Wash. Post framed polling data to suggest public support for Republican position on Iraq withdrawal
A December 2 Washington Post article misleadingly suggested that a recent poll showed public support for Republicans' position on when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq -- that is, only once specific conditions are met in the country. The Post contrasted the results of a November 21 RT Strategies poll* with those of an October 13 Pew Research Center poll, suggesting that the RT poll showed support for the Republican position, while the Pew poll showed opposition to it. In fact, the RT poll shows that the public is split on the issue, with the difference between those who support the Republican position and those who oppose it within the poll's margin of error.
From the December 2 Post article:
House Republican leaders, meanwhile, are touting a bipartisan poll in November by RT Strategies that found half of registered voters support a withdrawal of troops only when the nation's goals are met, compared with 15 percent who want an immediate withdrawal and 29 percent who want a specific, public timetable for withdrawal. But a Pew Research Center poll in October found that 52 percent favored a withdrawal timetable, while 43 percent opposed one. An additional 1 percent said that U.S. troops should get out now.
As written, the Post article emphasizes the plurality of voters in the RT poll who support the Republican position on when to withdraw U.S. troops -- a plurality that, in the Post's construction, appears significant: 50 percent to 29 percent to 15 percent. But the Post, like the RT Strategies poll, set up a false dispute: those who favor immediate withdrawal versus those who favor a timetable for withdrawal versus those who favor neither. In fact, no prominent political figure -- not House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), not Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) -- has said that the U.S. should "withdraw our troops immediately, regardless of the impact," the wording the poll used. Given the wording of the poll question, a more meaningful report of its results would have contrasted the combined support for a timetable and for immediate withdrawal with support for, as the Post put it, "a withdrawal of troops only when the nation's goals are met." Such a comparison finds that, according to the poll, 50 percent support a withdrawal "only when the nation's goals are met," while 44 percent support immediate withdrawal (15 percent) or a timetable for withdrawal (29 percent) -- a split that is within the poll's 3.1 percent margin of error. Moreover, among political independents, the results are even more closely split: 48 percent support the Republican position while 49 percent oppose it (17 percent support an immediate withdrawal and 32 percent support setting a timetable for withdrawal).