November 21, 2008

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That poll created by wingnut John Ziegler purporting to demonstrate that Obama voters were misinformed by the mainstream media about Barack Obama and Joe Biden (and defended so scatalogically by Ziegler) has been examined by objective polling experts beyond Nate Silver now, and the verdict is unanimous:

Wall Street Journal:

"..Interpreted the numbers from the survey in a misleading fashion."

The Zogby summary quotes Ziegler claiming that "the poll really proves beyond any doubt the stunning level of malpractice on the part of the media in not educating the Obama portion of the voting populace."

The problem, as Silver points out, is that the survey does no such thing. It proves only that Obama voters surveyed were less likely to attribute to Obama or Biden a half dozen statements that were "at best debatable, yet apparently represented as factual to the respondent" ...

... Describing his biased, leading questions as a legitimate test of knowledge is hugely misleading, at best.

Even John Zogby himself is running from this survey, claiming it was put together while he was on vacation. While paying lip service to its ostensible validity, he adds:

“I also believe it was not our finest hour. This slipped through the cracks. It came out critical only of Obama voters.”

Worth noting, however: Everyone seems in agreement that this was not a "push poll" in the strict sense of the term, but rather was in a similar vein of being a misleading survey deployed for partisan political purposes.

Ziegler himself has posted a rambling, incoherent defense that attempted to answer the chief issue -- the factual invalidity/dubiousness of many of his questions -- thus:

These questions were carefully chosen to try and identify which news stories broke through the clutter and reached the average Obama voter. Ironically, one of the main reasons that the questions enrage the left is that many of the questions were based on news stories that the left-wing media ignored. In other words, because the left-wing ignored the negative aspects of Obama's past, they weren't reported and therefore weren't significant (or didn't really happen)and so any mention of them is evidence of a right-wing agenda lacking in credibility. Holy circular argument Batman!!

Many left-wing blogs (and many of the thousands of e-mail I have recieved from their readers) are absolutely obsessed with trying to prove that the wording of certian questions was not 100% accurate, as if that would have made any difference at all except in the case of the question about Russia.

Actually, as we already pointed out, the questions were far from 100 percent accurate, and in many cases were nearly 100 percent inaccurate:

-- Joe Biden's plagiarism: While it's true that the media swirl around the "plagiarism" story probably drove him from the 1987 primary campaign, Biden was in fact cleared of those charges.

-- Obama kicked opponents off the ballot: Also false.

-- Obama wants to bankrupt the coal industry? Complete bullshit.

-- Obama and Ayers: The claim he began his political career in Ayers' living room is false: "Ayers was one of many who sponsored coffees for Obama in 1995 when he declared for the Illinois Senate. The official campaign launch occurred at the Hyde Park Ramada. Their relationship barely goes beyond serving together on an education foundation board in Chicago."

So what the wingnuts are complaining about is the fact that the news media, for some strange, unknown reason, failed to pick up these falsehoods and loudly broadcast them as factual.

There is a reason, for instance, why the Biden plagiarism story didn't get a lot of play: While it is true that the story hurt Biden enough in the primaries he was eventually forced out, the fact that he was cleared afterward of the charges makes the story largely irrelevant -- except as a cautionary tale about promoting groundless smears in mainstream news reports.

Meanwhile, Nate has some deeper thoughts on the meaning of all this.

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