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Cherry-Picked Polls

Reported by Judy - September 7, 2004 -

"All good news for the president." That's how Steve Doocy today (Sept. 7)summarized polling data from three polls released since the end of the Republican convention, but Doocy's statement leaves out another poll that shows the race tied.

A tracking poll by Rasmussen Reports shows the race at 48-47, Bush over Kerry as of Monday. An update as of today, reflecting interviewes all done after the GOP convention, shows the race tied at 47-47.

Doocy, a co-host of Fox and Friends, continued to emphasize the Newsweek and Time polls showing Bush with 11-point leads, as well as today's Gallup poll with a seven-point lead.

As other posts have noted, the Time and Newsweek polls had serious problems. The Newsweek poll, for example, was heavily weighted toward military families compared with the general population. Rasmussen said the survey's sample included too many Republlicans and if that is corrected for, the surveys show a smaller Bush lead.

Even the Gallup poll, showing a seven-point lead for Bush, is not as dramatic as Fox News claims. The 52-45 split of Bush over Kerry is only a two point change from the Gallup's survey before the GOP confab when Bush "lead" 50 to 47. If it weren't for the flawed Time and Newsweek polls, Fox would be trying to explain away a two-point "bounce." Or they might be saying, as Doocy did after the Democratic convention, "What happened to the bounce?"

A look at the fine print of the Gallup Poll shows it is not all good news for Bush, beyond the two-point bounce. The increase in approval rating for Bush was only three points, the percentage of people viewing him favorably went up only one point, the percentage viewing him as presidential went up four points, and the percentage saying Bush cares for people like them went down one point. His biggest gain, as Fox pointed out, was in being a strong and decisive leader, a six-point improvement..

For Kerry, the good news is that the percentage of people viewing him favorably went up one point, the percentage of people saying Kerry would do a better job of managing the economy than Bush stayed the same, and the percentage of people saying Kerry cares about people like them went up three points. Despite a month of smear boat tactics, the percentage of people viewing Kerry as honest and trustworthy went down only one point.

Once you get past the two-point bounce, the poll shows little movement over all.

Fox interviewed the smug Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, who said Bush had momentum going into the convention due to "Kerry's own mistakes" and the smear boat attack only "accentuated doubts" about Kerry. Kristol preferred to give most of the credit for Bush's better showing in the polls to the GOP convention, which he said picked up on the smear boat theme regarding Kerry's "shockingly anti-American testimony" after returning from Vietnam and also made a case for Bush. I'm not sure what "momentum" Bush had going into the convention, other than that created by the smear boats.