MRC's Brent Bozell has a problem with the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. But Bozell doesn't object to the poll's slanted and inaccurate suggestion that Democrats have a history of being reckless with the public's money. Here's what he's upset about:
It has become almost amusing, watching how the so-called "news" media are manipulating their own polls to keep the political weather sunny for their hero. The Washington Post kicked off President Barack Obama's European trip with the headline "Blame For Downturn Not Fixed on Obama." Of course, what was "fixed" was the poll itself.
They did the usual tricks for a more liberal sample of "public opinion" - they polled on the weekend and oversampled Democrats (36 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican). By themselves, these things are shameless - but expected. And still that wasn't enough of a slant. Check out the way this question was asked by the Post pollsters.
"How much of the blame do you think [fill in the blank] deserves for the country's economic situation?" The choices were corporations, banks, consumers, the Bush team, and the Obama administration. There's a built-in pro-Obama bias in there already: assigning blame to Obama for the current economy when he's been in office for nine weeks just seems harsh to most people.
I'm sorry: What? Brent Bozell thinks asking if Barack Obama deserves some blame for the economic situation demonstrates "pro-Obama bias" because most people don't think he deserves such blame?
By that logic, asking if people approve of Obama's job performance reflects "pro-Obama bias" because most people do. And poll questions that asked about George W. Bush's job performance must have demonstrated "anti-Bush bias." By that logic, the only unbiased poll questions are those that yield 50-50 results.
That's insane. Simply insane.
But that's the conservatives' idea of "media bias" -- any question or fact that is inconvenient for conservatives must reflect "bias."
By the way, Bozell's certainty that polling over a weekend yields a "more liberal sample" is misplaced. Many pollsters are, indeed, skeptical of polling conducted over weekends, but there is nothing approaching a consensus about how such polling might skew. Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, for example, both avoid weekends:
Voters who do answer calls those nights add up to a "more downscale" group, McInturff said -- more likely to be Democratic. That discovery is a legacy of the Reagan years. "Reagan's support would dip in polling on Friday and Saturday nights," McInturff said, "and then on Monday it would be right back where it was."
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake avoids Fridays, too, but for the opposite reason. "We never poll on Friday night because more Democrats are likely to be out," she said. "Friday is bowling night and there are Friday night football games, so you get fewer blue-collar people at home.
"Same for Saturday," she said. "Because younger suburban couples, two-earner families, are out doing stuff. Sunday night is a good time to get everybody, but we never call on Sunday morning because religious voters are likely to resent it. You don't poll during the Super Bowl football game if you want men."
In November, 2006, Slate's "Explainer" column addressed this issue:
In theory, younger people are more likely to be out on Friday and Saturday nights, which would make them less likely to be included in the sample.
What would that mean for the results of a given study? Weekend polling would skew the sample away from the young and active types and toward the oldsters who sit at home. That doesn't mean the weekend poll gives more credence to the elderly vote. It might mean just the opposite: Pollsters can correct for having too many old people by giving extra weight to everyone else. In that case, the opinions of the few young people who are in the sample would count extra.
While it's a common claim that weekend polls favor the Democrats, there isn't much hard evidence to support that idea. One of the best studies of this question was conducted by two polling experts at ABC News. Gary Langer and Daniel Merkle looked at the data from ABC's tracking polls for the last three presidential elections. They compared results from people reached on Sunday through Thursday with those reached on Friday and Saturday and found no difference.