"Polling" And Concern-Trolling Occupy Wall Street
Doug Schoen has a concern.
The pollster and Fox News Democrat  writes in the Wall Street Journal  this morning that "President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement -- and it may cost them the 2012 election."
It's no great shock that "Democrat" Schoen would criticize Obama and the Democrats -- it's what he does to stay relevant and get his daily Fox News hit (he also fundraises for Republicans  and lines up speaking gigs  at right-wing conferences). What is eyebrow-raising, however, is just how awful Schoen's analysis of Occupy Wall Street is, even for someone known for vacuous  and absurd  political commentary.
Schoen writes that the Occupy Wall Street movement "reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people." And he knows this because he conducted a survey of the protesters, saying the findings "probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion."
Here's his methodology:
The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park.
That's it. He sent a colleague down to one protest location in New York to interview a vanishingly small sample of protesters.
First off, this is not "random." The selection pool was extremely localized, and governed by one person picking and choosing subjects to interview. How did Schoen's associate select interviewees, eeny-meeny-miny-moe? What was the gender breakdown? Race? Income? Were other protesters present for the interviews? Did they hear the questions asked before being asked themselves?
Second, a survey of "nearly 200 protesters" at one park in New York no more "represents" the Occupy Wall Street movement than Doug Schoen does the Democratic electorate. Yesterday the Journal reported  on how the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to cities across the country and the world. Schoen claims to have captured the ethos of a global movement by sending a coworker to wander around a small corner of southern Manhattan.
And remember, Schoen is a "pollster." He's supposed to know how to conduct polls.
Nonetheless, Schoen sees in his findings proof that the Democratic Party to which he (at least nominally) belongs should wholeheartedly embrace Republican policies, in the name of appealing to independent voters:
Today, having abandoned any effort to work with the congressional super committee to craft a bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction, President Obama has thrown in with those who support his desire to tax oil companies and the rich, rather than appeal to independent and self-described moderate swing voters who want smaller government and lower taxes, not additional stimulus or interference in the private sector.
Rather than embracing huge new spending programs and tax increases, plus increasingly radical and potentially violent activists, the Democrats should instead build a bridge to the much more numerous independents and moderates in the center by opposing bailouts and broad-based tax increases.
It feels almost silly and pointless to spend time poking holes in Schoen's methodology given that it's fairly transparently worthless and, in all likelihood, was never intended to be exhaustive. Schoen isn't interested in understanding the animating spirit of the protest movement or in sophisticated analysis of its potential impact on the upcoming election. He wants to take shots at the president and Democrats while pretending to wring his hands and be very concerned on behalf of the mercurial "moderates."
That is, after all, what concern trolls  do.