MediaWatch: September 7, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 14

Sober and Sensible Polls?

Since the beginning of Monicagate, the networks have used their pollsters to reinforce how popular Bill Clinton is and how most people don’t care about perjury concerning his "private life." But on August 12, five days before Clinton’s grand jury date, ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer rejoiced in the results on

"As the Monica Lewinsky affair spins toward its rendezvous with destiny, it’s worth celebrating what has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the scandal: the sober and sensible way average Americans have responded to the whole brouhaha....Pundits hate this kind of thing; Those who declared him dead have had to reconfigure their best lines to accommodate — drat! — actual public opinion."

Langer explained: "It turns out that most Americans have responded to the Lewinsky affair with more of a head scratch than a knee jerk. Their message on this score has been steady: Clinton’s personal behavior, however unsavory it’s alleged to be, is indeed personal."

As the President’s admission drew nearer, Langer endorsed the White House spin that a strong economy negates sex, lies, and perjury: "Lewinsky’s a far juicier story, but when it comes to evaluating presidential performance, average Americans check their wallets. The lowest unemployment in a generation, trivial inflation, growing personal income: What’s a stained dress in the face of these? So far, not much."