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Grapevine Whine - Spinning the Polls (Part 1)

Reported by Nancy - December 22, 2005 -

Just in case viewers might be laboring under the impression that President George W Bush's approval ratings aren't soaring, Brit Hume has already devoted 2 "pickings" on his Grapevine segment of Special Report this week to the effort to make Bush's poll numbers look a lot better than they are. Maybe he's hoping that repeating it will make it come true?

On Tue (12/20) item #2 was this:

The latest Gallup Poll shows President Bush's job approval dropping to 41%. But other major polls have the president trending strongly upward in the wake of a vigorous defense of his Iraq policy and the successful Iraqi elections. A Real Clear Politics.com average of the 5 latest polls puts the president's approval at close to 45% — his highest average in more than 4 months. Congress, however, not so lucky. The latest average puts congressional job approval at just 31%.

Comments: First note the language: "... trending strongly upward ... vigorous defense ... successful ..."

Second, let's look at the source Hume cited. I'm always curious about any source I'm not familiar with, so I went to the RealClear Politics website. Clicking on "about us" revealed nothing at all about who owns or operates the site; it was simply a list of endorsements by: David Brooks. Michael Barone, Paul Gigot, Peter Beinart, Fred Barnes, Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook & Mickey Kaus. Politically savvy readers will recognize those names, & will know precisely where they stand in the political spectrum.

Third, let's look at this "average of the 5 latest polls." I know this won't display well -- one of the hazards of me not knowing HTML formatting well enough to mess with tabular data, & blogging software that's not always user-friendly -- so please take a look at the original if you find this unreadable.

President George W. Bush - Job Approval Ratings
Poll / Date / Approve / Disapprove / Spread
RCP Average / 12/12 - 12/20 / 45.4% / 51.4% / -6.0%
Rasmussen / 12/18 - 12/20 / 47% / 51% / -4%
CNN/USA Today/Gallup / 12/16 - 12/18 / 41% / 56% / -15%
ABC News/Wash Post / 12/15 - 12/18 / 47% / 52% / -5%
FOX News / 12/13 - 12/14 / 42% / 51% / -9%
Hotline/FD / 12/12 - 12/13 / 50% / 47% / +3%

Comparie & contrast that to what Hume said. Do any of those numbers strike you as ".. trending strongly upward " or even, for that matter, trending anywhere? There's no margin of error noted for these polls, at least in this table; only an undefined "spread" which seems to be the change over time as defined by each individual poll. Without a margin of error, it's impossible to decipher whether those numbers have changed much at all. A "spread" of 3-4 points may be the same as the margin of error in both polls. And why wasn't the Gallup Poll included in RCP's aveerage? Or other polls? Why only these 5?

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (how Fox in general, & Hume in particular, spins polls). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.