Anti-Bush bias at CBS? Or, Dan would Rather not

There have been a few long debates here on whether the major media is liberal (the most recent here).

As usual on a political subject, opinion is decidedly mixed.

But I’m wondering what those who think the idea is ridiculous have to say about CBS’s decision not to report on the findings of its own poll following George W. Bush’s first address to Congress last week. A good synopsis of which can be found here, in this op-ed that appeared in the Washington Times today.

(Feel free to disregard the editorialized slant. I’m only interested in what y’all think of the facts as presented.)

According to the Media Research Center, which made public this little nugget that a few media outlets have since picked up on, CBS commissioned a nationwide poll immediately after the president’s speech.

The poll found that 88 percent approved of Bush’s proposals as outlined in the speech, and more than two-thirds, 67 percent, approved of his $1.6 trillion tax cut plan.

The poll’s results, however, were never reported by CBS News. They instead went with a news story that featured as its “people on the street” two who expressed ambivalence or skepticism of the plan.

Opined the Times:

The piece says Rather introduced the story “framing the debate between Mr. Bush on the one side and ‘Democrats and some independent economists [who] believe the Bush push is risky business.’”

Wait, there’s more:

Now, granted, few details were out on Bush’s plan at the time of the poll, just after the speech. Those numbers would have most certainly moved around, and very likely down, as more details emerged.

Since when has that stopped the national media from reporting on their poll findings as news? That’s why they undertake the polls, isn’t it? To report on their findings, get a gauge of where America is at?

I had my own problems with CBS News and its slant long before this. But this really amazes me. It seems so brazen.

Poor Dan Rather! Why does HE have to pay for the sins of Walter Cronkite?

Look, I’m 40 years old, which means I remember networks news in the 1970s. In those days, there is no denying that Walter Cronkite pushed an explicitly left-wing agenda, as did Garrick Uttley at NBC. In those days, ABC came closest to being moderate (though far from conservative).

Many of my conservative brethren foremd their notions of “the liberal media” then, and act as if NOTHING has changed since then.

Well, a LOT has changed since then. For one thing, Cronkite gave way to the far more centrist (NOT liberal) Dan Rather, Uttley gave way to the far more centrist (NOT liberal)Tom Brokaw. ABC has, of course, moved WAY to the left, with the smug, supercilious Peter Jennings… but today, there’s a FOURTH network- and let’s face it, Fox NEws is at LEAST as conservative as ABC is liberal.

So, lay off Dan Rather, and quit whining, right wingers! Things are a LOT better than they were 25 years ago, from our standpoint at least. Why keep pretending they aren’t?


That Washington Times editorial is basically meaningless as currently written. It doesn’t make any attempt to find out how the question was asked and why CBS decided not to go with the poll. I suspect they might have realized the methodology was flawed (or maybe there was no methodology…It was just one of those polls up on their web site…Who knows!)

And, yes, the topic of media bias has been discussed to death previously. I think most agree that reporters tend to be a bit left of center (although one could also call this libertarian) on social issues and that it may affect their reporting. On economic issues, they are probably not…And, it seems to some of us that the corporate perspective almost completely dominates.

The findings of the poll were posted on the CBSNews web site. For whatever that is worth.

I don’t know whether they are attempting to offer perspective or downplaying Bush’s numbers by some of the statements in that story. But that could just be my own viewpoint coloring my interpretation of what they say.

I would have nothing negative to say about NBC’s news coverage. Indeed, I get most of my news these days from MSNBC, which I think has now surpassed CNN for in-depth domestic news coverage (and yes, I do like some FoxNews shows as well). I haven’t watched ABC News enough to have a perspective of them.

CBS, however, Rather in particular, is something of a joke when it comes to its bias in political coverage.

You’ll get no argument from me that FoxNews operates from a starting point that’s right-of-center. I question, however, whether they would quash one of their own polls if it showed support for a Democratic position.

These two quotes should demonstrate why the 88% figure is grossly misleading.


I agree that the op-ed goes light on the details. But the afore-linked CBSNews story provides how the questioning was framed, and shows that the story apparently wasn’t dumped over concern about the poll’s methodology. From the web story:


Call me naive, but I thought the decisions about who/what to report were made by the producers. Rather undoubtedly pulls more political weight than your average local anchorman, but surely he doesn’t determine what to report single-handedly.

So if there is a bias, as indeed it appears, then I think the blame ought to go the TPTB at CBS and not just Dan Rather.

Milossarian, you really think that its appropriate to report poll numbers that require a calculator to make any sense of at all?

I, for instance am unable to determine the size of the sample who watched so can’t compare this with ratings information to determine if it has any relation to reality. How is it even possible that the two margins of error could be so close when the number who watched could concievably be less than 100.

This is a terrible survey for television where you don’t have time to reflect on what the numbers mean. Furthermore the percentage of people who watched and agree with the proposals is utterly meaningless without some measure of their attitudes and expectations prior to seeing the speech which would demonstrate only whether the speech itself was convincing.

Please explain to me why this nmber is any more meaningful then the percentage of pickup truck owners who agree with a tax cut.

