Joel Mowbray

When I reported in the Washington Times last week that brand name pollster John Zogby had neglected to disclose relevant information regarding a survey on Wal-Mart, he issued a strong rebuke.

Trouble is, it was largely fictional.

Employing the old trick of setting up phony straw men and then knocking them down—as opposed to refuting what was actually said—Zogby claimed that my column had “assert[ed]” that his “poll for was slanted because I have testified as an expert witness in cases against Wal-Mart.”

It’s anybody’s guess whether or not the poll was “slanted.”  That’s why the column made no such claim.  Without the full poll results, rather than the handful Zogby and his Big Labor-backed client chose to release, there’s no transparency that would allow anyone to even attempt to make such a judgment.

Neither Zogby nor spokesman Chris Kofinis responded to e-mail requests for the complete list of questions and corresponding results, despite an ethical obligation to do so under the rules set out by the National Council on Public Polls.  While interviewing him for the Washington Times column, Zogby agreed that there was an ethical obligation to release all questions asked in the survey, not just the ones they listed in the press release.

Is there something to hide?  Who knows?  But there’s certainly cause to ask given that Zogby didn’t disclose when the poll results were released that he had pocketed roughly $90,000 serving as an expert witness for people suing Wal-Mart, and also since refused to reveal what all was asked in the poll.

It’s probably a safe bet that this columnist was the only journalist who requested a peek at the complete poll, as opposed to just the sections that liked.  Partly this distinct lack of inquiry can be chalked up to journalistic laziness, but more likely the primary culprit is that few question the independence or objectivity of a Zogby poll.

The Zogby imprimatur on any poll gives it instant credibility, as Zogby as successfully positioned himself as high-minded and above-the-fray, which helps explain his many contracts with media outlets, such as Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and NBC News.  (Speaking of disclosure, many of his media clients report on his polls without mentioning the business relationship.)

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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