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FOX News Sugarcoats Bush's Poll Numbers. Who Needs Karl Rove, Anyway?

Reported by Ellen - February 10, 2005

With all the PR Bush and the GOP are doing for Social Security privatization, you might think that the big story in FOX News' latest poll is that a majority of the respondents feel that they will be worse off if George Bush's plan for Social Security passes and that we should not be considering changes that will lead to a larger federal deficit. But you'd have to look long and hard on the FOX News website to find that information.

Anyone who is familiar enough with FOX's brand of "real journalism" can tell from the neutral-sounding title of the article - FOX Poll: Iraq, Social Security and Bush - that there has to be plenty of bad news for Bush in the poll. Otherwise, you can bet your sweet approval ratings that FOX would have mentioned Social Security first and/or trumpeted the numbers.

FOX reporter Dana Blanton, as do most FOX News reporters, usually loads all the good-for-Bush news up front. So my suspicions of bad-for-Bush news were further aroused when Blanton led with the less than headline-making news that "A sizable majority of Americans consider the recent Iraqi elections legitimate."

Sure enough, my suspicions were well-founded. Four paragraphs later, Blanton revealed that "46 percent think (going to war with Iraq) was the right thing to do, down from 50 percent in June 2004, and 49 percent now say it was wrong, up from 42 percent."

Of course, Blanton was quick to move along from that unhappy Iraq news by pointing out that 79 percent of Republicans think the war was the right thing to do, compared with 17 percent of Democrats. Just in case anyone doesn't get that we're supposed to view the Democrats as cry-baby obstructionists, Blanton goes with a quick bash at Howard Dean from Opinion Dynamics (FOX's polling partner) President John Gorman. Gorman says the country remains polarized about the war and that "The imminent election of Howard Dean, the leading anti-war Democrat, as DNC chair is likely to further cement this polarization as it is likely he will make opposition to the war a central theme in his attacks on the administration."

About 2/3 of the way through the article, Blanton finally gets around to the results on Social Security. Once again, the good-for-Bush news goes first. "Majorities of Americans agree with several statements made by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech earlier this month on the condition of the country's Social Security system. Many (57 percent) agree Social Security is in a state of crisis, most (82 percent) agree Americans have a "duty to reform" the system so it will be available for future generations, and a slim 51 percent majority agrees the system will go bankrupt if no action is taken." Comment: Yeah, but they think Democrats will do a better job of fixing it. Conveniently, this point was not mentioned until the end of the SS section of the article.

Blanton also says "Almost half of Americans (48 percent) say they would want the choice to invest a portion of their Social Security savings and stocks and mutual funds." Not mentioned is that 52% are not convinced - 40% say they don't want any privatization, 12% are unsure.

What about the 49% (vs. 33% with an opposite view) who said there should be no changes to SS that could lead to a larger federal deficit? Fair and balanced FOX News didn't mention it. You have to click through to the actual poll report to find that news.

With regard to the 41% who say they would be "worse off" under Bush's SS plan and the 40% who trust Democrats with SS more (versus 27% trusting Republicans more), Blanton says, "President Bush has some work to do on selling his proposal."

I'm sure FOX News will do its best to help him out.

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