Simple mistake, or wish fulfillment? Appearing on MSNBC this afternoon, a Washington Post reporter claimed the paper's latest poll results showed Barack Obama with a "big lead" over John McCain on the issue of handling Iraq. The only problem: the poll actually shows McCain with a small lead on the issue. David Shuster interviewed Ed O'Keefe of WashingtonPost.com at 3:03 PM EDT.
DAVID SHUSTER: Ed, when asked who do you trust on the economy Barack Obama is ahead by 16 points. On women's issues he's ahead by 32 points. So where's John McCain making up the difference.
ED O'KEEFE: Terrorism. He's ahead of him big on that issue and that issue alone, it seems. Also, there's a perceived weakness for Barack Obama generally on his experience. McCain's certainly ahead on those two things. But you're right: on everything else, especially the big issues—Iraq and the economy, health care—Barack Obama has a big lead.
View video here.
Barack has a "big lead" on Iraq? O'Keefe apparently wasn't looking at the monitor, which showed [see screencap] that on the question of which candidate people trust to handle the war in Iraq, McCain is leading by 47% to 46%. And no, MSNBC didn't misstate the poll results. Here's a link to the paper's own polling data. The results on Iraq are displayed at question 17, and show McCain with that slim lead.
So again, simple mistake, or perhaps a mind-set that says "everyone knows Americans are 'against' the war, so surely Obama must be leading in the polls"? My two cents say that while many Americans feel the war was a mistake, they believe the surge—that McCain championed and Obama opposed—is working and don't favor an ignominious withdrawal.
Let's put the wish fulfillment theory this way: how likely is it that the WaPo reporter would have mistakenly presented the poll results in McCain's favor?
Update | 7-3-08: O'Keefe Responds
Ed O'Keefe has been in touch to say that the mistake in representing the results of the poll was just that—a mistake—with no other motive involved. Ed also mentioned that, contrary to my indication in the orignal post, he did not previously work on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. That's another Ed O'Keefe. I apologize for the error.