Caplis used flawed poll to argue Obama is "out of touch," dubiously stated ISG report "never caught on in America"


630 KHOW-AM co-host Dan Caplis cited the results of a flawed poll to suggest that U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) position on the war in Iraq is at odds with that of most Americans. Caplis also misleadingly stated that the Iraq Study Group "never caught on in America," when, in fact, polls showed broad support for its recommendations.

During the February 22 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show, co-host Dan Caplis touted the results of a flawed poll about the Iraq war to argue that U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is "out of touch" because Obama's stated position on Iraq war policy is aligned with the Iraq Study Group, which Caplis baselessly claimed "never caught on in America."

Caplis cited the results of a poll "by a Republican polling group" claiming that 57 percent of Americans "want to stay in Iraq and finish the job." Presumably Caplis was referring to the results of a February 5-7 Public Opinion Strategies (POS) poll that, as Media Matters for America has noted, not only reportedly was dismissed by another Republican pollster as "designed to register certain responses," but also conflicts with recent nonpartisan national polling concerning Iraq.

The POS polling question to which Caplis referred indicated that 57 percent of respondents agreed with the following statement: "I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people."

According to weblogger Greg Sargent, Republican pollster David E. Johnson, CEO of the polling firm Strategic Vision, criticized the poll as, in Sargent's words, "leading and designed to elicit the answers they got." Johnson also stated that "[t]his poll is not the quality we've come to expect from national polling firms," according to Sargent. Specifically, Johnson pointed to the question asking if respondents agreed with the statement "I support finishing the job in Iraq" as problematic. Johnson said the question was "designed to elicit a positive response by putting respondents in the position of saying that they don't support 'finishing a job.' ... It's not a straightforward wording at all. It's also put in the first person to personalize it. In polling when you use the first person you generally get a more positive response."

The POS poll, conducted February 5-7 with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of politically charged statements, offering possible responses that included "strongly agree," "somewhat agree," "strongly disagree," and "somewhat disagree." The blog The Carpetbagger Report described these questions as "basically the White House's carefully-worded talking points" that are "designed to register certain responses." The poll asked, for instance:

  • Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war. (56 percent agreed, 43 percent disagreed)
  • The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq. (53 percent agreed, 46 percent disagreed)
  • I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people. (57 percent agreed, 41 percent disagreed)
  • The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism. (57 percent agreed, 41 percent disagreed)
  • A stable Iraq is the best way to protect America from the nuclear threat of Iran. (47 percent agreed, 49 percent disagreed)
  • Victory in Iraq, that is creating a young but stable democracy and reducing the threat of terrorism at home, is no longer possible for the US. (43 percent agreed, 53 percent disagreed)
  • Losing the war in Iraq would mean that the United States is no longer a superpower, but just another power. (31 percent agreed, 66 percent disagreed)
  • I don't really care about what happens in Iraq after the US leaves, I just want the troops brought home. (25 percent agreed, 74 percent disagreed)

Recent nonpartisan polls on Iraq yielded results that conflict with the POS poll results. For instance, a CBS News poll conducted February 8-11 asked respondents: "Should the U.S. increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, keep the same number of U.S. troops in Iraq as there are now, decrease the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, or remove all its troops from Iraq?" Twenty-six percent of respondents said the U.S. should "increase" troops; 17 percent said the U.S. should "keep the same number" of troops; 23 percent responded that the U.S. should "decrease the number" of troops in Iraq; and 28 percent said they favored "remov[ing] all" U.S. troops from the country. The CBS poll also asked respondents if they "agree[d] or disagree[d] with the following statement: "Even when they have some objections or reservations, Congress should cooperate and support President George W. Bush's legislative proposals in order to give them a chance." In a half sample, 54 percent of the respondents disagreed, while 39 percent agreed.

Additionally, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey, conducted February 7-11, asked respondents to indicate whether "the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized" or "bring its troops home as soon as possible." The majority, 53 percent, responded that the "U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible." The Pew poll also asked: "Do you think the war in Iraq has helped the war on terrorism, or has it hurt the war on terrorism?" Forty-seven percent indicated that they believed the Iraq war has "hurt the war on terrorism." Further, the Pew poll found that 55 percent were more "concern[ed]" that "the U.S. will wait too long to withdraw its troops from Iraq," compared with 35 percent who were more concerned that the U.S. "will leave Iraq before a stable democracy is in place."

According to a February 19 article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "Davis Lundy, owner of the Chattanooga-based strategic communications and public affairs firm the Moriah Group, commissioned the Public Opinion Strategies survey" because Lundy did not believe the Democrats won control of Congress due to a "mandate on Iraq." Instead, the Times Free Press reported, Lundy believed there "was a clash between the extremes in both parties over Iraq that dominated" the news "but didn't represent the true will of the American people." Lundy founded the Moriah Group, according to the firm's website, in 1994 when he "took on the successful political campaign for U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp [R-TN]."

Further, contrary to Caplis' baseless claim that the Iraq Study Group recommendations "never caught on in America," The Washington Post -- citing a poll it conducted with ABC News -- reported December 13, 2006, that "[a]lthough the public remains leery of immediate withdrawal, it has lost faith that the Bush administration has a clear solution for Iraq" and that "[t]he public is more open to the Iraq Study Group plan, with 46 percent for it and 22 percent against it." The Post also noted, "When asked about some of its specific recommendations, respondents are dramatically more supportive":

Seventy-nine percent favor shifting U.S. troops from combat to support; 69 percent support withdrawing most combat forces by early 2008; 74 percent support reducing aid if Iraq fails to make progress toward national unity and civil order; and about six in 10 support talking with Syria and Iran to try to resolve the conflict.

Similarly, a Newsweek poll showed "a significant majority of Americans agree with most of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations presented to them from a list," according to a December 9, 2006, press release:

Sixty-five percent of those polled agree that the U.S. should threaten to reduce economic and military support to the Iraqi government if it fails to meet specific benchmarks; 57 percent agree that the U.S. should reach out to Iran and Syria to help stabilize Iraq; and 61 percent agree that the U.S. should make a renewed and sustained commitment to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

From the February 22 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

CAPLIS: But there's a reason Barack Obama hasn't caught on in the polls, and, and, you know, he's had every opportunity to. My goodness, has anybody received more favorable press ever? But he's not catching on and the reason he's not catching on is because when you, when you really look and dig and find out what he's about and where he stands on the critical life-and-death issues of the day, people aren't going to trust him to protect their children in their beds at night. People aren't going to trust him with the security of this nation. The guy is not catching on in the polls.

SILVERMAN: Why? His position on Iraq now is the same as the Iraq Study Group, which included James Baker, Alan Simpson, and other Republican luminaries. He's not taking a radical position saying we're going to leave right away. He's saying exactly what the Iraq Study Group said.

CAPLIS: But first of all, the Iraq Study Group, the "Iraq Surrender Group" as I called it, and others called it, it never caught on in America. The poll yesterday, I think you agreed with the findings, 57-41, by a Republican polling group albeit, that Americans want to stay in Iraq and finish the job. So I just think he's pandering to the left, but out of touch, but I digress.

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