NY Times distorted public opinion; overstated Bush's supposed advantage on terrorism


Despite the fact that a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed little difference in public opinion of the abilities of President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry to handle terrorism, The New York Times made a misleading and unsubstantiated claim in an August 4 article: "Polls show that Mr. Bush's handling of terrorism remains his only clear advantage over Mr. Kerry."

The article offered no polling data to support this claim. In fact, in the entire article, there wasn't a single mention of any specific polling result having anything to do with Kerry.

The only specific polling results the Times mentioned were from a recent CBS News poll showing that the percentage of people who approved of Bush's handing of terrorism has dropped nine points since March, while the percentage who disapprove has gone up eleven points. Those results certainly don't substantiate the Times' claim that Bush enjoys a "clear advantage" over Kerry on terrorism.

As Media Matters for America noted on August 3, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that Bush holds a three-point lead (48 percent to 45 percent) on this question: "Who do you trust to do a better job handling the US campaign against terrorism?" That three-point lead is well within the poll's margin of error and is not statistically significant -- certainly not the "clear advantage" the Times claims Bush has.

And according to a Newsweek poll released on July 31 and taken over two nights (before and after Kerry's acceptance speech), "They [respondents] also just barely prefer Bush to Kerry (48 percent to 43 percent) on handling terror and homeland security, issues on which they had preferred the president by 21 points in March. This is significant because the top issues among voters are terrorism (21 percent), the economy (19 percent), Iraq (18 percent) and health care (15 percent)."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
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