A defiant blogger has taken U.S. pollster John Zogby to task, saying he flip-flopped after stating he would survey the American public again on whether they thought President George W. Bush should be impeached.
Zogby, in turn, told RAW STORY his poll questions are meant to respond to the vagaries of public opinion, not to become part of a “cause celebre.”
Zogby polled Americans in June as to whether they would support impeaching President Bush if it were proved he had misled the nation about his reasons for going to war in Iraq. Forty-two percent said they would support impeaching the president under that condition.
The day the poll was released, Zogby went on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. When asked whether he would raise the question again, he said: “We'll test it periodically, probably in a month from now. Again, no-one is really talking about it, but it is a good barometric reading.”
Zogby did not poll on impeachment again.
This has not made Luke Ryland, an Australian based blogger (Wotisitgood4.blogspot.com) who tracks U.S. politics, happy. After no poll on impeachment appeared in successive months, he began corresponding with Zogby’s firm.
“When Zogby says ‘no-one,’ he means that the punditocracy isn't talking about it,” Ryland says. “That is to say, 42 percent of the American people are seriously thinking about the impeachment of the President despite the apparent media lockdown.”
Ryland contacted Zogby in August. He asked when the pollster might raise the question again.
“We'll skip the summer and get back to it in September,” Zogby replied.
Come September, Ryland emailed again. A member of Zogby’s firm replied: “We have decided to not to ask the impeachment question again unless it is raised in Congress.”
When Zogby first polled on impeachment, the Downing Street documents had spawned a firestorm among Washington liberals, leading some grassroots activists to call on Congress to consider impeachment. The documents showed that the Bush and Blair Administrations were aggressively pursuing their case for war despite knowing there was scant evidence of Iraq weapons programs. In one document, the chief of British intelligence is quoted as saying that officials were trying to “fix” intelligence to fit the policy.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) spearheaded the charge, demanding that the Administration turn over any and all documents relating to the memos.
The issue, however, died without fanfare.
“What happened officially was nothing,” Zogby told RAW STORY. “There was no movement -- at least no credible movement -- pushing for impeachment, and secondly, I did not intend or never intend as a pollster to part of a cause celebre.
“In that sense I opted to not ask it because it's not on the official radar screen and I want to ensure that I’m not used by either side,” he added.
Zogby says Ryland isn’t the only one who’s pushed him to do another impeachment poll.
“One blogger wrote an sent me an email saying I was part of a conspiracy now, and another said I have a constitutional duty,” he said.
The veteran barometer of public opinion notes that he’s gone farther than other polling agencies by examining the President’s approval ratings in the context of other presidents.
“In the last poll I did the horse race against every president from Jimmy Carter,” he remarked. “I thought that was interesting and revealing, and equally revealing was that I did the horse race again with John Kerry. To me, that was a lot of meat for a lot of interesting conversation and analysis.”
“But I don’t see myself playing the role of leading the charge for impeachment,” he added. “That was not my intent.”
Ryland dismisses such justifications.
"Zogby's justifications for not asking the impeachment question are spurious -- evidenced by the simple fact that he has already asked the question,” he wrote in an email. “The only condition that has changed since then is that the president's approval ratings have plummeted.”
"Over the summer, Zogby's position has morphed from 'probably in a month' to 'We'll get back to it in September' to 'we aim to remain impartial' to 'there is no constitutional duty here.' Zogby says that he won't be pressured to ask the impeachment question - but his constantly changing position leaves the distinct impression that he has been pressured NOT to ask it."
Ryland goes further: “Given Karl Rove's reputation, it would be surprising if he didn't try to pressure Zogby.”
Zogby says he hasn’t foreclosed the possibility of polling on impeachment again.
“I might ask it again, but I won’t be pressured to ask it,” he said. “If somebody wants to hire us to ask it, I’d consider that.”
Correction: Mr. Ryland's first name is Luke; his blogging name is Lukery.
Originally published on Wednesday September 21, 2005.