Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh-oh, Reuters is interpreting surveys again

Reuters correspondents are notoriously inept at accurately conveying the results of polls taken by various think tanks on issues pertaining to the Middle East conflict.  Or perhaps they're just notoriously skilled at card stacking.  In either event, the media giant can be relied upon to play up those poll results which bolster its own worldview and downplay or ignore those results which undermine the same.

Reuters reports today on a poll by the New America Foundation (NAF) where 1,000 Israelis were asked a series of questions about the conflict, their feelings towards key players like Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and their views on a variety of possible outcomes surrounding the peace process.

Reuters leads with:
U.S. President Barack Obama has a higher approval rating among Israelis than is widely believed, undercutting arguments he has lost Israeli public support for new peace efforts, a poll said on Thursday.
Given that other polls indicate only 4% -- 6% of the Israeli public see Obama's policies as pro-Israel, almost any improvement over figures in the cellar would be applauded by the pro-Obama crowd.  But there are serious problems associated with both the NAF survey methodology and the way Reuters reports the results.

First off, while the NAF survey doesn't tell us how they selected their respondents, we do know that of 1,000 people interviewed, 160 were Israeli Arabs.  This demographic group is likely to have a very different perspective on US Middle East policy than that of Israeli Jews.  Yet sentiments of the former are conflated with sentiments of the latter, almost certainly skewing putative support for Obama upward.

Secondly, while the NAF poll suggests that 41% of Israelis rate their feelings toward Obama as "warm", 55% say that he does not support Israel, 54% say that he does not share their values, and 43% say that he is naive.  Not exactly the vote of confidence Reuters suggests in their lead.  So we see that while a portion of the Israeli public may generally like Obama (in a warm and fuzzy way), they clearly do not identify with him nor do they believe that he can be relied upon to protect Israeli lives and interests.  Thus, while Israelis may show "support and solid backing for a possible future U.S.-brokered peace deal with the Palestinians", it ain't with Obama at the helm.

Futher, Reuters fails to mention that 55% of Israeli respondents don't believe that Fatah is capable of enforcing a peace agreement if one were signed and -- get this -- 82% of Jewish Israelis think it likely that, "the Palestinians will not be able to control the extremists on their side who will continue to launch attacks on Israel".  Ouch!  We can certainly understand why Reuters would omit those unpleasantries.

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