The Washington Post

#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.

Tweet questions and comments about polls and analysis in this blog using the #pollwatch hashtag on twitter or tweet us directly @postpolls.

Follow Post polling on Twitter

Like Post Politics on Facebook

Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom