Does the New York Times know how to read polls?

Published July 7, 2004 2:40PM (EDT)

What happens when fresh polling data gets in the way of a selected campaign narrative, in this case that Sen. John Kerry is not connecting with voters in Ohio? If it's the New York Times, the poll numbers just get ignored. How else to explain the paper's page-one piece over the weekend about the crucial swing state?

On Sunday, after detailing how Ohio is the new Florida -- a must-win state thats too close to call -- the paper reported, a "Democratic victory will also require convincing fence straddlers that Mr. Kerry has the right character, experience and message to run the country. So far, polls and interviews show, Mr. Kerry has yet to do that." The paper's proof for Kerry's supposed soft standing? "Several surveys earlier in the year showed Mr. Kerry with a slim margin. A more recent poll in The Cleveland Plain Dealer had Mr. Bush with a 47 percent to 41 percent lead," according to the Times.

The fact is that Cleveland Plain Dealer poll was published in May. The most recent Ohio polling data was released on Thursday, or three days before the Times published its story. Conducted by American Research Group, it shows Kerry beating Bush in the Buckeye state, 50 percent to 43 percent. And even with Nader in the race, Kerry still leads comfortably; 49 percent to 42 percent. The poll also addressed the Times' notion that voters had doubts about Kerry's "character." In fact, it's Bush who Ohio voters are uncomfortable with; the poll found 52 percent have an unfavorable view of him, while just 36 percent view Kerry unfavorably.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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