ABC & WPost Skip How Poll Finds Majority Support for Surveillance, Bush Approval Up

An ABC News/Washington Post poll, released late Monday afternoon, found majority support for a media bete noire, FBI and NSA wiretapping of people inside the United States in the war on terror, but those findings were ignored in the story posted on the Washington Post Web site and aired on ABC's World News Tonight. Instead, both stressed how 80 percent believe “civil war” is likely in Iraq. “Majority of Americans Believe Iraq Civil War is Likely,” read the WashingtonPost.com headline over the 5:30pm EST story by Richard Morin, which is likely to appear in near-identical form in Tuesday's hard copy. The subhead: “Washington Post-ABC News Poll Finds Sharp Decline in Optimism About Iraq War.” [10pm EST: Indeed, link now goes to March 7 print story on page A3, with a new headline: "Majority in U.S. Fear Iraq Civil War; Poll Also Finds Growing Doubt About Bush"]. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas relayed how “65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war,” before George Stephanopoulos outlined how the public is “all over the map” on what to do in Iraq. The Post story, and ABC, however, did note that the public is also sour on Democrats. Sounding exasperated, Vargas cued up Stephanopoulos: "In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?" The ABC duo also ignored Bush's approval level pegged at 41 percent, seven points higher than the “all-time low” for Bush last week in a CBS News poll (NewsBusters item) which was much-touted by the networks (MRC Media Reality Check).

ABC and the Post skipped that when asked about how after 9/11 the “FBI was given additional authority in areas like surveillance, wiretaps and obtaining records in terrorism investigations,” 62 percent said they favor the power and as for the National Security Agency “secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so,” 54 percent consider it “acceptable.”

The CBS News poll released February 27 generated some blog interest, as detailed in this NewsBusters posting, over how it surveyed substantially more Democrats than Republicans. In this new ABC News/Washington Post survey, 28 percent self-identified as Republicans compared to 32 percent who called themselves Democrats, but only 22 percent described themselves as liberal with 33 percent identifying their ideology as conservative and 42 percent saying they were moderates. See questions 901 and 908a in the poll rundown posted by the Washington Post.

That February 27 CBS News poll also determined, that by 51 to 47 percent, most "approve of Bush authorizing wiretaps to fight terrorism." (NewsBusters item)

ABC gave the poll about 1:45 on the March 6 World News Tonight. A transcript:
Anchor Elizabeth Vargas: “The U.S. said today that 2,300 Americans have been killed in Iraq since the war began. An ABC News/Washington Post poll out today suggested that Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation in Iraq. Eight in ten Americans [80 percent] believe a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis is likely. 65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war. Our chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, joins us. And George, it is striking that while many of those polled are unhappy with the situation in Iraq, they don't agree on any easy solutions.”

Stephanopoulos, in Washington, with the White House in the background and the numbers displayed on screen: “That's exactly right, Elizabeth. They are all over the map. About half the public [52 percent] wants a withdrawal of American troops. But they're split. Fewer than one in five say bring the troops home right now [17 percent]. About a third [35 percent] say bring them home gradually over time. Another third says have the troop levels stay exactly the same [34 percent]. And then you've got about ten percent, actually 11 percent, of the country says increase troops now. So you've got a chaotic situation in Iraq which has left the public confused.”

Vargas: “The President's aggressive defense, however, of the ports deal has not only proved ineffective, George, but it's kind of backfiring against foreign management of any kind involved in the ports.”

Stephanopoulos: “It sure is Elizabeth. You've got now 70 percent of the country against this Dubai ports deal. But 70 percent of them against any foreign management of our ports. So what's happened here is this whole story has taught people something they didn't know, that foreigners manage many of our ports. And they don't like it one bit.”

Vargas, sounding exasperated: “In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?”

Stephanopoulos: “Not so far. In fact, they're going in the wrong direction, for Democrats. Back in January, you asked who do you trust to handle the nation's problems? Americans said Democrats, 51 to 37. Today, that is down to 42 to 40. And you know that goes back to Iraq too. They don't think Democrats have an answer to Iraq and they're sour on both parties.”

Vargas: “Alright. George Stephanopoulos in Washington, thanks so much for that analysis.”

Some of the questions skipped by ABC's World News Tonight and the Post:
# 13. Do you think the war with Iraq has or has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States?

Contributed 50%,
Has not: 48%

# 19. (HALF SAMPLE) Do you think the United States is or is not making significant progress in establishing a democratic government in Iraq?

Is making significant progress: 49%
Is not making significant progress: 48%

# 22. As you may know, starting in 2001 the FBI was given additional authority in areas like surveillance, wiretaps and obtaining records in terrorism investigations. Supporters said this was necessary to fight terrorism. Opponents said it went too far in compromising privacy rights. Do you think this additional FBI authority should or should not be continued?

Yes, should: 62%
No, should not: 37%

# 23. On another subject: as you may know, the National Security Agency has been investigating people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so. Would you consider this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval as an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

Acceptable: 54%
Unacceptable: 46%

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Iraq War on Terrorism Polling
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