CNN on Wednesday night and Thursday morning trumpeted the results of a poll of the mainly Democratic audience that watched President Obama's health care speech as "a great showing" for the President and "a reason to celebrate." But because the poll only included those who watched the speech, it over-sampled Democrats (and under-sampled Republicans and independents) by a substantial margin.
CNN's Web site also touted the poll as finding a "double-digit post-speech jump for Obama plan ," with 67% favoring ObamaCare after the speech, compared to 53% beforehand. When CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley detailed the poll's results on Wednesday night's Anderson Cooper 360 and Thursday's American Morning, she at least prefaced her report by saying she needed to "caveat this to death before we do it," telling viewers how the poll over-sampled Democrats. Online readers only gained such perspective at the very end of the ten paragraph story.
MRC President Brent Bozell released the following statement regarding the CNN poll:
CNN has no business airing a 'poll' that is straight partisan reaction from those already in the can for ObamaCare. Caveat or no caveat, CNN was dead wrong to run this and on national television proclaim, 'We have important numbers here.' It is an embarrassment that their news directors deemed it newsworthy to begin with. This network simply cannot be trusted to cover this hugely important story fairly.
MRC news analyst Matthew Balan caught the coverage on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and American Morning.
# Anderson Cooper 360, about 10:03pm ET Wednesday night:
ANDERSON COOPER: Polling results as well - people who watched the address on whether they liked it or not, whether they think it will help or hurt the debate, and perhaps, most crucially, did viewers actually come away understanding what President Obama's vision of health care reform is? We asked, did President Obama clearly state his health care goals? In our survey of people who watched tonight, 72 percent said yes; 26 percent said no.
With that, I want to turn things over to best political team on television and John King. John?
JOHN KING: Anderson, back to you in Afghanistan in just a moment. Let's bring in our panel here- Candy Crowley, Paul Begala, Ed Rollins, David Gergen.
Candy, let's start with those polling numbers. People say the President did a good job communicating with them. Do we have any indication that more Americans say. 'Okay, I'm for his plan?'
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me just sort of caveat this to death before we do it, and that is that, first of all, these are just people who watched the speech, and we know that millions more will get little clips of it and listen to the punditry than actually watch the speech. It also skews heavily Democratic. We think that the Democratic sample in this flash poll is eight to 10 points higher than it is in the general population.
Having said that, the President did very well in this poll. When we asked, what is your reaction to the President's speech - 56 percent very positive; somewhat positive 21 percent; negative 21 percent. So, that's, you know, that is a great showing, obviously. Interesting, also, that he picked up support here for his plan, and we all know that this is, you know, can waver. But, before this speech, about 53 percent of Americans were in favor of this; after the speech, 67 percent. And, as you pointed out earlier, that's about what Bill Clinton had at the end of his speech on health care, and we all know where that went. And, also, I think we have to just understand that these are not- you know, that polls go up and down, particularly flash polls. This is an interesting look. Obviously, Democrats loved what they saw tonight.
KING: So, a reason to celebrate based on the numbers, but not overcelebrate.
# CNN's American Morning, about 7:04am ET, Thursday
CAROL COSTELLO: By all accounts, it was a critical night for the President, but now that his make or break speech is behind him, what is his next move? You heard a little bit from Elaine [Quijano] that he's going to [be] talking again today. But did he clearly explain what he wants last night to the American people?
Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now with reaction. She's part of the best political team on television. So Candy, do you think he changed any minds?
CANDY CROWLEY: I think we can't tell that right now. I want to show you some numbers we got last night - a flash poll. There are some shortcomings to a poll like this. First of all, this isn't all of America. This is from people who watched the speech. It is heavily weighted to Democrats. But I think we have some important numbers here.
Look at the post-speech numbers versus the pre-speech numbers on: Do you support the President's health care plan? So pre-speech, 53 percent favored; post-speech, 67 percent. Again, heavily weighted towards Democrats, but one of the constituencies the President needed to talk to was his own party, who kept saying, 'Step up, step up, you need to be the leader in this,' and so, I think that is good news for him, even given that it's just among Democrats.
But if you look at that speech - and one more little historical caveat, and that's that the 67 percent approval of his health care plan is exactly what President Bill Clinton got right after the speech he gave on health care and that-
COSTELLO: And we all know how well that turned out.
CROWLEY: That's right. So we don't want to go too far in extrapolating things. But I think this certainly was a speech that attempted to reach an awful lot of different constituencies, but Democrats were among the most important.
-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.