Wednesday, September 17, 2003

What a coincidence!

Just as it starts to look like Bush's downward spiral in the polls will continue below 50% (and, in fact, has), Lou Dobbs brings us a timely story about how polls are all screwed up.

DOBBS: Matthew Felling says polls are a crutch for journalists and are often misconstrued. He is the media director for The Center For Media and Public Affairs and joins us now from the Washington studios. Thank you for being here... We should explain, and I neglected to do so, that we were to be joined by Frank Gallup -- Newport -- of the Gallup Organization here to debate this issue. But since only the con side of our pro-con look is here, we thought it would be appropriate, at least, to hear your views. Why do you think polling is so popular if it so invalid?

FELLING: Well, polling is popular because we watch the results and we listen to the numbers in the same way that we listen to sports scores. There's something tangible that we can actually see and that we can track over time. And they also have the credibility of accuracy, because we like to think that numbers capture something fully. It reminds us of physics class.

But on all three layers, polls are tremendously flawed. The pollsters can be mischievous. The respondents can be clueless. And the reporters who cover these polls can often misconstrue the findings, or read too much in to them. Which happens on a day to day basis during an election year.

DOBBS: And we're going to be inundated with polls. This organization will be -- CNN -- be conducting a number of polls and an increasing number of them over the course of the campaign. This broadcast will continue to conduct its polls, but our are basically just our polls, so they are what our viewers make them.

Those stupid viewers.

You know, there's the nod toward fairness here, but one has to wonder why this story was even on right now. Why not seven months ago when poll after poll was being taken to see if we should, you know, go kill people! Will there now be a retraction made on the air by Dobbs, in which he says, "I've been calling President Bush a 'popular president' for two years now, but that was based on polls and they're often just so wrong"?

Judging from his lineup of guests, -- that poll guy, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Laura Ingraham (CNN is "Fair and Balanced" too!) -- I doubt we'll hear any mea culpas anytime soon.

For extra credit, go read Dobbs' kiss-ass interview of Laura Ingraham, if you can take it. A tidbit:

DOBBS: Well, the idea, one of the fascinating things that you brought up in the book, talking about Michael Moore, and the book is how stupid white guys...

INGRAHAM: Stupid white men.

DOBBS: You point out that he's one of the elites posing as populist extraordinaire.

Wow! As hard-hitting as ever, Lou.


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