Accuracy in Media

In a poll promoted by the headline “Poll: 71% shun GOP handling of debt crisis,” CBS News argued that Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their resistance to raising taxes.” The poll and report suffer from two fatal flaws.

The poll is weighted for party identification. Republicans consist of 24% of the adjusted sample, Democrats 35%, and Independents 41%. Unfortunately for CBS, these weighted totals are at odds with both Gallup’s and Rasmussen’s findings. Gallup’s survey of party identification from January shows Democrats with a two-point edge over Republicans (29R-31D-38I). Rasmussen showed the parties essentially tied in July (34.4R-34.7D-31I) among adults. Either way, CBS’s D+10 “weighted” sample is unsupported by anything like current evidence.

The report promoting the poll has errors as well. Although the poll question did not include the word “taxes,” CBS could not resist assuming that Congressional Republicans receive low approval because of their resistance to tax increases. This seems like an especially implausible claim since 51% of Republican respondents disapprove of Congressional Republicans’ handling of the negotiation. It is more likely that those Republicans oppose their party’s tactics or Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “Plan B,” which many conservative activists consider tantamount to surrender.

CBS’s poll and analysis rely on a biased sample and bad assumptions about motives unsupported even by bad poll questions.

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