I used to be a huge
fan of John Zogby and his polls. But for whatever reason, in recent years, the
entire Zogby organization seems to have gone off the deep end. Zogby himself
seems to have gone out of his way to demonstrate personal bias, which is not good
for a pollster, as evidenced by his latest project, for which he is rightfully
taking a lot of heat, to the point that the organization has had to issue a
Meet John Ziegler.
Ziegler, who is/was one of the worst right wing talk show hosts in the country (is he still on KFI?), is
doing a documentary called "Media Malpractice… How Obama Got
Elected." Of course, he mostly leaves out the "Media
Malpractice…" part on his web
site for the film, probably because he knows how popular Obama is, and how
unpopular a negative film about Obama's election would be. And after all, right wingers are about nothing but making
money, even if you have to fool people to do it. And let's face it; fooling
people is essentially what right wing talk radio IS.
In all fairness,
however, Ziegler's intentions with this film are pretty much up front, when you
actually read the web site. Here is the first paragraph:
November 4th, 2008 millions of Americans were shocked that a man of Barack
Obama's limited experience, extreme liberal positions and radical political
alliances could be elected President of the United States. For many of these
Americans, the explanation was rather simple… the news media, completely
enamored with Obama, simply refused to do their job.
Now, I'm a huge
critic of the media; I think the news media largely sucks, although it seems to
be more aware of its "suckitude" these days, and there is evidence that they may be
emerging from their slumber. We'll see. But that's not Ziegler's point. His point
is in the second paragraph:
Election day twelve Obama voters were interviewed extensively right after they
voted to learn how the news media impacted their knowledge of what occurred
during the campaign. These voters were chosen for their apparent
intelligence/verbal abilities and willingness to express their opinions to a
large audience. The rather shocking video below seeks to provide some insight
into which information broke through the news media clutter and which did not.
Okay, so basically,
he will try to prove that all Obama voters are stupid, and that's why they
voted for Obama. That's exactly what he says above; they looked stupid, but
listen to what came out of their mouths.
Alright, so we have
this right wing talk show clown, John Ziegler, who is making a
"documentary" that will purport to "prove" that almost all
Obama voters are dipshits. We are all stupid, and we know nothing about the
man, or what he stands for. Got it so far?
Well, how do you get
legitimacy for such a ridiculous notion? Well, you get a relatively
well-respected name to back you. You know, like Zogby International. And you
devise a list of questions designed to prove your main point; that all Obama
voters are stupid.
So, Zogby conducts
this poll, in which they call 512 Obama supporters nationwide, and ask them 12
"simple" multiple choice questions. Here are the questions, and only
the questions, to start with;
Before this past election, which political party controlled both houses of
Which candidate could not say how many houses they own?
Which candidate said they could see Russia from their house?
Which candidate had to quit a previous political campaign because they were
found to have plagiarized a speech?
Which candidate won their first election by getting all of their opponents
kicked off the ballot?
Which candidate wore clothes that their political party reportedly spent
Which candidate currently has a pregnant teenage daughter?
Which candidate said that Obama would be tested in his first six months as
president by a generated international crisis?
Which candidate claimed to have campaigned in 57 states?
Which candidate said their policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and
make energy rates skyrocket?
Which candidate said that the government should redistribute the wealth?
Which candidate started their political career at the home of two former
members of the Weather Underground?
Now, if you're an
unbiased, reputable pollster, the above list of questions should trouble you.
intent of this documentary is to show that the media blew it, and didn't cover
the negative aspects of the Obama campaign, but overwhelmingly covered the
negative aspects of McCain's. Therefore, according to Ziegler, people who voted
for Obama were duped.
But look at the
difference in the questions. Did you notice that the questions about the
McCain-Palin negatives are straightforward, while the questions about the
Obama-Biden negatives are quite non-specific? "Which candidate said they
could see Russia from their house?" (which isn't even a valid question) is
far more direct than "Which candidate had to quit a previous political
campaign because they were found to have plagiarized a speech?"
But look at some of
the results of these questions:
Ziegler's web site, "57.4% could NOT correctly say which party controls
congress (50/50 shot just by guessing)" (See that little biased shot in
The problem is, no
party controls Congress. The Democrats control the House, but they don't
actually control the Senate. They have 49 seats, and one of those, Tim
Johnson's, was vacant through most of the session. Therefore, that question is
invalid. Therefore, the 57.4% is based on his assumption, which is incorrect,
that Democrats control Congress.
The third question
is also absolutely invalid, because Sarah Palin never, ever said, "I can
see Alaska from my house." That was Tina Fey. Sarah Palin claimed she had
foreign policy experience because Russia was visible from a remote point in Alaska,
not that she could see Russia from her house. In other words, pollsters were
asking questions without a valid answer, so that John Ziegler could call
respondents "stupid" because they answered wrong. Since when do legitimate pollsters ask multiple choice questions, without supplying the correct answer as one of the choices?
Ziegler's web site, "71.8% could NOT correctly say Joe Biden quit a
previous campaign because of plagiarism (25% chance by guessing). "
Seriously, who even cares about this one? It was 21 years ago, while Sarah
Palin was still doing sports reporting and dreaming of ESPN. But more than that, the plagiarism was
actually quite minor; he had used the lines before, and referenced the source;
he simply forgot to do so a couple of times, and the press made a big deal of
And what about the Bill Ayers' question? First of all, what was the point of leaving Ayers' name out of the question, and cryptically referring to "two members of the Weather Underground"? And could someone please explain to me what "launched his career" means,"when it comes to running for office for the first time?
By the way, Obama never got anyone "kicked off the ballot," so that's another illegitimate question, designed to make Obama seem like a dirty politician, whom voters unwittingly supported. Media Matters has more details here, but suffice it to say, Obama's opponents actually seem to have been the ones playing dirty.
Essentially, what you have here is a series of 12 questions that are designed to prove a conclusion; that Obama voters are stupid morons, who were easily duped into electing him president.
Basically, folks, if
you want to know what a push poll is, you're looking at it.
John Zogby disagrees. On his web site, he posts the following:
"We stand by the results our survey work on behalf of
John Ziegler, as we stand by all of our work. We reject the notion that
this was a push poll because it very simply wasn't. It was a legitimate
effort to test the knowledge of voters who cast ballots for Barack
Obama in the Nov. 4 election. Push polls are a malicious effort to sway
public opinion one way or the other, while message and knowledge
testing is quite another effort of public opinion research that is
legitimate inquiry and has value in the public square. In this case,
the respondents were given a full range of responses and were not
pressured or influenced to respond in one way or another. This poll was
not designed to hurt anyone, which is obvious as it was conducted after
the election. The client is free to draw his own conclusions about the
research, as are bloggers and other members of society. But Zogby
International is a neutral party in this matter. We were hired to test
public opinion on a particular subject and with no ax to grind, that's
exactly what we did. We don't have to agree or disagree with the
questions, we simply ask them and provide the client with a fair and
accurate set of data reflecting public opinion." – John Zogby
No, John, it wasn't a "legitimate" anything. There were few facts contained in any other the questions, which means there were no right answers to most of them, as I pointed out above. If you were to ask 512 random Rhodes Scholars the same questions, and only gave them the answers included, they probably would have answered the same way. The questions designed to determine knowledge about McCain-Palin negatives were far more direct than the questions designed to determine knowledge about Obama-Biden negatives.
A push poll is simply a poll in which someone comes up with a conclusion they wish to make, and
then asks questions in order to make the conclusion true. That's what this poll
does, and John Zogby should be ashamed of himself for engaging in
such a thing. eputable polling organizations simply don't do push polling. Period.