Poll Position

According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, President Bush leads Senator Kerry 46 percent to 43 percent in the race for the presidency. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t noticed: as Mickey Kaus pointed out yesterday, the Times buried the news in the sixth paragraph of its story about the poll, stressing instead “growing concern among Americans that the nation is veering in the wrong direction.” But at least the Times mentioned the story: CBS has yet to do so on its flagship newscast.

On the “Evening News,” this week, CBS has so far taken a powder on its own polling results — despite the fact that it has mentioned polls in which Kerry led Bush five times since beginning of February. (Thanks to an alert reader for noting the discrepancy.) Here’s the rundown: On Feb. 7, a reporter talked about a Newsweek poll showing “Kerry would beat the president if the election were held today”; on Feb. 16, Dan Rather highlighted a national poll showing Kerry ahead of Bush by five percentage points; on Feb. 28, a reporter mentioned another poll showing Kerry (slightly) ahead; and on March 7 and 8, the program highlighted polls showing Kerry beating Bush in Florida.

The new poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, so the results technically show a statistical dead heat. But Bush’s surge is notable — after all, he trailed Kerry by five percentage points a month ago. CBS did highlight the poll on its website, but its failure to make even a passing mention on the “Evening News” gives ample fodder to those alleging liberal media bias. We’re still not persuaded, but this kind of stuff sure doesn’t help.

Brian Montopoli

Update, 3/17, 4:00 p.m.: Andie Silvers, a spokesperson for the CBS “Evening News,” called with this statement on why the poll has not been mentioned on the program: “A closer look at the latest CBS News/New York Times poll indicates that much of it was conducted prior to the recent Madrid bombings and Spanish election, events that could impact the public’s opinion about the president and the campaign.  Accordingly, on Monday, [March] 15, the CBS “Evening News” spent considerable time covering those two major events in-depth and did not include the poll results, which, on that day, might not have accurately reflected public opinion.”

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.