It’s Obama vs. the New York Times!
(WSJ)—It’s not the first time the New York Times has been accused of bias, but it may be the funniest. Charlie Spiering of the Washington Examiner reports that the charge was leveled this morning by the Obama campaign. MSNBC host Chuck Todd asked deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter to comment on the latest Times/CBS News poll, and she said: “The methodology was significantly biased.” She then “said that she didn’t want to bore the viewers with talk of methodology, but repeated that she believed the poll was flawed.” Pressed by Todd, she said: “It’s a biased sample, so they re-biased the same sample.” Glad she cleared that up.
The Times’s headline finding was that an overwhelming majority of respondents, 67%, think the president backed same-sex marriage last week “mostly for political reasons,” while only 24% think he did it “mostly because he thinks it is right.” This column agrees with the 24% more than the 67%, but in any case Obama has managed a neat trick: He has managed to look like a cynical opportunist while taking an unpopular position.
One reason to think this Times poll may be more unbiased than usual is its findings on the substantive question of same-sex marriage:
About 4 in 10, or 38 percent, of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent favor civil unions short of formal marriage. Thirty-three percent oppose any form of legal recognition. When civil unions are eliminated as an option, opposition to same-sex marriage rises to 51 percent, compared with 42 percent support.
That makes the Times/CBS poll an outlier among polls, but puts it in line with the results of actual voting. Every state where same-sex marriage has been on the ballot, it has lost–usually by considerably larger margins, but mostly in socially conservative states. Forty percent support and majority opposition seems in the right ball park.
A reader whose identity we’ll conceal explains why the polls may be unreliable on this question:
With a marriage amendment on the ballot in Minnesota, we have been assaulted by the pro-gay marriage media and social-media coverage. I say assaulted because the message is not a positive argument for gay marriage, but rather a tarring as bigots of those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage. So of course polls would undercount support for the traditional view of marriage.
A person could tell a pollster that he believes in a position and risk the pollster thinking that he is bigoted, or he could toe the media line, give the pollster a fulsome answer of support for the measure and then vote his conscience privately.
I know what I do (and why not, anything more public than this email could risk my career).
The Times/CBS poll of registered voters (not likely ones) found Mitt Romney leading Obama, 46% to 43%. A curious finding is that over the past month, the “gender” gap seems to have vanished. When the same respondents were interviewed in April, men favored Romney 49% to 43%, while women favored Obama 49% to 43%. In May both sexes favored Romney, the gents by 45% to 42% and the ladies by 46% to 44%. Independents favored Romney by one point in April and seven in May.
If the Obama campaign is mad at the Times, maybe David Brooks can make it up to them. In a column today, Brooks marvels that Obama is “even close” in the polls: “If you look at the fundamentals, the president should be getting crushed right now.” The economy stinks, the country is far more conservative than Obama, his major policies are unpopular, and he is losing ground among independents, Catholics, young voters and Hispanics.