Accuracy in Media

Just days after President Clinton’s grand jury testimony aired around the world, he headed out west on a fundraising trip. His first stop was Chicago, where he attended a fundraiser for Democratic Rep. Glenn Poshard, who is running for governor of Illinois. Only one problem. Poshard decided just hours ahead of time to go to Washington to vote on a couple of bills, though he hadn’t been there for a single vote in the nearly one month since the end of the August recess.

One of his votes was in opposition to the so-called “fast track” legislation, which Clinton supports, and which a White House spokesman originally gave as the reason for Poshard’s absence. Clinton contradicted his spokesman, saying that Poshard went to vote against a Republican tax cut, trying to put a favorable spin on an awkward situation. “I wouldn’t have him anywhere else,” Clinton told the crowd from whom he raised about $250,000 dollars. Poshard attempted to downplay the significance of his hasty departure in a phoned in message, and told Clinton he’s proud of his leadership.

Whatever the truth is, this is an excellent example of the confusing message and paradoxical implications of recent polls. For Democrats and Republicans alike, the question is how to balance legislative considerations with election concerns, played out against a backdrop of an apparently popular president’s most severe political crisis. The paradox is that if two thirds of the people really don’t want him to resign or to be impeached, then why are Democratic candidates like Rep. Poshard and Gov. Glendening of Maryland avoiding being seen with him?

On September 25, the New York Times ran the results of a poll on page one, showing that 54 percent of all respondents disapprove of the way the House Judiciary committee was handling the Clinton Lewinsky matter, 78 percent felt it wasn’t necessary to release Clinton’s videotaped grand jury testimony, and that only 27percent favored impeachment hearings. On the inside, however, was another chart that showed that of the most likely voters, 50 percent favor impeachment hearings, another 22 percent favor censure and slightly more disapprove than approve of Clinton’s job performance.

John Zogby, the Democratic pollster who has been the most accurate predicting recent elections, had a mid-September poll showing that over 50 percent said they were ashamed to have Clinton as president, and 66 percent said he is a negative role model, while only 22 percent said he is a positive role model. Zogby found that the country was evenly split on whether or not Clinton should leave office, but when asked if it is determined that he lied or encouraged others to lie, then that number increases by seven to ten points.

These poll results led Zogby to conclude: quote, “For the first time, a majority now have an unfavorable view of the president and are ashamed to have him as president. This, combined with the two of three who view him as a negative role model, can only hurt his cause. The notion of Clinton leaving the presidency is acceptable to large numbers of voters.”

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