Gallup announced yesterday that it had taken a snap poll after the speech given by George Bush on the war in Iraq from Fort Bragg. The poll showed some movement bolstering support for the war. In fact, it showed Bush picking up ten points on whether we are winning in Iraq (up to 54%), twelve points on keeping troops in Iraq until the situation improves as opposed to setting an exit date for their evacuation (now at 70%/25%), and seven points on whether Bush has a clear plan for handling the war in Iraq (up to 63%/35%).
All of these gains were made, Gallup points out, despite the fact that the speech had the lowest ratings of any prime-time presidential address in Bush’s terms of office. Only 23 million people watched the speech, and Gallup notes that most of them consisted of Bush supporters. CNN also reported on the low turnout for the speech:
President Bush’s latest address to the nation, urging Americans to stand firm in Iraq, drew the smallest TV audience of his tenure, Nielsen Media Research reported Wednesday.
Live coverage of Bush’s half-hour speech Tuesday night from the Ft. Bragg military base in North Carolina averaged 23 million viewers combined on four major U.S. broadcast networks and three leading cable news channels, Nielsen said.
Designed largely to bolster sagging public support for the persistently bloody conflict in Iraq, the speech fell 8.6 million viewers shy of Bush’s previous low as president, his August 9, 2001 address on stem cell research, which was carried on six networks.
Oddly enough, however, CNN did not report on the Gallup flash poll in its article on the speech. Neither did USA Today, which instead regurgitated the results of its previous polling while headlining its report thus — “Speech fails to quell some viewers’ unease”:
LaMagna and Tomanio were among those surveyed in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday. They were called again after Bush’s address. In the poll, 53% said the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq. That reflects significant movement since the Iraqi elections five months ago, when only 45% said it was a mistake.
The erosion of support for the president’s policy was especially evident among groups Bush could once claim, according to a USA TODAY analysis of four surveys, combined to provide a larger and more reliable sample. Eight of 10 Republicans remain supportive of the war; eight of 10 Democrats already were opposed to it.
That gives the strong impression that the speech had no effect on polling, one that the Gallup poll refutes, at least in its small sample and short period for polling, both hallmarks of flash polling in general. One could argue that neither CNN nor USA Today were made aware of the Gallup poll, but that might be difficult, given Gallup’s description of it in their report as a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll:
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup instant-reaction poll shows that President Bush apparently persuaded many viewers of his speech Tuesday night to be more optimistic about the war in Iraq. Compared with their responses before the speech, people who tuned in are now more likely to say the United States is winning the Iraq war, that Bush has a clear plan for handling the war, and that the United States should keep troops in Iraq until the situation there gets better.
So why didn’t either of Gallup’s partners report these results?
UPDATE: CQ reader DG Bellak notes that CNN did report this, although it did not come up when I searched the CNN site. Good catch; my bad.