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Calling BS on a bogus poll

How a Democrat pollster cooks the numbers

“Poll Finds Obama Would Trounce Palin” reads the headline on AOL News. “2012 Election: Sarah Palin Crushed by Barack Obama” screams the head on Associated Content. In a hypothetical contest, the poll ”found” that President Obama would defeat Alaska’s governor 55 percent to 35 percent.

There are a few problems with the poll, however…

1. The polling firm which conducted it, Public Policy Polling, is a Democrat company which serves Democrat clients and therefore depends on their business.

2. PPP is run by Stanley Greenberg, who was Bill Clinton’s pollster. He also advised the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry. Greenberg, in partnership with James Carville and Bob Shrum, co-founded the left-leaning Democracy Corps. Does this sound like a man without an axe to grind to you?

3. The methodology Greenberg used to conduct the survey was biased. Take a look at the composition of the poll sample:

If you are a Democrat, press 1. If a
Republican, press 2. If other, press 3.
Democrat ………………………………………………. 44%
Republican……………………………………………… 33%
Other……………………………………………………. 23%

That’s right, Greenberg sampled 11% more Democrats than Republicans, stacking the poll in favor of the Dem candidate.

4. Here’s another question from the Democrat poll for your consideration:

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion
of Sarah Palin? If favorable, press 1. If
unfavorable, press 2. If you’re not sure, press 3.
Favorable……………………………………………….. 39%
Unfavorable ……………………………………………. 50%
Not Sure…………………………………………………. 12%

These favorability numbers for Gov. Palin are totally out of line with those of more reputable and less biased pollsters. Rasmussen, for example, reported at the end of January the following numbers for the former GOP vice presidential candidate:

Favorable…………… 52%
Unfavorable…………. 46%

An Opinion Research Poll conducted in the week following the election put the Palin favorables/unfavorables at 49%/43%.

5. In all of the non-biased polls, there is an upward trend in Gov. Palin’s favorables; that is, they have been increasing ever since the general election. Greenberg’s numbers, in other words, just don’t add up. Unfortunately, the drive-by media is only too happy to accept bogus poll results at face value and amplify them to an even less critical audience.

6. There’s a long way to go to 2012. The president’s favorabilty numbers have been slowly dropping at the rate of about a point a day in the tracking polls. Most voters have been very patient with him, willing to give the guy every chance to get it right. But expectations for Obama have been very high, and so far he’s given no indication that he knows how to turn the country around. As time passes, that patience will wear very thin if he and his team continue to make all the wrong moves. This Greenberg poll wasn’t designed to measure anything. Rather, its purpose was to diminish Gov. Palin’s image as a leading candidate well before the 2012 election and take some of the focus off of the president’s most recent problems.

Back in MBA school at the Walton College of Business Administration, Dr. Phillip Taylor, who taught statistics, said that the most important thing his students should take with them from the course is that those with ulterior motives can cook numbers to make statistics appear to produce any result desired by the researcher. But a skeptic who knows enough about statistics can usually spot the bias in the methodology.

Mr. Greenberg, you’re busted.

- JP

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