The Wall Street Journal published an article this morning profiling pollster Scott Rasmussen. The column was written by the Journal’s John Fund, who is also a Fox News contributor. The article’s subject, Rasmussen, is also a Fox News contributor whose surveys lean reliably to the right, which makes him a favorite of the conservative press.
So what we have here is one of Rupert Murdoch’s columnists interviewing one of Murdoch’s pollsters for one of Murdoch’s newspapers to promote contributors to one of Murdoch’s television networks. And wouldn’t you know it, the article was effusively complimentary to Rasmussen. However, it has no more significance than a Keith Olbermann editorial praising Rachel Maddow in the NBC employee newsletter. Here is how Fund leads off:
“Thanks to the shifting tectonic plates of American society, polls have come to dominate our politics as never before, and Mr. Rasmussen is today’s leading insurgent pollster.”
The reason polls have come to dominate our politics is that outlets like Fox News seek to trivialize current affairs by overdosing on horse-race data and ignoring, or misrepresenting, the more substantive issues that people really need to know about. Fox is famous for hyping tabloid fare like the current pseudo-controversy over the mosque in New York. Then they supplement their non-story with polls about the mosque in New York story that adds nothing to their viewers’ store of useful knowledge.
It is that state of polling domination that Fund praises Rasmussen for as the “leading insurgent pollster.” I have no idea why a pollster would be complimented as being an insurgent, but it does tend to certify the widely held view that Rasmussen is an activist with an agenda.
It isn’t hard to find evidence of Rasmussen’s bias. If you take a look at the RealClearPolitics aggregation of polls, Rasmussen invariably reports numbers that are far more favorable to Republicans and conservatives. That predetermined result is built into his methodology. And just to make sure he gets the results he wants, he will also skew his survey’s questions to assure a rightward slant. Markos Moulitsos of Daily Kos has done some detailed analysis on Rasmussen’s (dishonest) game And I previously documented Rasmussen’s phony index wherein he invents something he calls The Political Class, but is really just a fake metric to create artificial comparisons between groups of respondents that don’t exist.
Fund cites Rasmussen’s Political Class index and seems to be impressed with its fantasy results. But Fund is no better at math than Rasmussen. He says that…
“Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly.”
What I’d like to know is how an index with just two options adds up to only 63% (10% Political Class plus 53% Mainstream)? there is no “Other” in the survey. It seems that 37% of respondents fell into a black hole. What’s more, the change Fund cites where the political class has “clearly declined into single digits,” would only have had to move down 1 point. That corresponds to his assertion that the mainstream grew slightly. However, in most polls, that minute a change would be regarded as statistically insignificant and within the margin of error. So what is Fund’s point?
It is also worth noting that the Political Class in Rasmussen’s index constitutes a mere 7% of the total group polled. This makes the comparison even less worthy of consideration. It means that in a poll of 1,000 people, 50% of the Political Class is only 35 people, or 3.5% of the total. Nevertheless, Fund eagerly cites a series of additional results based on this nonsense that Rasmussen says “has real significance.”
Rasmussen has little credibility amongst his peers in the polling game. His entire reason for being is to pump out polls that put Republicans and conservatives in a positive light and to disparage Democrats and liberals. The goal is not to inform, but to influence and shape public opinion. That’s why he is such a frequent guest on Fox News.
And that’s why his reputation is getting polished by his colleague John Fund and the Wall Street Journal. It’s also why Murdoch has gone to such great lengths to own all his own newspapers, TV networks, and pollsters.