June 22, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics


But this is better news for Dubya.

Here's the lead WaPo story.

You know, I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to polls.

For instance, how can this be right?

The president is viewed as a stronger leader than Kerry and as the candidate who can be most trusted in a crisis. He is also seen as best able to "make the country safer and more secure" and the one who "takes a position and sticks with it."
But by 52 percent to 39 percent, Kerry is seen as more honest and trustworthy -- a troubling finding for Bush, whose truthfulness before the war in Iraq has been called into question.

The two bolded parts appear a bit contradictory, don't they?

Here's the specific polling data:

1) Kerry more honest; BUT

2) Bush can be trusted more in a crisis...

Hmmmm....work that one out for me? My guess:

Bush is seen a strong, principled leader--but all the (mostly hyped) stories about how Bush ginned up al-Q/Saddam links have hurt him (ed. note: If so many Americans think they were misled on this score; someone please explain this poll result to me?)

Again, lies, damn lies, and statistics.

So you throw in a good dollop of media stories about all the space between avuncular Tom Kean/Lee Hamilton and messianic 'damn the evidence' Dubya and Cheney--you get a disconnect where most Americans (over 60%) believe or suspect Saddam had cooperated with al-Q historically--but a full 48% nevertheless believe they were misled on said alleged links.

How about the critical economy?

Well, are you better off than you were 4 years ago?

Well yeah, or at least the same ....

Not bad given one of the most absurd bubbles in financial history had just popped as Dubya came into office.

And, importantly, it appears most people think the economy is going to be on an uptick going forward.

So here's the deal folks.

Pretty much, people are evenly split on whether Bush or Kerry would handle the war on terror better (48% Kerry to 47% Bush).

But by a margin of 54% to 40% people think Bush will make the country safer and more secure (second link at top of post).

And Bush beats Kerry on having a "clear plan" on terrorism 55% to 42%.

More Americans trust Bush in a crisis (but perhaps trust Kerry more during quotidian times?) (again, per above links)

More Americans think Bush has a clear plan for Iraq than they believe Kerry does (48% to 42%).

Oh, and this strikes me as important.

So tell me, please, why does the WaPo headline blare: "Bush Loses Advantage in War on Terrorism"?

Just asking.

P.S. Not a sole query on Abu Ghraib? All Lottian insouciance, I reckon, even amongst the pollsters and the great public....

UPDATE: Jon Henke and Robert Tagorda have more on this. Tagorda's post has an interesting take on why the WaPo's unnuanced lede (the 21% drop in Bush's war on terror approval rating) has occurred.

Posted by Gregory at June 22, 2004 12:58 PM

For the Post its been all Abu Gharib all the time for nearly two months now. Its still on the front page today.

My guess is they polled on this and didn't like the results. How could they not resist asking wouab what is such a watershed issue to them?

Someone did a poll a few weeks ago that showed a strong majority thought the media was way overplaying this. I'd bet a minority it against him and his administration. Probably fewer than blame him for the "bad" economy. That'll surely then contradict the Posts obsessive coverage of this issue.

Posted by: PAUL at June 22, 2004 02:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Crystal clear analysis. Good show, old chap.

Posted by: Capt America at June 22, 2004 04:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Abu Ghreib pictures appear everywhere in the Washington Post. Columnists put them in the Arts section. Op-Ed writers refer to them. The ombudsman supports printing them, but not printing or even referring to the pictures of Nick Berg (and Paul Johnson).

Even stories that do not refer to Abu Ghreib show the Post bias. Look at the June 21 editorial cartoon, or E.J. Dionne's June 22 Op-Ed piece that demanded that Bush prove the Hussein-9/11 connection.

It's almost enough to make me subscribe to the Washington Times instead. I'm no Moonie though.

Posted by: Eric Jablow at June 22, 2004 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Barely two months ago, Bush comfortably led Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 21 points when voters were asked which man they trusted to deal with the terrorist threat. Today the country is evenly divided, with 48 percent preferring Kerry and 47 percent favoring Bush."

He held a 21-point advantage, now it's gone. That's interesting, and it's the significant movement in this poll. Therefore it's the headline. Sometimes it really is as simple as it looks.

Posted by: Ryan at June 22, 2004 07:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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