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All the News That's Fit to Spin

The New York Times outdoes itself as editorial creep continues across the front page of the paper.

12:00 AM, Oct 8, 2002 • By DAVID TELL
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Question Three. "What do you think is the single most important problem for the government--that is, the president and Congress--to address in the coming year?" Nagourney and Elder write that voters answered they are "more concerned about the economy and domestic issues than with what is happening to Saddam Hussein." In fact, however, Times/CBS poll respondents identified "Terrorism/War/Security" as the one "most important problem" facing government (30 percent), with "Economy/Jobs/Stock Market" ranking second (26 percent). And even this result understates the truth: Listed third among the responses is an additional foreign policy category, "Iraq" (7 percent)--which means that voters principally concerned with international matters outnumber those who prefer to think about issues that "Democrats had hoped to capitalize on" by an almost 3-to-2 margin.

Question Eighteen. "Which of these should be the higher priority for the nation right now--the economy and jobs, or terrorism and national security?" This, of course, is simply a forced-choice restatement of the more open-ended Question Three, above. And its results therefore speak more directly to the conclusion suggested by the Times' front-page sub-hed: "Poll Finds Lawmakers Focusing Too Much on Iraq and Too Little on Issues at Home." Trouble is, Question Eighteen's results flatly contradict that sub-hed. A full 50 percent of respondents said terrorism should be a higher priority than the economy. And only 35 percent said the opposite--again, a nearly 3-to-2 preference for foreign policy.

Question Twenty-Nine. "In deciding how to spend their time, presidents have to weigh the importance of foreign policy problems and problems here at home. Given the importance of each, do you think George W. Bush has been spending too much time on foreign policy problems, OR too much time on problems here at home, OR has he been spending his time about right?" According to the Times, which ran it as a five-column headline across the top of page A14 yesterday, the answer is clear: "Public Says Bush Needs to Pay More Heed to Economy, Less to Iraq." Unfortunately, though, Actual Results Prove Times Account of Poll Dishonest. A majority of respondents (52 percent) told Times/CBS researchers they think the president is dividing his attention "about right" and another two percent complained that Bush spends too much time on domestic issues. Only 41 percent of respondents said they think the president overemphasizes foreign policy. Among key, swing-voting independents, the trend is even starker: 58 percent of respondents said they believe the president devotes enough or too much effort to domestic questions, while just 35 percent complained that he is neglecting them.

All the news that fits the spin. And the rest in a PDF file on the CBS News website where, with any luck, nobody will notice it.

David Tell is opinion editor of The Weekly Standard.