Last week I wrote that it would be hard to determine the political impact of either Barack Obama's pastor's comments, or Obama's subsequent speech about those various comments. I also wrote that our own polling firm would attempt to measure exactly that.
(For the record, our polls have correctly polled the winner in every presidential primary race we've surveyed this year, except the Tennessee Republican primary.)
In our survey of the Wright/Obama situation, we merely asked if respondents were aware of the pastor's "past comments," and of "Sen. Obama's speech about the remarks made by his pastor." We did not ask respondents if they heard Obama's speech, or knew the (racial) nature of the pastor's comments over the years.
The results indicated not only that a significant percentage of white voters, and independent voters of all ethnicities, were now "overall" less likely to vote for Obama for president, but also that a plurality of African-Americans felt the same way.
Admittedly, our survey was only a snapshot of public opinion. And its results likely were based on vague notions by respondents of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments and of Obama's speech. I would never claim the poll as definitive, or as an indication of what influence the whole affair may eventually have on the presidential race.
Then I came across what in my view is the single most biased and dishonest public opinion survey I've ever seen.
CBS News released a poll that read, "Most voters following the events regarding Senator Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright think Obama's speech was a success."
This lead sentence in the press release appeared in media outlets all over the world. It gave the impression that Obama's speech on Wright had ended any dispute or controversy about Obama being associated with Wright and his many inflammatory comments.
Maybe over time that will prove true. And Obama's speech was an impressive one, no doubt.
But that's not the point. Most Americans didn't hear the speech. Most have only heard bits and pieces about this whole business about Obama and his pastor of many years.
So, rather than survey registered voters in the customary way -- by randomly finding voters around the nation and asking them their impressions of the issue -- CBS instead adopted the most curious polling methodology I've ever some across. It was probably the only methodology possible on this subject that could reach what was apparently the network's desired outcome.