NYT Provides Fodder for Democratic Dreams to Take Congress

The Times gives Democrats room for hope to take over Congress in 2006. Was the Times as enthusiastic about Republican prospects in 1994?

Robin Toner's Page One New York Times story ("Democrats See Dream of '06 Victory Taking Form") begins: "Suddenly, Democrats see a possibility in 2006 they have long dreamed of: a sweeping midterm election framed around what they describe as the simple choice of change with the Democrats or more of an unpopular status quo with the Republican majority."

But the evidence Toner cites could be a wee bit more convincing: "Already, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and soaring gasoline prices have taken a toll on the popularity of President Bush and Congressional Republicans; new polling by the Pew Research Center shows the approval rating for Congressional Republican leaders at 32 percent, with 52 percent disapproving, a sharp deterioration since March. (The ratings of Democratic leaders stood at 32 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval.)"

In March, the same Pew survey had figures of 39-44% approval-disapproval for Republicans and 37-44% approval-disapproval for Democrats, underlining the fact that Democratic approval ratings have fallen almost as far as those of Republicans, a fact Toner puts in parentheses.

Interestingly, the Times wasn't so hypersensitive to the possibility of an historic Republican takeover of Congress back in 1994, although the same polling group, Pew, released no fewer than three surveys within a month of the 1994 election indicating the strong possibility of Republicans gaining control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

The first sentence of Pew's November 6, 1994 poll stated: "Going into the final days of the campaign, a nationwide Times Mirror survey finds the Republican party with about enough popular support to capture control of the House of Representatives, but not enough to guarantee such an outcome."

Yet despite that strong hint, a Nexis search indicates the Times was silent on Pew's predictions about an imminent Republican tidal wave. [Clarification: According to Nexis, the Times did run a small story in Section B on October 13, 1994, noting the favorable findings for Republicans by the Times Mirror center, findings which were then reported by Pew.]

Yet a far more ambivalent Pew survey 12 months before the 2006 Congressional elections merits front-page coverage -- to raise Democratic spirits, perhaps?

For more NYT bias, go to TimesWatch.

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Clay Waters's picture