NY Times misrepresents Wash. Post/ABC poll, Clinton "rating"

NY Times misrepresents Wash. Post/ABC poll, Clinton "rating"

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

A January 21 front-page New York Times article misrepresented the results of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll in which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) received a 54 percent favorability rating and led among Democratic contenders by 24 points. In reporting on the contest for financial support between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in the 2008 presidential race, New York Times reporters Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny wrote: "Several New York and Hollywood donors offered a similar assessment: they liked Mrs. Clinton as a senator, but worried that her rating in a new Washington Post/ABC News Poll released Saturday was at 41 percent, despite having nearly 100 percent name recognition."

In fact, as The Washington Post reported on January 21, Clinton has a 54 percent favorability rating in the poll. The 41 percent figure cited by the Times refers to support for Clinton's presidential bid among Democrats and Democratic-leaning poll respondents. In citing the 41 percent figure as a sign of donor concern about her prospects, the Times not only misdescribed it as her "rating," it also omitted the fact that she polled 24 points higher than her nearest opponent, Obama, though a separate "news analysis" by Healy, reporting that the Clinton campaign touted the poll results to its supporters, made reference to that result.

But even the "news analysis" misrepresented the poll. In that, Healy falsely suggested that Clinton proclaimed that the poll shows her ahead of Obama by 41 percentage points, writing: "Her new campaign wasted no time yesterday sending an e-mail message about a new Washington Post-ABC poll giving Mrs. Clinton a 41 percentage point lead over her closest rival, Mr. Obama, who had 17 points." ** In fact, the misrepresentation of the poll results was Healy's, not Clinton's. Clinton sent out a press release noting, accurately, that according to the poll, 41 percent of respondents chose her in "a hypothetical primary field against 12 other Democrats," with Obama receiving 17 percent.

From the Washington Post poll, conducted January 16-19 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults on the question, "[D]o you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of (NAME)?"

Favorable

Unfavorable

No opinion

Hillary Clinton

54

44

3

John McCain

49

35

16

Barack Obama

45

29

25

Rudy Giuliani

61

29

10

Bill Clinton

61

37

2

The poll then asked of respondents who said they leaned Democrat: "If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were: (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Wesley Clark, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel), for whom would you vote?"

1/19/07

12/11/06

Hillary Clinton

41

39

Barack Obama

17

17

John Edwards

11

12

John Kerry

8

7

Al Gore

10

10

Wesley Clark

1

1

Tom Vilsack

*

1

Evan Bayh

NA

1

Bill Richardson

1

2

Joe Biden

3

2

Chris Dodd

*

*

Dennis Kucinich

1

NA

Mike Gravel

*

NA

Other (vol.)

1

*

None of these (vol.)

2

2

Would not vote (vol.)

*

1

No opinion

3

4

*= less than 0.5 percent

** UPDATE: The New York Times corrected Healy's misrepresentation of The Washington Post/ABC News poll in his "news analysis," without noting that it had done so. As of January 22, the Times had not issued a formal correction in the print or online editions of the paper. The article now states: "Her new campaign wasted no time yesterday sending an e-mail message about a new Washington Post-ABC poll giving Mrs. Clinton a 24 percentage point lead over her closest rival, Mr. Obama." Return to item

Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, Polling, 2008 Elections
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