The Sept. 25 front-page headline "Public Opposition to Bork Grows" and subsequent story illustrate a disturbing bias in The Post's reporting.
The basis for the headline was the newest Post-ABC poll finding that 48 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the Bork nomination. This, up eight points from last month's total of 40 percent, is what justifies the headline and the article's bold opening words: "Public sentiment against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork has mounted in recent weeks. . . ."
However, buried on page A18, in the very last paragraph of the story, we discover other facts of the poll: that 43 percent of the public now believe things are going pretty well in this country, up from 35 percent a few months ago. That, for those of us schooled in the new math, is also an eight-point gain. But the article tells us this is a "modest gain."
Why is it that this eight-point increase in public confidence is only a modest gain, while an eight-point increase in opposition to Bork is a sign of mounting public sentiment? I can understand why The Post would decide to bury news of increased public confidence on page A18, but what explains such contradictory interpretation of identical polling data?
Another example of working the facts to fit a particular point of view is found in the article's treatment of the data showing a one-point decline in support for Judge Bork over the last month. A poll conducted in early August measured public support for the Bork nomination at 45 percent, while the most recent poll has it at 44 percent. This, The Post claims, is further evidence of growing public opposition.
However, the poll's larger, two-point increase in President Reagan's approval rating over the same period was dismissed as insignificant. The president's approval rating was "fairly steady" and "about the level it has been all year," according to the article. Again, I don't understand how a one-point change can be a "major shift," while a two-point change means "fairly steady."
If The Post has a view on the Bork nomination, it should express it on the editorial page. If it wishes to do so on the front page, it should either admit its bias or instruct its reporters and editors to be more clever about it.
Mark B. Liedl