NYT, CBS parse new Clinton poll

In very different ways

Today’s New York Times/CBS poll on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was reported, as expected, by both outlets. But despite identical data, the stories’ ledes drew a stark contrast. (The national poll was conducted between July 9-17 with 1,554 randomly selected adults across party lines.)

The Times headline read “Women Supportive but Skeptical of Clinton, Poll Says.” The piece stressed remaining ambivalence about Clinton among some women voters, particularly those who are older or married. The poll’s latest finding—not very new at all—points to “warning signs” for Clinton, while labeling her an historically polarizing figure: “opinion is now evenly divided with 40 percent of registered voters having a favorable opinion and 40 percent unfavorable. (Among all respondents to the poll, 41 percent viewed her favorably and 38 percent unfavorably.)”

CBS News took a different approach to reporting the poll. Offering new insight into the general public’s notion of her “inevitability”—more sanguine about Mrs. Clinton’s prospects—the network had a strikingly different headline: “Poll: 63% Say Clinton ‘Likely’ To Win CBS/NYT Poll: Majorities Of Both Men And Women Think New York Democrat Will Be Next President.” And the story’s first sentence: “A new CBS News/New York Times poll out Thursday shows 63 percent of voters believe it’s likely that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will be elected the first woman president in U.S. history if she wins her party’s nomination.”

So, one poll but two notably contrasting views—who was right? We already know that opinion of Clinton is mixed—and of voters’ strong responses, for and against. But the fresh insight here is from CBS: the sense Clinton’s inevitability and formidability—held once by Democrats alone—is leaking into the general public, so much that a majority of Americans think she will win.

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Alexander Heffner is an intern at CJR.