If Media Don’t Like Poll Results, They Have the Results Changed

Since NBC/WSJ/CBS/New York Times/ABC pay for the poll why should they have to report results running counter to their politics?  John Podhoretz at Commentary Magazine has the scoop:

A stunning tale today in the Salt Lake Tribune, however, reveals the dirty little secret of polls paid for by the media. The results are, in effect, owned by the media, and the media can insist that they be rejiggered.

The Tribune published a poll done by the respected Mason-Dixon firm that showed a 10-point lead for the county’s Republican candidate for mayor. The poll was released on Thursday. Later, editors for the paper objected to the results on the grounds that the poll had an insufficient number of Democrats in its sample:

Tribune editor Nancy Conway acknowledged the problem. “We are as concerned about this as anyone,” she said Monday. “As soon as we understood there was a problem we worked to correct it. “We had no reason to doubt the poll until we saw others conducted over the same period and could see differences in the numbers. That raised questions,” Conway said. “We contacted our pollster who did additional research on Salt Lake County demographics and found there was indeed a flaw. “We knew right then that we needed to correct our mistake and that’s what we are doing,” Conway said.

And so it was done, as the story explains.

These are stunning admissions:

To recap: A newspaper pays for a poll. It doesn’t like the look of the results. So it asks the pollster to reexamine them and alter them by changing his “weights.” He does so; he may agree with the call (as the Mason Dixon pollster says he does in the story) or he may be simply serving the interests of his paying client.

And it will do so based on the partisan split—the very controversy that is dismissed so cavalierly by media types. We only know about this one because of the highly unusual circumstances of its revision. The question you have to ask yourself now is: How many times does this happen before a poll is published?

But people like myself have been called every conspiratorial wacko name in the book for looking at the data, saying it is obviously wrong and charging the polling organizations with either incompetence or bias.  Turns out it is both.

54 Comments

  1. Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hmmm…sounds a bit like the Obama Campaign threatening Gallup with the DOJ and a lawsuit over their methodologies

  2. stuckinmass
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Right! And the pollsters act like they don’t even understand what we’re complaining about? Overweighted by party ID? What do you mean, we never weight by party ID, it’s unreliable!

    • No Tribe
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Used to be too, before there were 97-1 and 94-3 partisan splits. Now, its the most reliable.

  3. WillBest
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This doesn’t surprise me and you can’t fault the polling firm. Customer is always right and all. They should still be releasing their polls with an * though.

  4. Tom
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The answer is obvious. Just look at this years polls.

  5. No Tribe
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    yea, I’ve seen this before. MD does what’s regular for the business. You give the customer what they want to hear. And since it will be wrong, MD will just reply, looks like we had it correct the first time.

  6. Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Anyone else getting robo-texts in the last 5 minutes from the Obama campaign to help them make random get out the vote calls?

  7. MassLiberty
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    And here is the smoking gun that proves us all right. We were forced to consider whether we were the crazy ones, when we knew bot intuitively and rationally that what we were seeing did not make sense. I think we can all rest knowing that Romney has this election well in hand.

  8. Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If you’re “surprised” by this you haven’t been paying attention.

    Separately, FYI, the newspaper industry for decades has been corrupt. Pretty much for obvious reasons. Put a bunch of liberal Democrats in one place and ipso facto it’ll become corrupt. Whether we’re talking about a big Democrat city or a Democrat dominated industry the end result will be rank corruption. I used to represent several of the country’s major newspaper chain publishers. Circulation fraud utterly is rampant in the newspaper industry. Counting free papers as “circulation.” Counting papers left unread in racks as “circulation.” Counting deliveries made to people who’ve already cancelled their subscriptions as “circulation.” So on, so forth. It’s been going on forever and in recent years their audiences only have shrunk more.

    Later today the liberal media will start screwing around with “exit polling” data. To try to boost Obama and to suppress turnout for Romney. Tonight they’ll try to slant their coverage of the election returns to boost Obama and to suppress conservative turnout. They’ll preannounce obvious Obama states. But for equally as obvious Romney states they’ll not call them. They’ll try to build momentum for Obama. They might try a Florida ’00 trick by early calling a key state for Obama. It’s what they are. It’s how they roll.

    • JimmyB
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’m fully expecting at least one network (probably one of the NBC family) to engage in some shenanigans tonight with calling a state too early then walking it back. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens early, say with VA, in an effort to possibly influence voting in more western swing states.

