Media poll manipulation

Posted: Jan 30, 2002 12:00 AM
The New York Times headline reads: "Poll Finds Enron’s Taint Clings More to G.O.P. than Democrats." They should have added a subtitle declaring "Which is a Relief, Otherwise It Would Be Obvious That Our Influence is Declining." As much effort as the Times and their major media colleagues have made trying to convert Enron into a Bush Administration scandal, it would be astonishing if some of the "taint" didn’t rub off on the average trusting reader or viewer. But if you’re not convinced the media are seeking to wield their influence, let’s look at the poll itself and the Times’ reporting of its results. The Jan. 21-24 poll had 74 questions, only 7 of which directly related to Enron. Question 57 read: "From what you know so far, do you think the executives of the Enron corporation had closer ties to members of the Republican party or ... to ... the Democratic party?" Forty-five percent said Republican, 10 percent Democratic, 10 percent both equal, and 34 percent didn’t know. Question 59 asked: "When it comes to their dealings with Enron executives prior to Enron’s bankruptcy, do you think members of the Bush administration are telling the entire truth, are mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or are they mostly lying?" Seventeen percent said the entire truth, 58 percent hiding, 9 percent lying, and 16 percent didn’t know. Question 59 was worded in a way that virtually guaranteed unflattering results for Republicans. Only one option in the question allowed for a favorable response, and it was framed as an absolute proposition, "telling the entire truth." I submit that with the public’s cynicism about politicians you’d be lucky to find that 17 percent of the public believes politicians tell the truth about anything. The next option could have been couched as a positive for Republicans had it stopped with "are mostly telling the truth." But the agenda-oriented pollsters transparently added, "but hiding something." You see, that allows them to report that 58 percent as "hiding," which is the way they put it, rather than "mostly telling the truth." Depending on how you choose to characterize the results, you can either say the glass is half full, i.e., that 75 percent (17 percent plus 58 percent) believe Republicans are mostly being truthful or the glass is half empty, i.e., that 67 percent (58 percent plus 9 percent) think they are up to no good. The Times picks "half empty." The story’s lead reads: "Americans perceive Republicans as far more entangled in the Enron debacle than Democrats, and their suspicions are growing that the Bush administration is hiding or lying about its own dealings with the Enron Corporation ... the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll shows." The story continues, "Even among Republicans, a majority said they believed that the administration had not been forthcoming about its dealings with Enron." And get this gratuitous editorial comment in the second paragraph of this "news" story: "That perception could pose a threat to Republican candidates in the midterm elections this year, and undermine the White House drive to portray the Enron collapse as affecting Republicans and Democrats equally." The article chose not to emphasize the answer to question 61, which revealed that a total of 73 percent of the people responded that Enron contributions to their Congressman would not make them less likely to vote for him. That answer might undermine their argument for establishing a GOP taint. There’s much more (seriously), but space limitations control. The bottom line is that the media have demonstrated their bias in their nonstop portrayal of Enron as a political rather than a business scandal, their poll questions and their interpretation of the answers. The Times’ conclusions that "a majority said they believed the administration had not been forthcoming" and "That perception could pose a threat to Republican candidates" were questionable at best and misleading at worst. But this should be no surprise to us. The mainstream media have been engaging in the practice of manipulating polls for years, and there’s finally a definitive book out chronicling their sordid record. For a spate of examples of how the media use polls to twist the news, alter elections and undermine the rule of law and democracy, you should read Matthew Robinson’s’ "Mobocracy." Other high-quality books document the media’s bias, but this one is unique because it doesn’t depend on one man’s testimony, but on the documentary evidence itself, i.e., specific poll questions, the answers and the media’s distortion. This book provides the long-awaited objective ammunition to confirm your opinion about rampant liberal bias in the elite media. It’s powerful. Get it.