As we enter into the final month of the election, we will be bombarded with all sorts of information intended to sway our votes. We will, of course, be inundated with television commercials, direct mail pieces, radio ads, and automated phone calls. But we will also be subjected to numerous polls, many of which will be just as partisan as the political propaganda the candidates are relying upon.
A disturbing trend in recent elections has been the intentional use of skewed polling by the media to promote their ideological bent rather than to report the news. We got another dose of this biased effort to twist the news to the liking of the media giants just this week with the latest Washington Post-ABC poll, which “revealed” that Barack Obama has moved to a nine-point lead over John McCain in the presidential race. The mainstream media breathlessly reported this information as indicative of McCain’s loss of campaign steam after the post-convention bounce and the recent euphoria over Sarah Palin.
But what the news outlets failed to report in their coverage about the Washington Post-ABC poll was the fact that 38% of the individuals who made up the poll identified themselves as Democrats, while only 28% identified themselves as Republicans. (See poll question #901.) Not surprisingly, a poll of mostly Democrats revealed that most of them wanted Democrat Barack Obama to be president rather than Republican John McCain. (Last month, the same poll used a 13-point edge for the Democrats among likely voters to produce similar results heading into the conventions.) The heavily skewed partisan nature of the poll is the real story, not the bogus numbers produced as a result of what is essentially a “push poll.”
The poll tweaked the numbers in Obama’s favor in other ways as well. Even the so-called “independents” that comprised the poll were actually more partisan than independent. When asked towards which political party they “lean,” the independents who replied “Democrat” outnumbered those who responded “Republican” by an 18% margin! (See poll question #904.) That’s not a lean; that’s a landslide — yet it only produced a nine-point lead for Obama.
Also, the poll questioned a lot more women than men. In fact, the gender gap was eight points. Women are expected to vote in slightly larger numbers than men this year, but not by a 54 to 46 margin! Because Democrats have consistently enjoyed a bit of a gender advantage with women voters, this margin gives Obama’s poll numbers a significant boost.
The poll also admits to “over-sampling” the percentage of black voters. With Obama pulling about 95% of the black vote, do you think that might help his numbers a bit? All of these tweaks and subtle nudges of the numbers were intended to produce a desired result, rather than providing voters with an accurate snapshot of public opinion.
The Washington Post-ABC poll is a textbook example of how mainstream media outlets driven by ideological zeal and a pro-Obama bias can “create” the news and then “report” it. It is also a good reminder that voters should be extremely wary of almost all polling that will be reported during the coming weeks.