As Support for 'Surge' Rises, CBS Loses Interest in Its Polling

On the day of the long-anticipated report from General David Petraeus on the “surge,” the CBS Evening News ignored how its latest poll discovered the third straight month of an increase in the percent of Americans who believe the surge has “made things better” in Iraq. As the percentage has gone up, CBS's interest in the result has gone down. In July, anchor Katie Couric led with how only 19 percent thought the surge was “making things better” and a month later, in August, when that number jumped to 29 percent, CBS and Couric gave it just 12 seconds 20 minutes into the newscast..

While Monday's CBS Evening News skipped how the share crediting the surge for “making things better” rose to 35 percent in the survey conducted through Saturday, the newscast found time to highlight three other findings that stressed public opposition to the war and distrust of President Bush. Jim Axelrod relayed how “in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, just four percent think Iraq will become a stable democracy in the next year or two. More than half [53%] say it'll never happen. [On screen: Yes, but it will take longer: 42%] And just five percent think the Bush administration best able to make the right calls on the war. [Congress: 21%; U.S. military commanders: 68%].” A bumper before the first ad break showcased how on “U.S. troop levels in Iraq,” 30 percent said they “should increase/keep the same,” while 65 percent responded they “should decrease/remove all.”

PDF of the results of the poll conducted September 4-8.

My August 13 NewsBusters posting revealed:

When a CBS News poll in July found 73 percent believed the surge of troops in Iraq was making the situation “worse” or having “no impact,” the CBS Evening News led with that number. But on Monday, when a new CBS poll discovered that percent had fallen 12 points to 61 percent, as the percent who think the surge is making the situation “better” jumped ten points from 19 to 29 percent, CBS gave it 12 seconds 20 minutes into the newscast. “Major attacks decline in Iraq: Military credits troop increase, civilian tipsters,” declared the headline at the top of Monday's USA Today front page. Katie Couric, however, ignored that report and, after briefly relaying the new poll number, couldn't resist highlighting “one thing that hasn't changed, two-thirds say that, overall, things are still going badly in Iraq.”

Couric had led the July 18 CBS Evening News: “In a CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight, nearly three out of four Americans say the troop surge is not working, that it's having no impact, or actually making matters worse.” On Monday, she acknowledged: “Americans are starting to come around on that troop surge in Iraq. In our CBS News poll out tonight, 29 percent say the surge is making things better. That's a ten point increase since July.” It's doubtful the ten percent who have come around are consumers of CBS or other mainstream media outlets which concentrate on the negative.

My July 18 NewsBusters item recounted how Couric led that night's CBS Evening News:

Hello, everyone. Senate Democrats failed today in their latest attempt to bring American troops home from Iraq. After a rare, all-night debate, they couldn't come up with the votes today to bring the latest troop withdrawal measure to the floor. And that is in spite of pressure from the voters themselves. In a CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight, nearly three out of four Americans say the troop surge is not working, that it's having no impact, or actually making matters worse. And nearly two out of three want the President to bring some or all U.S. forces home.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center