, the small print, you realize, hey, wait a minute, the deck is stacked.

CARLSON: Well, apparently, there's a sampling error of sorts, because they actually polled more Democrats than Republicans to get that result. So you take a look here, they -- they talked -- 33 percent of the people that they spoke to were Democrats. Only 20 percent of the people they spoke to were Republicans. That's a 13-point spread. So, no doubt, when you figure that more Democrats support a government-run option more than Republicans, then that's why you would get that 57 percent in support of it, which would make it different from so many of the other polls out there.

KILMEADE: So, if you're not busy enough, and you feel as if you want to add more time to your life, get a microscope out, and every poll you read, look underneath -- and you have to go down -- this is me going down -- and see the fine print at the bottom, because you want to know if you should actually pay attention to this poll, because I did not see the science in this poll, and the first thing I said when I walked in on Monday was, "Did you what -- The Washington Post poll?"

CARLSON: Yeah, that's what I said too.

DOOCY: Holy cow

KILMEADE: What they came out and how different it is from the Rasmussen poll. You want to know how polarizing? When you only get 20 percent of your sample of Republicans, nine of every 10 Republicans is against it.

DOOCY: Sure.

KILMEADE: So you know exactly what you're getting if someone puts up their hand and says, "I'm on the right."

DOOCY: Plus, also, it's the way that the poll -- the pollsters massage the question and come up with a question. They can pretty much steer you into a certain way. For instance, here is a question regarding the public option. And it is simply, "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private insurance plans?" On its face you think, "That sounds pretty good." So you can understand why it would be more positive than negative.

KILMEADE: I --

CARLSON: As opposed to just saying, "Do you like the government-run option?" That would be more straightforward.

DOOCY: Right. Or, "Do you -- are you in favor of the government taking over the health care situation in this nation?"

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Newt Gingrich, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, Ed Morrissey
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, HotAir
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