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              Supporters of gun control gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., and to call on President Obama to pass strong gun control laws. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
              Supporters of gun control gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., and to call on President Obama to pass strong gun control laws. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)   

Bloomberg News hid conflicting fiscal-cliff poll numbers, pushed results favorable to Obama

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Gregg Re
Associate Editor

A poll conducted last week by an Iowa-based firm showed Americans are conflicted about whether or not to support raising tax rates on wealthy Americans to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.” But that’s not how Bloomberg News, which commissioned the poll, reported the results Thursday.

In a story headlined “Americans Back Obama Tax-Rate Boost Tied to Entitlements,” Bloomberg emphasized only that the poll showed most Americans support President Barack Obama’s insistence on increasing taxes for high-income earners.

“A majority of Americans say President Barack Obama is right to demand that tax-rate increases for the highest earners be a precondition for a budget deal that cuts U.S. entitlement programs,” the story, written by reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis, began.

The poll asked respondents, “President Obama has said he will not negotiate with Republicans on cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare, until they agree to raise tax rates on the wealthy. Do you think he is right or wrong to insist on that as a precondition to broader negotiations?”

As Bloomberg reported in its story, 58 percent percent of respondents indicated that the president was “right” to insist on the precondition, while 37 percent said he was “wrong.”

But in the same poll, American adults were asked “whether it is better to raise the top tax rate the wealthy pay, or to limit the amount people can claim in tax breaks, such as mortgage interest and charitable contributions, so they end up paying tax on a bigger share of their income.”

Fifty-two percent responded that they preferred limited tax breaks to a tax-rate hike. Only 39 percent said they would rather see tax rates on the wealthy increase. Nine percent indicated they weren’t sure.

The Bloomberg News story quoted the president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the survey, saying the results indicated that Republicans and Speaker of the House John Boehner should yield to the president.

“Obama won the election promising to raise taxes on the wealthy,” J. Ann Selzer told Bloomberg News. “Republicans who refuse to budge from their pledge not to raise taxes are wrong-headed. Failure to strike a deal would put the national economy and the people who live in it at risk.”

Yet Bloomberg News editor and political reporter Jeanne Cummings conceded to The Daily Caller that the poll’s results are apparently contradictory.

“There are contradictions that play to both parties,” she said, after refusing to release crosstabs from the poll. “There is no easy way to mesh those two findings.”

“We found the public conflicted in several ways — most support limiting tax breaks, until you ask them about two of the biggest: mortgages and charities,” she added. “The one consistent strain of thought we found in the poll was the inclination to push the burden onto the wealthy by means testing Social Security and Medicare and raising their tax rates. It helps explain why cutting a deal is hard for Congress.”

Bloomberg mentioned the second question in the story’s 20th paragraph, and gave no indication that the results suggested support for Boehner or House Republicans.

In an brief email to TheDC, Selzer stood by the poll but didn’t address Bloomberg’s coverage.

“One [question] favor/oppose an increase in the tax rate; the other was which of two ways would be the better way to collect more tax revenue. Separate questions,” she said.

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