I don’t have an opinion on this issue…but I believe that Rather is also the executive producer of the CBS Evening News (in addition to being anchor)

Perhaps CBS suddenly realized that polls are an instrument of evil and that no good can come from them. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

Since when has a News Outlet worried about someone needing “a calculator”?

They had numbers. They undoubtedly spent money to get those numbers. Yet they made a report that implied the exact opposite of those numbers. THAT’S what’s odd… not that they didn’t report the numbers, but that they provided information that was CONTRARY to what their poll had indicated.

At worst, this indicates a decided liberal bias. At best, this indicates shitty reporting.

I don’t think it shows liberal bias at all…I think they are contributing to “stirring the pot”. Let’s face it TV news is about ratings as is printed news is about readership. If there is no blood and guts or political controversy to report people lose interest. They watch the shopping network or E channel instead. If everyone in the country agrees with Bush or a significant enough number, then where’s the news in that?


I think I’d go with Needs2know on this one. “Everyone agrees!” is not exactly a great lead.

Interestingly, Milo, when I was watching presidential lection coverage, I got aggravated at some of the obvious liberal biases displayed by the occasional correspondent. CBS was the one I finally settled on as being the most even-handed. So, either they’ve had a phase change since the election, or something else is motivating what they report on, eh? :slight_smile:

I’m a little stunned at the responses of Needs2know and Necros.

Every major news outlet I know of, following a presidential speech where an agenda is laid out, rather immediately gets public response. This has been the practice for as far back as I can remember.

You’re saying it became less relevant and newsworthy because too many people agreed?

Sorry. That one doesn’t fly.

Don’t forget: It isn’t that CBS didn’t think the reaction of regular folks was important. They made sure to include it in the first story they did on the president’s speech. Rather than going with a nationwide cross-section of almost 1,000 Americans and a scientific poll that they paid for, however, they chose two ladies in a coffee shop who were less than enthusiastic about Bush’s proposals. A viewpoint that did not reflect the findings of their own survey.

That their second story cites unnamed polls showing people leaning for the Democratic plan indicates they do indeed give credence to some polls. Apparently, just the ones with results that fit the ideological slant they want to put on the news.

I’m surprised you haven’t seen this site.

The site is very well organized and easy to navigate.

Hi, SaxFace! :smiley:


I never would have thought to look. Seems quite comprehensive, though.

Shoots to hell my theory that all Web folk with too much time on their hands are liberals. :slight_smile:

At least you can take some comfort from liberal perceptions that it is the opposite.

The concept of balanced reporting leads to a consistent republican bias because the press has generally abdicated any responsibility to determine the truth of political assertions. If you hold that view then Rather is a little less right leaning then some others but only slightly and not to the extent that he has an actual liberal bias.

No, I don’t even buy that myself all the time but that is what it feels like. I think most of the mainstream press makes a genuine effort to be unbiased but achieving this is an almost impossible task.

When looking at this specific example I notice that none of you has adressed the fact that the 88% figure is entirely meaningless and grossly misleading. While it may be that previous poorly designed and misleading polls have been reported this isn’t an excuse to do it again. Who knows who designed it and who sat down to look at the numbers and said what the fuck does this mean? The fact that you think misleading numbers should be reported says more about your bias and expectations of the press than it does about the press itself.

You’re joking, right?

You’re saying that the Press takes everything at face value? Do you know what a “scoop” is?

How so? 88% of (almost) 1000 people polled is a helluva lot more accurate then 100% of a grand-fucking-total of TWO people polled.

But please, enlighten us. Explain how the 88% figure is “entirely meaningless” and “grossly misleading”.

SPOOFE, I think what Ned is referring to is the remark he made in his first post in the thread, where he juxtaposed two quotes, the first saying that 88% of those who heard the speech approved of Bush’s proposals, and the second saying that supporters are much more likely to tune in to speeches than opponents—in this case, 71% to 28%.

So in other words, what the poll discovered was mostly that people who already support Bush’s positions agreed with his proposals in his speech. While I think it’s interesting that more of those polled (88%) liked the proposals than had previously (71%) liked the positions, I have to agree that the overall finding of “Bush supporters agree with Bush” is not really news.

(And btw, I think if you reread Ned’s most recent post more closely, it’ll be clear that the “republican bias” remark you object to is being presented as a sort of capsule summary of “liberal perceptions” that “[he] doesn’t even buy [him]self all the time.” Just an illustration of how easy it is for liberals and conservatives alike to feel that the prevailing media bias is obviously against one’s own viewpoint.)

What Kimtsu said.

Your perception, even after posts discussing what the figure meant, that 88% of almost 1000 people had a particular opinion on the issue demonstrates quite nicely how misleading this survey is. From the numbers given we have no idea how many of the 928 people watched the speech.

We know that those that did watch the speech were heavily biased towards the republican side. Using the various figures we could even extrapolate an educated guess as to what the general public might feel on the issue but our accuracy certainly wouldn’t be within 4 or 5%. Indeed, we really would have no statistical method for determining what that accuracy is so that wouldn’t be very helpful.

Why would any responsible news organization report such garbage?

The fact that some here seem to recognize that this poll resulted in utterly meaningless numbers and still think an unbiased news organization should report them says a lot.