Thursday, September 16, 2010

Media Credibility and the Polls - What to Believe


With primaries over we are almost through the silly season of the never-ending campaigns for control of our government and it is time to take a look around at all the damage that has been done. How do we do that? Well the media and politicians use a clever technique called polling to keep us informed of what we think and the big question is does it really do that? No!

Wake up media and stop trying to sway the American public opinion. It has been 40 years since I started developing campaign polling and demographic databases and the one constant through nine presidents is nothing has changed. The American people will always make up their own mind and if you try to influence them your polls will be the same disaster as always.

So why should the news media care? Because the credibility of the media is just as poor as the credibility of the president, congress and corporate America and those reporting the news should not be considered a joke. If I didn’t care about the reputation of the media I would not care, although the extreme efforts of some media to mislead the public does provide some form of entertainment.

News reporting is a protected privilege in America, it is even protect by the Constitution in the Bill of Rights. But along with such privileged status comes responsibility, the responsibility to not abuse your rights and many of the media seem to forget.

What is the purpose of polls? Polls are a snap shot at that moment of time in reaction to a specific question. No more no less. The more objective the question the more objective and honest will be the answer. The more scientific the pool of people polled the more accurate the results.

Every day political news reporters try to apply the results of daily polls to what will happen in the future. For example, they tell us Democrats and Republicans are tied in the polls today and that means the Democrats will do much better in the Midterm elections than expected. Such extrapolation is nonsense and the media knows better. When you hear such things just know there is a hidden agenda by those making such silly reports.

This is September, not November, and so far one third of the voters, the Independents, have not even been polled since all primary polls only talk to Democrats and Republicans. Those few polls that do survey Independents are not getting much press but they show the largest GOP lead ever recorded over the Democrats, well in double digits.

Any poll done at this time when one third of the voters are not even counted, and that one third may well be the angriest of all the voters, could be 20-25% inaccurate. So why does the media continue reporting the party results? They know better.

The only polls accurate right now are those concerning the public sentiment and they foreshadow serious change this fall. More than two-thirds of the public think the country is headed in the wrong direction, more than two-thirds think Obama and the Democrats are doing the wrong things, and more than two-thirds think congress, all of congress, is just as misguided. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe as I have pointed out consistently all year, a tsunami is about to hit the Democrats in control.

If the parties are running even at this time and both are held in low regard by the populace it is only because the Independents are not being counted. Come November 2 the game changes radically and the combined Republican opposition with the Tea party and Independent disgust with government will make a statement that will be heard around the world. The party in power will fall.

Also, there is no way the results in one state mean the same thing will happen in another state as the people of Delaware are far different than those in Ohio or Iowa, just as New York is different than California. Polls can also be very distorted if the people surveyed are not registered to vote, or even if they are registered does that mean they will actually vote.

As I said recently, just look at the numbers. Well over 4 million more Republicans than Democrats voted in the primaries in 2010, the first time since 1930 more Republicans voted in the primaries than Democrats. Yet sitting on the sidelines because they were denied the right to vote by archaic campaign laws is the mighty Independent voting block and they are just as mad as the "rogue" Republicans who have been leading the attack.

Take New Hampshire for example. The latest polls show 70% of Independents are dissatisfied with the direction our federal government is going. In yesterday's primary there were 266,144 eligible Democratic voters and about 70,000 turned out. There were 264,451 eligible Republican voters and about 152,000 turned out, more than twice as many Republicans. Yet there are 388,589 Independent voters who did not vote. If 70% are fed up with the direction of Obama and the Democrats they will be joining the vote and bring about a Republican landside in November.

A poll of “eligible voters” can be wrong because about 40% of eligible voters are not even registered to vote. Even a poll of “registered voters” could also be wrong for less than half will vote in the election and the enthusiasm of the voter will dictate the turnout. Republicans have much greater enthusiasm to vote and Independents may have even greater enthusiasm. Few polls will ever go into the level of detail needed to get accurate results.

There is a final distortion of poll results if the caller identifies who employs them or if they say it is for an organization like Gallup, Rasmussen or the Washington Post for example as some people are going to be inclined to answer the way they think the “media” wants them to answer. People do not want to feel stupid so they might just make up answers, especially on issues they do not know.

The bottom line is this. If you believe the polls published by the media you are as crazy as the media. On the other hand, if you really want to see a meaningful poll the following are the latest results from a Gallup Poll on the Confidence of the American Public in our institutions.

It would appear the general public already know what they think of the media and their polls when 78% of our citizens do not have a great deal of confidence in Television news, yet they have even less confidence in Congress with 89% not having confidence, the worst record of any American institution. Also note that nearly two thirds of Americans, 64%, do not have confidence in the President. Then remember these numbers are almost three months old. How low can you go by now?


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