      Remember back in ’04 when some of the early exit polling was ‘leaked’ in the early afternoon showing Kerry ahead in FL?

      Tsar is correct in saying this is how the liberal media rolls – so don’t be surprised by it – very much expected I would think.

    • Dogfish
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Tsar’s comments…. Sad, but very true

  9. Ranger375
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I would agree with what you posted however the latest poll I just commissioned tells me it is inaccurate.

    Well it was actually the 3rd revision of the poll the first two just didn’t seem right — but my pollster said I was right that is seemed wrong and he would change it to correct the error — he said this as I handed him his check.

    No problem!

  10. Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Is this Big Bird pic for real, lmao?

    • Ranger375
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Don’t know but wiping coffee off myself! WOW!

      • Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        LMAO. Poor bird suffered under Obama and couldn’t afford to buy feed to keep his weight.

  11. CAChris
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As Barone and Rove and Morris and Noonan and Krauthammer and Many others keep saying, its not about the polls its about the feeling on the ground. Something’s afoot, many have said it, most are scared to confirm it.. In 5 short hours, we will get the answers to all the questions.. Who is wrong, who is hedging and who is the new trusted name for elections.. Fascinating!

  12. Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The suspense is killing me today. So far there is just no meaningful information about how things are going. I also check the lefty blogs where they are busy calling us the wingnutosphere.

  13. Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Rasmussen on FOX… can’t call a winner.

    • CAChris
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yeah he shouldn’t, we wont go out on a limb with a 49/48.. I wouldn’t.. That’s crazy.

    • Hestrold
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

      He’s covered both bases. It’s like being a weather dude, you don’t ever have to be right, ’cause hey who can predict the weather!

    • Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      short: Give me 5-6 hours when exits come out and I can figure out if my Party ID was anywhere near the ballpark…if it is I am King….if it isn’t Oh Shite 🙂

    • Xdust
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That doesn’t mean anything. He is hedging his bets. He has a great dream job.

      Make a ton of $$$, and only have to be close every 4 years on one day. And you have dozens of other polls to compare to.

      Dude has it made, and isn’t going to commit or say anything that will screw that up.

  14. CAChris
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    CO just did the EV tallies, the Party ID in CO is R+2 .. Will that translate to R+2 everywhere? We will see! 🙂

    • Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Interesting. Does anyone know what CO Party ID was in 2008 EV?

    • Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      LINK US!!!!

    • Adam
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That was confirmed days ago on the GMU early vote website.

      Simply not new news.

      • CAChris
        Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Uhm they update the tallies as they count.. Its big news, these counts are updated, that is the count as of today, Adam what are you looking at??

      • kenberthiaume
        Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        It’s been R+2 or 3 for a long while in CO. Nice but we have to see what happens on ED still. It was D+2 or 3 last time and Ds won by 9. So….

    • kenberthiaume
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      last time I think EV was D+2 or 3. Don’t get too excited. The turnout was R+2 last time as opposed to R+9 in 2004. Obama won by 9 or so in 2008. INdendents broke 55-45 so you’d have to think Romney will beat that. The crossover repubs killed Mccain.

      It’s all about crossovers and how independents break. Republicans counted on more EV so it isn’t surprising they’d do better. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

      • CAChris
        Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Turnout was R+1 in 08. R+2 in EV means its grown.. Look at florida the results are shaping up to fit the R+2 mantra.. Noone is excited, its big news however. Winning counties that have never been won by R’s is a big deal. 🙂 We will see, this could all be noise.. This isn’t winning news this is just good news. 🙂

  15. lookitcouldhappen
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is a quote from that story:

    Twenty percent of those sampled said they were Democrats, 48 percent said Republican and 32 percent said independent. That was close to accepted breakdowns of party affiliation statewide, said Coker, “but intuitively we know Salt Lake County is more Democratic than the rest of the state.” It would have been more accurate to weight Democratic affiliation in Salt Lake County at closer to 25 percent, with Republicans at 43 percent, he added.

    Notice the quote: “But intuitively we know”

    So that makes their gut feeling the “Factual Truth”.

    That explains the polls we have been seeing….

  16. phoenixrisen
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Checking in. Don’t know if anybody has come to this conclusion. Democratic pundits are acting like Obama has lost Ohio on Fox, CNN, MSNBC. The crying campaign workers in Chicago, Dean’s comments, Obama’s speech in Iowa looks like a goodbye. Something tells me that the Ohio SOS counted the early votes and told the campaigns the results yesterday.

