Liberal Pollsters at Huff-Po: Shutdown Blame Polls Like NBC's Are 'Least Reliable Gauge of Public Opinion'

Brent Bozell isn’t the only conservative opinion leader to focus on how the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll was used by NBC as “absolutely devastating to Republicans.” Rush Limbaugh found “it just dispirited every Republican who heard about it. And it ignited and made joyously happy every Democrat and every media person who heard about it.”

But at The Huffington Post, liberal pollsters Mark Blumenthal and Emily Swanson analyzed other polls and showed they differ from the NBC “devastation.” They say focusing on blame is the “least reliable gauge of public opinion about the ongoing crisis.”

The slight differences in question wording and format play a role, to be sure, but the bigger problem may be that many Americans are hesitant to assign all responsibility for the shutdown to one side or another. As evidence, consider the Reuters/Ipsos poll, which found that nearly half the respondents (46 percent) opted for "all of the above" when it was offered as a choice. The apparent inconsistency among the surveys may be the result of pushing people to assign blame when many see plenty of blame to go around....

A new Pew Research Center survey, released on Tuesday, finds that more Americans blame Republicans (46 percent) than the Obama administration (37 percent) for "the deadlock in Washington over the government shutdown and the debt limit." The net disadvantage for the GOP was roughly the same on a Pew Research survey conducted a week earlier, which found Republicans as more to blame by a 38 percent to 30 percent margin.    

These results differed from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, released last week, that showed the public blaming Republicans by a wider, 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent).

And they differed further from a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, which yields yet another result partly because it allowed respondents to "check all that apply" from a list of three choices: President Barack Obama, Republicans in Congress, and Democrats in Congress. Initially, slightly more checked only Republicans (38 percent) than checked only Obama, only Democrats or both (34 percent). After a follow-up probed further for the most responsible party, Americans split evenly (43 percent each) on whether Republicans or Democrats were to blame.

The pollsters do have a more liberal-pleasing On The Other Hand: "two recent polls show that if given the chance to individually rate how the main parties involved are handling the shutdown, majorities of Americans disapprove of everyone involved, but their disapproval of Republicans is highest."

NBC's pollsters and conservatives went around in disputing whether the NBC sample was skewed -- well, not the hard fact that they sampled more Democrats by 11 points, but whether that kind of sampling is fair and accurate. As Mark Levin noted, it's hardly fair for one of every five poll respondents to have a connection to government, when only eight percent have that connection. Media coverage has also skewed toward poor, furloughed government employees.

Conservatives can certainly rely on liberal journalists to tell them their polls are the worst ever. Rewind four years to October 20, 2009, when David Shuster was strongly suggesting that the GOP was cooked in 2010:

"If a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News is any indication, the GOP is in the worst shape it's been in nearly three decades. Asked which party they identified themselves with, 33% said Democratic while just 20% said Republican. Perhaps more telling, 42% said Independent. So what does it all mean? Have centrists been frightened away from the Republican Party by the right-wing birthers, tenthers, and town hall screamers?"

In Notable Quotables, we made the point that the same Washington Post/ABC News poll found 38 percent of Americans identified themselves as "conservative," a six-point increase since January 2009. Just 23 percent called themselves "liberal," a drop of one point since that January.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis