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  • Sad! Conservative Media Resort To Unskewing Negative Trump Polls

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    There they go again.

    Conservative media figures, apparently disheartened by recent poll results showing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump heading in the wrong direction, are once again claiming biased or unreliable pollsters are unfairly weighting results against their party. If this sounds familiar, it’s because they did the same thing in 2012, spending months attempting to “unskew” polls showing Mitt Romney losing, only to watch him be soundly defeated on election day.

    In the run-up to the 2012 election, conservatives consistently complained that polls showing President Obama in the lead were inaccurately counting the gap between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. According to this school of thought, the polls were being “skewed” to show Romney losing. One blogger, Dean Chambers, took the data in the polls and reweighted them with a partisan split friendlier to Republicans resulting in “unskewed” polls showing Romney easily winning. Chambers’ work -- which was more akin to wishful thinking than academic analysis -- was nonetheless widely cited by conservative media as evidence of a concerted effort to influence the results of the presidential election in Obama’s favor.

    The polls were not skewed. An average of 2012 election polling predicted that Obama would win by 0.7%. In reality, the victory was by a margin of 3.86%. If anything the polls undercounted Obama’s support.

    Polls can of course go up and down, and the occasional outlier is inevitable. But the argument that the partisan split that pollsters report as they survey voters is somehow skewed to help Democrats is a conspiracy, not actual analysis.

    Despite this, conservative media are once again pushing the “unskewed” theme as recent polls show Clinton leading Trump.

    This time, the charge against the polls is being led in part by the candidate himself. Trump recently responded to a poll showing him losing with tweets that complained “The @ABC poll sample is heavy on Democrats.  Very dishonest - why would they do that?” and “The ‘dirty’ poll done by @ABC @washingtonpost is a disgrace. Even they admit that many more Democrats were polled.”

    The ABC News/Washington Post poll in question shows Clinton ahead of Trump 51%-39%.

    FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noticed the reboot of the “unskewed” theme and asked, “Has anyone seen Donald Trump and Dean Chambers in the same room together?”

    Conservative media figures have also zeroed in on the ABC/Wash. Post poll for criticism. On Fox News’ Fox and Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said that in the methodology for the ABC/Washington Post poll “they actually talked to 12 percent more Democrats than Republicans,” adding, “According to the Gallup poll, there are 3 percent more Democrats in the country than Republicans, so it looks like they've got a favorite in it.” During the same segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade explained to viewers, “So far Donald Trump leads in most independent polls.” This is true, if by “most,” Kilmeade meant none of the last 21 polls included in Real Clear Politics’ general election polling data.  

    The methodology for the poll, conducted by Langer Research for ABC/Washington Post, addresses the partisan breakdown":

    Partisanship can follow political preferences, and in this poll Democrats account for 36 percent of all adults and 37 percent of registered voters – a non-significant (+3) difference from last month. (The former is numerically its highest since 2009, the latter, since 2012.) Republicans account for 24 percent of all adults and 27 percent of registered voters, about their average in recent years, with the rest independents.

    This accounts for little of the shift in voter preferences, however. Even using the same party divisions from last month’s ABC/Post survey, in which Trump was +2, he’d now be -8. The reason, mentioned above, is his comparatively weak performance among Republicans – 77 percent support – compared with Clinton’s support among Democrats, 90 percent. 

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Clinton with a 13% lead over Trump prompted an outburst as well.

    On Fox News host Sean Hannity’s official website, a blog post complained the poll “is heavily skewed.” On his June 27 radio show, Hannity cited the partisan breakdown and described it as a “misleading poll” because the media is “in the tank for Hillary.”

    Hannity apparently didn’t learn his lesson about attempting to unskew polls in 2012, when he was saying things like, “These polls are so skewed, so phony, that we need to start paying attention to what’s going on so that you won’t be deflated.”

    In a post purporting to highlight “More Polling Tricks” from an “EXTREMELY SKEWED” poll, conservative blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit complained this week that “Reuters freighted their poll with 20 percent more Democrats than Republicans” and concluded that “we can safely say that Trump appears to be in much better shape than the poll suggests and could likely be headed to a landslide victory in November.”

    Hoft made a similar argument in September of 2012, complaining that a CNN poll showing Obama leading Romney “drastically oversampled Democrats to get this stunning result.” He then went on to cite Dean Chambers, who said that when “unskewed” the CNN poll showed Romney leading by eight percent.

    Perhaps remembering how much egg the conservative media had on its face after the 2012 debacle, Fox News contributor Brit Hume tried to steer his fellow conservatives away from repeating their mistakes.

    In an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Hume noted that Trump “couldn’t stop talking” about polls showing him in the lead during the primaries, but now “his supporters, the ones I hear from anyway say that the poll is rigged, and all the rest of it.” Then he told host Martha MacCallum, “I don't think your viewers should pay too much attention to that. Look at the polling averages. Look at all the polls put together, to see what you get. And I think the picture's pretty clear. He's trailing, but not insurmountably.”

  • Reporters Should Contrast Trump’s “Love” Of Coal Miners With Funder’s Record Of Undermining Them

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will attend a fundraiser hosted by coal industry CEO Robert Murray, who has pressured and even allegedly fired employees for political gain and has repeatedly fought against health benefits, safety protections, and labor rights for coal miners. Media covering the event should contrast Trump’s claims of staunch support for coal miners with his willingness to raise money with Murray.

  • Sean Hannity Devotes Full Hour On Fox To Discredited Book Full Of Clinton Smears

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News host and Trump supporter Sean Hannity devoted the full hour of his Fox News show to hyping claims presented in the discredited book Crisis of Character written by former Secret Service agent Gary Byrne.

    Hannity interviewed Byrne on the first half of the June 27 edition of Fox’s Hannity, providing the author with an uncritical platform allowing him to peddle his discredited claims and attacks against Hillary Clinton. During the second half of the show, Hannity devoted a panel discussion to Byrnes' comments and attacks on Clinton. In what Fox News described as an “expose” with the “blacklisted” Byrne, claims such as cocaine use in the White House, fits of rage by former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and the disposal of towels covered in “bodily fluids” were pushed by Hannity and repeated by Byrne.

    At no point did Hannity question Byrnes’ dubious claims or bring up the numerous contradictions that he’s made over the years in regards to these claims, including while under sworn testimony.

    On June 20, Buzzfeed reported that while Byrne claims in his book to have disposed of towels covered in “translucent and white, half gooey” substance that would be easily recognizable to “any boy lucky enough to live past his high school years,” a 1998 deposition given by Byrne directly contradicts those claims:

    Byrne testified that he saw Nelvis cleaning up the Oval Office study, holding towels, when the steward said, “I’m tired of having to clean up this crap, or this something, you know, to that effect.” Byrne went on to say that he drew his “own conclusion that there was…some kind of possible physical contact between them and the president” and got the impression that Nelvis felt it was not right. Nelvis, he further recalled, said “something about lipstick,” and he “assumed that, that it was on these towels,” though the steward didn’t say it. Byrne told the investigators that he did not personally see lipstick or other stains on the towels.

    As for their disposal, Byrne said that he advised Nelvis “to get rid of it; in other words, to throw it out” so that the people who did the laundry wouldn’t see it. After that, he said of Nelvis, “I just remember him kind of walking away, and that was it. I don’t know what he did with them. That was the end of the thing.”

    Furthermore, the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service has denounced Byrne and his assertions as false, and accused him of having a political agenda focused on smearing Clinton. Politico reported:

    People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him.

    […]

    And if Byrne or any uniformed officer had been posted near a room the president entered, he would have been moved at least 15 yards away, to the outer edges of the security bubble — not quite what Byrne describes in his book: “I stood guard, pistol at my hip, outside the Oval Office, the last barrier before anyone saw Bill Clinton,” according to the Post, which has been teasing excerpts of the book.

    “Operationally, one who has the working knowledge of how things are done there would realize that certain of those statements do not coincide with the operational plan,” said Jan Gilhooly, AFAUSSS president and a 29-year Secret Service veteran.

    When contacted by Buzzfeed about the contradictions in his book, Byrnes’ publicist said that he would explain himself on his book tour. Fortunately for Byrne, Sean Hannity did not ask him to explain any of these issues.

  • Media Experts Rip CNN For “Profoundly Disturbing” Lewandowski Hiring

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veteran journalists and media ethicists are slamming CNN for hiring former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a paid contributor, saying his hostile treatment of the press and the lack of clarity over whether he signed a nondisparagement agreement with the campaign make his hiring a “new high of immorality.”

    Lewandowksi, who was fired by Trump on June 20, has long had a troubling relationship with reporters, including being investigated by police in March after grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields, threatening to pull credentials of CNN’s own Noah Gray, and being accused of making “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.”

    CNN has already been widely criticized for hiring Lewandowski. In interviews with Media Matters, several media observers and veteran journalists added their voices to the chorussaying the move raises ethical issues and harms CNN’s credibility.

    “CNN’s decision to hire Lewandowski is problematic in a number of ways,” said Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former editor of The Miami Herald. “First, and perhaps most important, is his failure to respond to the question about signing a nondisparagement agreement, which can only be interpreted as meaning that he did sign one.”

    Lewandowski was asked in his first interview as an official CNN contributor whether he signed such an agreement, and he dodged the question.

    “Unless and until he can counter that interpretation, he must be perceived as being totally compromised in his commentary -- put bluntly, a Trump shill,” Fiedler added. “But even putting that issue aside, the fact that CNN would give a prominent platform (not to mention a paycheck) to an individual whose personal and professional behavior includes bullying and misogyny at best and assault at worst, baffles me. Can his insights into the presidential campaign and into the candidates be so valuable as to enable CNN to overlook this well-documented record?” 

    Former CNN White House correspondent Frank Sesno, who is currently director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, said hiring Lewandowski is different from other former political operatives joining a network.

    “In this case, CNN has hired an outspoken adversary of journalism,” Sesno said. “Someone who has challenged its role, attacked reporters and represented a candidate who was openly hostile to journalism and the First Amendment itself.”

    Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and author of the book New New Mediasaid hiring Lewandowski “is a new high of immorality in the relationship between our media and our political system.”

    He later added, “It would be one thing if he had just been fired for whatever reason, things happen. As we know, and CNN covering all of the details, Corey Lewandowski was investigated" for the incident with Fields. "The police got into it, it was a serious issue and that combined with the fact that Lewandowski’s relationship with the Trump campaign even now isn’t clear.”

    For Tim McGuire, former Arizona State University media professor and past president of American Society of News Editors, CNN’s hiring of Lewandowski is “profoundly disturbing. The terms of that agreement are crucial. If it truly is a nondisparagement agreement this hire is totally wrong.”

    Clark Hoyt, former New York Times public editor and one-time Washington Bureau chief for Knight Ridder, said he was “surprised that any news organization with aspirations to credibility would hire Cory Lewandowski in any capacity.”

    Hoyt also said, “His well-documented hostility to journalists and the role of a free press aside, he comes to his new role as a paid political commentator bound by some kind of contract with Donald Trump. Whether it contains a nondisparagement clause or not, it bars Lewandowski from disclosing exactly the kind of information that a news network should be trying to get to help inform voters. CNN ought to put up a disclaimer every time he appears on camera.”

  • For Clinton, All News Is Bad News: Brexit Edition

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Deciding that a national referendum staged thousands of miles away offers deep insight into America’s pending presidential election -- and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign in particular may be damaged by a vote in Europe -- several pundits in recent have days have stressed the Bad News angle for the Democrat.

    Reading all kinds of American implications into the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, known as “Brexit,” commentators seemed to be straining in order to stick to their preferred all-news-is-bad-news pattern when covering Clinton.

    Meet The Press host Chuck Todd insisted that in the wake of Brexit, Clinton “has to learn a lesson here” because she represents “the establishment.” Or “the status quo,” as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza suggested during the same segment.

    On ABC’s This Week, Greta Van Susteren agreed that the “status quo really needs to be worried” and that Brexit “hurts Secretary Hillary Clinton, because she is going to be pinned with status quo.”

    And because Clinton’s such a supposedly stagnant candidate with so little vision, the vote in the U.K. set off “panic” inside “Democratic circles,” according to Time.

    But does that framing of the Brexit vote reflect reality? Clinton’s the first woman to ever win a major party’s presidential nomination in American history and her party’s newly drafted platform is the most aggressively progressive in decades, yet the press depicts her as “status quo” and out of touch with voters urging change. 

    The New York Times seemed to take the lead over the weekend in ringing the Brexit alarm bells for Clinton. On Sunday’s front page, the Times insisted the U.K. outcome casts a “shadow” over Clinton’s White House run, which seems odd since Clinton played no role in the British vote. But the Times was certain the referendum represented the type of outcome she “fears” in November.

    Additionally:

    According to their friends and advisers, Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have worried for months that she was out of sync with the mood of the electorate, and that her politically safe messages — like “I’m a progressive who gets results” — were far less compelling to frustrated voters than the “political revolution” of Senator Bernie Sanders or Mr. Trump’s grievance-driven promise to “Make America Great Again.”

    Fact: Clinton just defeated Sanders by approximately 3.7 million votes in the Democratic primary, and she leads Trump by 12 points in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. But the Times hypes anonymous concerns her "safe" message isn’t resonating? (What would the polls look like today if Clinton’s message was resonating?) More importantly, since when is the candidate who tallies the most votes depicted as being out of touch with voters?

    In a strange attempt to prove its point, the Times noted, “Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump won a combined 25 million votes during the primary season, compared with 16 million for Mrs. Clinton.”

    Clinton won more votes than either Sanders or Trump this year. But because combined they tallied more than her that means a referendum in Europe is bad news for her; that she’s “out of step.” That seems illogical.

    More Times oddities:

    In swing states like Ohio, many Democrats and Republicans yearn for an economic comeback and are not confident that Mrs. Clinton understands their frustrations or has the ideas and wherewithal to deliver the sort of change that could satisfy them.

    Democrats in Ohio aren’t sure Clinton “understands” their concerns, even though three months ago Democrats in Ohio selected Clinton as the winner of the state’s primary contest by almost 14 points.

    Meanwhile, since when are national votes in foreign countries even considered to be precursors for American elections? Or is the press only leaning on that angle now because pundits think it represents bad news for the Democrat?

    If that’s the rubric, journalists ought to be consistent. If votes in foreign countries, and specifically countries that resemble the U.S. population, are deemed to be bellwether events for U.S. presidential elections, shouldn’t the press treat other recent votes as being preludes to U.S. election results?

    For instance, what was the lesson Clinton was supposed to have learned from Canada last October when voters there overwhelmingly elected a liberal prime minster? Or did that referendum not matter since the results were in sync with Clinton’s campaign message of inclusion and progress?

    If for some reason Clinton had made Brexit a central issue in her American campaign, or if overseas referendums served as well-established indicators for U.S. election results, pundits might be safe in drawing sweeping conclusions about the Democrat’s chances in the wake of the U.K. vote.

    Instead, lots of the commentary looks and sounds like a kneejerk attempt to assume big news is bad news for Clinton’s White House hopes.