How AP Can Make a Poll Say Whatever It Wants It To

An AP piece published across the Web today (9/16/10) carries this headline: AP-GfK Poll: Nearly Half Oppose Tax Hikes for Rich.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it–just like you could report the results of the 1988 election by saying that Michael Dukakis got “nearly half” of the popular vote. The more logical way of putting it would be that more than half support letting tax cuts expire for the rich: 54 percent to 44 percent. But framing it instead around the minority position lets them focus on how Democrats might worry about “provoking the 44 percent who say the reductions should include the wealthy,” as opposed to worrying about provoking the majority who don’t feel that way.

And that majority is particularly strong among Democratic voters (three quarters), who are presumably the ones Democratic lawmakers need to be most worried about, particularly given the sharp drop in enthusiasm among those voters.

It’s also worth pointing out that this poll seems to be a bit of an outlier, according to the data available on A recent Pew poll conducted at basically the same time (9/9-12/10) put support for keeping tax cuts for the super rich at only 29 percent (16 percent among Democrats), a National Journal poll (8/27-30/10) put it at 35 percent, and a USA Today/Gallup poll (8/27-30/10) had it at 37 percent. A media outlet’s write-up of its own poll doesn’t often include such information about other polls, but it certainly would be helpful to readers trying to make sense of the numbers.

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.