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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 03:37 PM ET, 09/23/2011

#Pollwatch: How rich is “rich”? Who trusts the media? And what about pre-existing conditions?

1. How do Americans define “rich”? Two Fox News polls show wildly different answers to this question. At last night’s GOP debate, Fox News’ Shannon Bream reported results from an opt-in web survey finding 44 percent defining rich as having an income of over $1 million. But a Fox News poll in March 2009 showed just 12 percent saying $1 million or more would make them feel rich.

Have views shifted, or is something else at play? Web click-ins are not scientific, notoriously unreliable and subject to manipulation. The 2009 poll, by contrast, employed a random sample of phone numbers. But there’s also reason to believe that what people consider to be “rich” depends on the response options offered in the poll.

A nationally representative 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll in 2010 found comparable numbers to the Fox click-in survey. Neither poll offered categories under $100,000 as response options, potentially hinting to poll-takers that this was not a valid response. By comparison, 18 percent of voters in the 2009 Fox poll — who were given no response options (question asked open-ended) — volunteered incomes over $100,000 as “rich.”

Open-ended questions are probably the more accurate way to ask such questions, and the rest of the 2009 Fox poll results are interesting: 45 percent of voters say families with incomes over $250,000 are rich, but for 40 percent of adults, the “rich” threshold is lower than that.

2. Media seen as inaccurate and biased (duh) — Record numbers of Americans say stories in the media are often inaccurate (66 percent), tend to favor one side (77 percent) and are subject to powerful people and groups (80 percent), according to surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The polls depict a nation deeply cynical about the role news organizations play in American society.

Ratings of media accuracy have become less partisan since the George W. Bush administration, but only because views of the media have soured among Democrats and independents; Republicans were already there. Today, at least six in 10 adults of all partisan stripes say news stories are often inaccurate.

Despite the growing sense of inaccuracy and bias, 59 percent say they trust information they get from the national media at least a little bit (it’s 69 percent for local news), much higher than for other sources, including the Obama administration (50 percent), Congress (37 percent), and political candidates (29 percent).

3. Americans with pre-existing conditions less optimistic on health reform — Despite new protections for people with pre-existing conditions, a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that fewer than half of Americans in households with such a condition (44 percent) say such people will be “better off” as a result of the 2010 health care law. That compares with 60 percent of those without a pre-existing condition in their household. Roughly one-third of respondents in pre-existing condition households are unaware of protections initiated by the law.

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By  |  03:37 PM ET, 09/23/2011

Categories:  GOP nomination, Health care

 
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