Friday, September 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Polls

Two new polls came out yesterday that illustrate once again the differences between "fair and balanced" FOX and other news outlets and research organizations. The FOX poll (by Opinion Dynamics, 900 "likely voters", September 12-13, +/- 3 point margin of error) diverges wildly from a poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (1,597 adults, 18 and older, September 6-10, 95% certainty of a +/- 3 point margin of error).

Consider some discrepancies:

Which party is leading and by how much?
FOX: The gap has narrowed to a slim 3-percentage point advantage for Democrats over Republicans in the latest FOX News likely voter poll...By a 41 percent to 38 percent margin, likely voters say if the election were held today, they would choose the Democratic candidate in their district.

PEW: As in six previous surveys over the past 12 months, voters by a wide margin say they favor the Democratic congressional candidate in their district (50%-39%). When the sample is narrowed to likely voters, approximately half of registered voters, the Democratic lead is undiminished. That Democrats poll as well among likely voters as among all voters may reflect the fact that Democrats, in contrast to recent campaigns, are more enthusiastic about voting than are Republicans.
FOX: Opinion is sharply divided on whether it would be a wise to get rid of all the incumbents and start with a clean slate: 39 percent think it would be good for the country if all new people were elected, while a slightly higher number — 42 percent — think it would be bad.

PEW: Roughly half of voters (49%) say that most members should not be reelected, compared with 57% in June, and the share saying their own member does not deserve reelection has slipped from 32% to 27% over the same period.
Pessimism hurting the war cause?
FOX: Just over half (51 percent) support the U.S. war in Iraq and 44 percent oppose it. There is a 58-point gap between the level of support for the war among Republicans (84 percent) and Democrats (26 percent).

Some voters feel so strongly about Iraq that they are willing to vote for a candidate from the opposite party who shares their view over someone from their own party they disagree with on it.

Nearly half of Republicans (46 percent) say they would vote for a pro-war Democrat over an anti-war Republican. Among Democrats, 29 percent say they would vote for an anti-war Republican over a pro-war Democrat.

Voters are somewhat more inclined to think the United States will win the war in Iraq if Republicans are in control (34 percent) than if Democrats are (20 percent). Regardless of which party is in control, more Americans are pessimistic than optimistic about the chances of winning in Iraq.

PEW: Public opinion on the Iraq war continues to be stable. The public is evenly divided over whether the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible or maintain troops in Iraq until the country is stabilized (47%-47%). However, there has been a significant increase in the percentage viewing the violence in Iraq as a civil war, rather than an anti-U.S. insurgency.

Currently, half of Americans describe the violence in Iraq as mostly a civil war between competing factions; 37% say it is mostly an insurgency aimed at the U.S. and its allies. In March, opinion on this issue was almost evenly divided, and last December 58% of Americans said they viewed the violence as mostly an insurgency directed against the U.S. and its allies.

FOX: By a 10-percentage point margin, more Americans think the country is losing the war on terrorism than think the U.S. is winning. In polling since 2001, this is the first time that a majority thinks the United States is not winning the fight against terrorists.

PEW: Currently, about as many people say the U.S. is losing the war on terrorism as say it is winning (41% vs. 39%). That represents a significant shift from the presidential campaign of two years ago, when pluralities consistently said the U.S. was winning in the struggle against terrorism.
There were some things that FOX couldn't spin:
Americans do not think the economy is improving and Democrats are seen as the
party that can make it better.
And some other findings from the PEW survey:
Even on such traditional GOP strengths as reducing crime and improving morality, at least as many Americans trust the Democratic Party to do a better job as trust the Republican Party.

The survey updates views on the parties across a wide range of issues, and in most cases confidence in the Republican Party has fallen slightly over the past six months. But the Republican Party continues to hold a substantial lead in terms of having the "stronger" political leaders – 43% say the GOP has stronger leaders, compared to 30% who see the Democratic Party's leaders as stronger.
And then there's Iran (Bush administration take note):
The public's preference continues to be for the United Nations – not the United States – to take the lead in dealing with Iran's nuclear program. Fully 70% favor the U.N. taking a lead role, which is comparable to the number expressing that opinion in May (72%) and February (78%).

Notably, the public is amenable to the idea of direct negotiations with Iran over the issue of its nuclear program. A 54% majority favors such negotiations, while 32% are opposed. Among those who say they have heard a lot about Iran's nuclear program, an even larger majority (64%) favors direct negotiations with Tehran. Republicans are a bit more supportive of direct talks with Iran than are Democrats. Six-in-ten Republicans say they favor the U.S. negotiating directly with Iran over the issue of its nuclear program; somewhat fewer Democrats agree (51%).

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