Time Garbles Poll Numbers to Puff Tea Party Popularity

An article in the new issue of Time (3/1/10) takes a look at the Tea Party movement–which, according to their calculations, is surprisingly large:

Whether bitter or sweetened, the tea is winning admirers. According to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, roughly 1 in 5 adult Americans identifies with the Tea Party movement, which scored its first major victory last month when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by the late Democrat Ted Kennedy.

One in 5, while a lot smaller than movements considered fringe by corporate media (i.e., single-payer advocates), is pretty startling considering that other polling has shown that lots of people don’t knowwhat the “Tea Party movement” is (FAIR Blog, 12/17/09). Sure enough, if you look at the actual polling results, you see that Time is mixing up the numbers–in way that inflates Tea Party popularity.

Here’s the keypoint from that Times/CBS poll (2/5-10/10):

So you can see lots of people still don’t know what this Tea Party business is all about.

But do you see that note about the follow-up questions? The Times didn’t ask follow-up questions to people who said they knew nothing about the Tea Party movement–a third of the people polled.

The final question in that series–No. 95–is where the Times asked, “Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of the Tea Party movement, or not?” Eighteen percent said yes. So while that might sounds like “roughly 1 in 5 adult Americans,” it’s not–it’s 18 percent of those who’ve heard something about thismovement. That actually works out to not quite 12 percent of all respondents–which means less than 1 in 8.

It’s an important distinction–and a reminder that corporate media seem to want the Tea Party movement to be more powerful than it really is.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: A reader pointed out that I was misreading the Times poll result, and he is correct. The results for the follow-up questions do not add up to 100 percent, accounting for those who were not asked the questions.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.