Poll: 90 Percent Believe Administration Wrongdoing in CIA Leak
In yet more bad news for the Bush administration, ninety percent of the country thinks there was some wrongdoing in the Novak-Plame-Rove-Libby CIA leak affair.
Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative’s identity, according to a national poll released Tuesday. Thirty-nine percent said some administration officials acted illegally in the matter, in which the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, was revealed. The same percentage of respondents in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said administration officials acted unethically, but did nothing illegal.
The poll was split nearly evenly on what respondents thought of Bush officials’ ethical standards — 51 percent saying they were excellent or good and 48 percent saying they were not good or poor.
The figures represent a marked shift from a 2002 survey in which nearly three-quarters said the standards were excellent or good and only 23 percent said they were fair or poor.
Of course, the 2002 survey was taken during the afterglow of 9/11. Given the current political climate, the administration starts off with 50 percent thinking they’re crooked.
Given the overall disdain Americans have for politicians, the default position is that all of them are corrupt unless proven otherwise. This is especially true when there’s a special prosecutor empaneled, as Americans naturally believe that anyone suspected of a crime is probably guilty of something, which is why prosecutors can “indict a ham sandwich.”
Further, using the wording “nothing illegal or unethical” is likely to produce skewed results, as it is both a double barreled question (illegal OR unethical) and because “nothing” is a rather strong word.
Still, these numbers aren’t good. Trust is the primary currency of a president.
Update: Here are the complete poll results from USA Today. Here’s the relevant portion appropos this story:
As you may know, several members of the Bush administration have been accused of leaking to reporters the identity of a woman working for the CIA. Which of the following statements best describes your view of top Bush administration officials in these matters Ã¢€” some Bush administration officials did something illegal, no Bush administration officials did anything illegal, but some officials did something unethical, or no Bush administration official did anything seriously wrong?
BASED ON 496 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B
Illegal Unethical Nothing wrong No opinion 2005 Oct 21-23 39 39 10 12
The screening on this question is quite poor. Rather than beginning a question with “As you may know,” when they damn well may not, it would be far superior to have a screen question to see if they were aware of the issue and ask only those who did what their opinion is. If you say, “As you may know, X has been accused of horrible crime Y” you are going to get a substantial number of negative reactions even if X and Y are completely fabricated, as people are loathe to admit they don’t know something they are think they are supposed to.
Additionally, it is not clear how they divided the sample in half for Forms A and B. Regardless, the margin of error is increased substantially.
Of course, when only 10 percent think nothing illegal or unethical happened, many of these concerns are mitigated. Even a well-worded question asked only of knowledgable would have produced disastrous results for the administration. But Gallup is one of the oldest polling firms in the country; they shouldn’t be committing such elementary errors.