Bob Somerby has been an invaluable critic of misleading reporting and commentary at his Daily Howler website, particularly during the 1999-2000 smearing of Al Gore. But today's post botches a couple of points about Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.
First, Somerby calls Andrew Sullivan "an ardent dumb-ass" for saying Hillary's polling numbers are "absolutely dead straight-line":
But then, omigod! It semi-happened! Howard Fineman almost mentioned the relevant facts! And he did cite that latest Newsweek survey:FINEMAN (continuing directly): In fairness to her, after, after the roll-out she had this week, the numbers in our poll—the Newsweek poll and others—were very positive, very powerful actually. Cooties notwithstanding.In fact, Clinton led McCain by seven in the Newsweek poll back in early December, long before last weeks events. And Fineman didnt say the thing it kills pundits to say; Fineman didnt specifically say that Clinton was ahead of McCain and Giuliani in several major polls. Viewers were left to puzzle about what sort of polls had been so powerful. But at least he made a first small step toward interjecting some relevant information. Not that it made a bit of difference to one ardent dumb-ass:SULLIVAN (continuing directly): If you look at her polling all these years, it is absolutely dead straight-line. People who dont like her are not going to change their minds. And theyre about, over 40 percent.But Clintons polling isnt straight line—although, to be perfectly fair to Sullivan, hes probably too clueless to know that.
Actually, Sullivan is making a perfectly accurate claim. The graphics produced by University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles Franklin, which both Sullivan and I linked, show remarkable stability in her favorable/unfavorable numbers. Her head-to-head trial heat polls against top Republican contenders are much more noisy, but that's because the election isn't for almost two years!
Somerby goes on to claim that Hillary "has been ahead of McCain for months":
Where do Dem voters, including Iowa party activists, get the idea that Clinton cant be elected? In part, from endless TV propaganda, and from reports like Balzs. People who watched the Matthews Show heard a pundit aggressively say that Clintons polling has been dead straight-line; no one in the panel managed to say that shes has been ahead of McCain for months. This is how a nation of voters gets the press corps preferred ideas in their heads. This is how our party activists end up reciting the RNCs points.
However, the majority of polls actually show Hillary trailing McCain. For instance, when considering polls taken in December or January that are listed in the pollingreport.com 2008 polling archive, Hillary is leading in the Newsweek and ABC/Washington Post polls, roughly tied in Time's and CNN's, and losing in the Diageo/Hotline, Cook, Investor's Business Daily, Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, NBC/Wall Street Journal, NPR, Fox News, WNBC/Marist and GW Battleground polls. And in general, older polls show her doing worse. It's simply not true that she has been ahead of him "for months".