Did a CID-Gallup poll last week indicate that a plurality of Hondurans support the military coup against democratically elected President Zelaya? Yes, according to the Washington Post (July 9), the Wall Street Journal (July 10), the Christian Science Monitor (July 11), and Reuters (July 9), which all reported that the poll showed 41% in favor of the coup, with only 28% opposed.
But in fact the poll showed that 46% — a plurality — were opposed to the coup, according to the New York Times (July 10), the Associated Press (July 11) — and the president of CID-Gallup, in an interview with Voice of America on July 9.
As of this writing — Sunday evening, 5:30 pm Eastern time — none of the outlets which reported the poll incorrectly had corrected their earlier, inaccurate, reports.
In reporting the poll incorrectly, the Post, the Journal, the Monitor, and Reuters gave the impression that more Hondurans supported the coup than opposed it, suggesting that this meant trouble for the international coalition pressing for the restoration of President Zelaya — which includes Costa Rican President Arias and Organization of American States Secretary-General Insulza, as well as the Obama Administration.
Of course, even if a poll had showed a plurality in favor of the coup, that would not legitimize the coup. But the opinion of the population, even if difficult to discern in the repression following the coup, is without question a key fact in understanding the situation. To misreport such a key fact is to substantially misinform. To fail to correct such a mistake compounds the error.
The incorrect report of the poll appears to have originated in the Honduran La Prensa. But the U.S. press should have checked before simply repeating what was in La Prensa, particularly on such an important fact, particularly because the result was counterintuitive.
But perhaps the result was not counterintuitive for these press outlets, and that may suggest a deeper problem — the U.S. press is out of touch with the majority of the population in Honduras, and therefore credulous to results which misreport Honduran public opinion as being much more similar than it is to the opinions of Honduran elites.
Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy. Naiman also edits the daily Just Foreign Policy news summary and blogs at the Web site of Just Foreign Policy and the Huffington Post, where this article first appeared.