Saturday, March 24

FACTCHECK Says White House Spins Iraqi Polling

Tony Snow says two polls on Iraqi optimism are "diametrically opposed." A close look shows otherwise.

March 23, 2007


Results of an ABC News survey of public opinion in Iraq found much pessimism as the fourth anniversary of the war approached. When asked for comment, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow cited a British poll which he said offered a "different conclusion." The British poll's summary did sound less gloomy, but a close look at the numbers showed that the actual results of the two polls are similar.


On March 19th, ABC News, and its news media partners, announced the results of a new survey of public opinion in Iraq, the third in a series of Iraqi polls it has conducted roughly every year and a half beginning in February 2004. The previous poll was released in November 2005, and its findings were trumpeted by President Bush as proof that "Iraqis are optimistic -- and that optimism is justified." At that time we found that Bush was citing the polls findings selectively, and that neither Bush nor his critics had accurately painted the full complexity of Iraqi public opinion.

This time the Bush administration isn't embracing the latest poll at all. It found "a draining away of the underlying optimism that once prevailed." Conclusions were so unrelentingly negative that the report is titled, "Ebbing Hope in a Landscape of Loss."

When asked about these findings at a press briefing, Press Secretary Snow replied that "there was also a British poll at the same time that had almost diametrically opposed results." That mischaracterizes the British poll.

Snow is referring to a poll conducted by the British firm Opinion Research Business . There is nothing in the ORB poll results that contradicts ABC's poll findings. In fact, when the two survey companies asked similar questions, their results were very much in line. For example:

ABC Poll

Q2. Compared to the time before the war in Spring 2003, are things overall in your life much better now, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse or much worse?

42% -"Better"

36% -"Worse"

ORB "British" Poll

Q8. Taking everything into account, do you feel that things are better for you now under the present political system or do you think things were better for you before under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein?

49% -“Better under the current system”

26% -“Better under the previous regime”

So the British poll found a somewhat greater share of its sample – 49 percent as opposed to 42 in the ABC poll – saying that life is better under the current regime. However, the difference is not much more than the statistical margins of error (+/- 1.4% for ORB, +/- 2.5% for ABC). The polls were completed within 11 days of each other in February and early March.

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