Is the Media Polling a Fast One on Voters?

Polling has changed a lot in the last several years. And 16 days out from one of the most significant midterm elections in history, it’s important to know how.

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know which headlines to believe. You can see two surveys on the same party the same day with dramatically different results. One second, Republicans have the advantage. The next, Democrats do. It’s exactly the kind of yo-yo polling that makes most voters throw up their hands in frustration. But, more often than not, it’s the liberal candidate or party that has the lead. Is that by design, former Bush writer Ned Ryun asks — or just a coincidence?

“Most people only see or hear the blaring top line of a poll: ‘Democrats leading in congressional generic ballot by 13 points!’ and assume that somehow those numbers are a legitimate and accurate presentation of political reality,” he writes. “But that’s not always so.” In a recent article for American Greatness, Nicholas Waddy points out that CNN’s generic ballot showed exactly that — but it made some outrageous assumptions to get there like, “women voting for Democrats vs. men by nearly double the historical trends, the over-65 vote swinging 26 points in Democrats favor from 2016 until now, and that somehow the white vote will drop 21 points for House Republicans in a two year time period. Those numbers,” Waddy insists, “are on the level of fraudulent.”

How is the media getting away with these predictions, especially, Ned points out, since they’re based on “the most historic changes in the voting demographics ever?” “Why not just report the numbers as accurately as possible? After 2016, that reason should be clear: It’s because gauging public sentiment emphatically is not the point of every public opinion poll.” The goal isn’t always to report public opinion — but to shape it.

“Opinion polling was born out of a struggle not to discover the public mind but to master it,” Christopher Hitchens wrote in Harpers in 1992. “It was a weapon in the early wards to thwart organized labor in the battle against Populism… Polls are deployed only when they might prove useful — that is, helpful to the powers that be in their question to maintain their position and influence. Indeed, the polling industry is a powerful ally of de-politicization and its counterpart which is consensus.”

To most conservatives, this isn’t news. Debunking polling comes as naturally as breathing to most values voters. We’ve all read the bleak headlines on marriage or life, only to trace those numbers back to the original question and realize it was phrased to elicit a certain response. As survey houses know better than anyone, how the issue is framed matters greatly.

Then, of course, there’s the social stigma. Some people are just reluctant to tell a stranger how they truly feel about a candidate, party, or issue. That’s why the natural marriage numbers always polled well under the final outcome on a ballot initiative. It’s also probably why an unconventional candidate like Donald Trump managed to win a historic victory.

If you’re wondering where the country truly stands, Ryun suggests focusing on polls with “likely voters.”

“And, don’t forget the phenomenon of the shy Trump voter; we now live in a country with radical leftists who are happy to chase Republicans out of restaurants, roundhouse kick pro-life women in the streets, and end friendships over simple political disagreements. In this environment, it’s no surprise that many Americans who support Trump’s policies and Republican candidates are hesitant to say so out loud.”

“The Left might be organizing in the streets, rending their garments and storming the Supreme Court, but that doesn’t mean Republican voters won’t show up when it counts in November. They know how important this election is, and I’m betting they’ll be there to quietly make a big statement.”

In the end, polls don’t decide elections — people do. So you do your part to protect your values, and join us in the effort to Pray, Vote, and Stand!

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.


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EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission.

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