  17. No Tribe
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    OK, got to vote, 10 minute wait now. My vote is number 1007 with about 5 hours left to vote. in 2008, Obama-734 over McCain-593, for 1350 in person votes.

    So, we will likely see a bit more voters here in ’12 compared with ’08.

    In 2010, we had 1100 in person votes, and the Democratic congressman barely beat the challenger (won overall easily) 526 to 547.

    The other precinct that I looked in on this am and saw a phenomenal turnout, is one of the more Republican areas around here, going to Obama over McCain in ’08, by 828-637, but in 2010, swung 584-517 to the Republican challenger.

    The much more Democratic precinct near my house was the only one of the three that did not have a huge line of voters this morning. It went Obama over McCain 1165 to 624, and Democratic still in ’10 by a 725 to 563 margin.

    Bottom line, in my Fairfax county neck of the woods, three precinct’s, the more Republican voters in the precinct, the bigger the early morning push of voters.

  18. Utah Libertarian
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Two things about this poll/story.

    1) It is very possible to use Utah state demographics for a Salt Lake County race and be VERY wrong. Most Dems in the state are concentrated in Salt Lake City, so any pollster using demographics for the entire state would actually have a flawed model. Mason Dixon may have had no understanding of this (benefit of the doubt) when they published.

    2) The poll results were instantly considered an outlier to other polls taken in the state by local companies.

    I believe that the demographics would not have been reviewed and changed if the outlier issue hadn’t also been part of this.

    It wasn’t just the County Mayor race that looked off, but the Mia Love/Jim Matheson race. They had several results that raised flags.

  19. Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Machine changes Obama vote to Romney’s. Some Dem’s making a big deal of this as if the opposite didn’t take place last week.

    http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/11/06/machine-turns-vote-for-obama-into-one-for-romney/

    • EpiphoneKnight
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Finally we got one of those votes back :p

    • Dogfish
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ol’ Sarge Schultz’s head will explode when he hears this……

    • dizzymissl
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Heads are exploding over at Huffington Post about this. Of course, they don’t believe you when you tell them the opposite thing happened in NC and other places.

      • Dogfish
        Posted November 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Fairness and equity is typically not a trait exhibited by those that are adherents of the HuffPo/MSNBC dogma

  20. NP
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    NumbersMuncher ‏@NumbersMuncher
    Team Obama wants air of inevitability so they will keep pushing early vote #s even though they aren’t nearly as good as 08. Focus on GOTV.

  21. EpiphoneKnight
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Keith’s question is right; how many times are polls revised before release in order to establish the desired result? That could be not just bias. It’s possible that if other polling firms are producing biased polls, then a legit firm may tweak their model to something less accurate to appear in step with other firms. They would assume the first firm is accurate and not biased, so they assume that their severely deviating poll results are wrong so they must produce something closer to what everyone else does in order to be accurate.

  22. Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Does anybody know what the majority of polls used in the 2008 polling season when weighting for party affliation? Did they use the R+1 from ’04 like the majority of pollsters for this year use D+7 from ’08. Or did they model party affliation after the ’06 midterms?

  23. Dave
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t know what in the world is so surprising about this…duh…they care about money and power more than anything…duh…let the blowhards call you names….they’re simpletons

  24. Dave
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it probably is one

  25. Dogfish
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What is happening today is a Republican turn-out Tsunami.

    This is the Chick-Fil-A phenomenon but on election day.

  26. Pa John
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Who’s bread I eat who’s song I sing

  27. rrgg
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    But if the polls didn’t show the race to be neck and neck then think about how much lower their ratings would be!

  28. Peter A. Simm
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    Should a newspaper blithely publish a poll that it has commissioned when that poll is obviously based on a blatantly grossly-unrepresentative sample? The poll’s initial version had no adjustment for having grossly undersampled Democrats. The initial unadjusted result of a 10%-point lead for the Republican candidate, Crockett, was the opposite of reality. In the official results in the 2012 election for Salt Lake County Mayor, Crockett actually ended up LOSING by 9.8%-points, not WINNING by 10%-points.

    Here are the official results from the County’s website https://secure.slco.org/clerk/elections/results/public/ :
    Mark Crockett (R): 45.05% (150,643 votes)
    Ben McAdams (D): 54.85% (183,288 votes)
    Write-in votes: 0.10% (328 votes)

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