Yesterday Barack Obama received the endorsement of General Colin Powell. This is a significant endorsement from a respected public figure who is a Republican that has served as Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war. And it was no ordinary endorsement. Powell was as effusive in his praise of Obama as he was dismissive of John McCain.
Immediately following his appearance on Meet the Press, the Republican smear machine cranked up their toxic rhetoric to belittle Powell with allegations of everything from naivete to racism. But that wasn’t enough to blunt the impact of Powell’s support for Obama. So Fox News is now promoting what they call “poll” that shows overwhelming support (68% to 23%) for McCain by members of the military. In the segment, Fox’s Megyn Kelly introduces the poll and leads off with some broad conclusions about its results:
“Well the Military Times is polling active service members on their pick for president, and it seems pretty clear from that poll who the armed services would like as a Commander in Chief.”
What Kelly fails to mention is that the “poll” is not a scientifically conducted survey designed to represent the views of the military community. It is merely an expression of preference by a self-selecting group of respondents who happened to return a questionnaire sent to subscribers to the Military Times. There was no attempt to create a sample group whose responses could be expanded to the military at large. There was no demographic targeting. This poll has no more relevance than an online poll that simply collects the responses of those who feel like clicking on it. But none of that stopped Kelly from casting the results as “pretty clear,” nor did it stop reporter Jennifer Griffin from surmising that…
“Democrats, in essence, have not made the inroads into the military vote that they hoped to in the last four to eight years.”
[Update - 1/20/09: Sorry. It appears that the original video with Megyn Kelly has been removed. However, Fox News did exactly the same thing two weeks ago with John Kasich guest hosting on the O'Reilly Factor]
This deliberate distortion is wholly the work of Fox News. The Military Times responsibly reported their methodology for the poll on their web site. It says in part that…
“Characteristics of Military Times readers may also affect the results. The group surveyed is significantly older than the military as a whole, and the survey group contains a higher percentage of officers than is present in the military.”
“Conversely, junior enlisted troops, women and racial and ethnic minorities made up a smaller share of the sample than of the military at large. While it is difficult to predict how those factors affect the results, those groups are generally regarded as more supportive of Democratic candidates.”
Fox News purposely left out this information because it didn’t advance their agenda. Clearly their intention is to inject an argument to mitigate the newsmaking endorsement by Powell. So Fox News went looking for something to counter the credibility that Powell has with the military and the general public. They found this survey that was actually published two weeks ago, and they have elevated it to a major story that has run multiple times throughout the day.
So who do the military really support? The non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released a report grading the candidates on their support for military legislation. Obama received a “B”, while McCain barely passed with a “D”. Perhaps a better measure is one where troops are putting their money where their mouths are. A survey last August by the Center for Responsive Politics revealed that…
“U.S. soldiers have donated more presidential campaign money to Democrat Barack Obama than to Republican John McCain, a reversal of previous campaigns in which military donations tended to favor GOP White House hopefuls.”
It’s no coincidence that Fox News began touting the two week old Military Times poll on the day after Powell’s surprise announcement. And it’s no surprise that Fox would deliberately distort the poll and its meaning. What continues to surprise me is that anyone still gives any credence to anything that Fox News reports.