- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2001

A CBS News-New York Times survey showing declining public support for President Bush, his abilities and his agenda is being criticized by pollsters who say its methodology is tilted toward Democrats and gives an inaccurate reading of public opinion.
The national opinion survey, which the New York Times made the lead story on its front page on Thursday, presented an overwhelmingly dismal picture of the public's perception of the president, his leadership and his policies so far.
Some pollsters found many of its findings surprising and in some cases wildly out of sync with their own numbers. Critics said the poll didn't limit respondents to likely voters but questioned adults in general, which tends to give a distorted picture of public opinion.
"When I look at the Times' polls, they are generally tilted toward the Democrats and it took me a long time to figure out why," said John Zogby, an independent campaign pollster whose numbers were among the most accurate of the 2000 presidential election.
"They poll only adults, and all adults include larger percentages of minorities or poorer voters and voters even in the $25,000-to-$50,000 income range, all of which lean to the Democratic side," Mr. Zogby said. "When you screen for voters, you screen out a substantial percentage of Democratic-leaning individuals who do not vote.
"I think it is an inaccurate reading . It doesn't tell me anything," he said.
"So many of their numbers were so bad, while his job approval rating was not bad, 53 percent, that it just did not translate, which kind of raises questions were they getting a false reading," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas, president of the Tarrance Group.
"As you go from likely voters to adults, you are moving to an increasingly less-engaged individual, which means you are getting a false read," Mr. Goeas said. He also noted that the survey was taken on a weekend, "when you get a type of voter that is more liberal and more disconnected. It's a questionable sampling."
"Using just adults in a poll can skew the results. Usually the bigger universe of just adult voters favors the Democrats while the smaller universe of likely voters favors the Republicans," said Republican pollster John McLaughlin.
That appears to be the chief reason why the Times' poll turned out so negatively for Mr. Bush. While his job approval rating was at a 53 percent majority, with 34 percent disapproving, most of the other numbers were worse: 47 percent approved of his foreign policy; 39 percent approved of his environmental policies; and 33 percent approved of his energy policies.
In its other findings, 49 percent said he can be trusted to keep his word as president, and 57 percent said his policies favor the rich.
Michael Kagay, polling director for the New York Times, denied that his survey sample was tilted to get a desired result, saying he used traditional survey techniques followed by many other pollsters.
"During a presidential election year, we often concentrate on registered voters, and in the fall we concentrate on likely voters. In non-election years, we concentrate on just adults," Mr. Kagay said yesterday.
"There's no tilting going on. That's a tradition that George Gallup established in 1935, and most polls have followed that same tradition," he said. "If you limit your sampling to likely voters all the time, you disenfranchise about 50 percent of the people."
Mr. Zogby said that overall "there isn't very much good news public opinionwise for Bush. I honestly believe he has squandered a number of opportunities in the first five months."
"Where my numbers are at real variance with [the CBS-Times poll] is when I see some of the job approval numbers," he said.
"They have Bush's favorable-unfavorable at 37-29. My polls get a favorable-unfavorable rating of 60-30. Not only is that a huge difference, but in the Times poll, 33 percent don't even have an opinion," he said.
Mr. Zogby found some of the other unusually low numbers to be "strange." For example, Vice President Richard B. Cheney received a 27-14 percent favorable-unfavorable score. "How can 59 percent not have an opinion on Cheney?" he asked.
Mr. Zogby was reluctant to comment on the CBS-Times methodology, but he made it clear that he did not think polling adults accurately measures how the country views its president.
"I think on matters of politics and policy we really ought to see the options of likely voters as opposed to all adults. The likely voters are what give us the true read because they are the ones who go out and vote and are the ones to compare apples to apples," he said.

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