Fox News And Right-Wing Media Synergy

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.

Rasmussen’s Guide To The Political Class

Scott Rasmussen is to polling what Rush Limbaugh is to objective reporting. That is to say he has no scruples other than to serve up a pre-mashed helping of right-wing propaganda. Whenever the Democratic agenda gains favor, or Obama’s popularity is rising, you can count on Rasmussen to deliver a survey that reports precisely the opposite. For this reason, he is a frequent guest on Fox News. They surely appreciate that when he walks into the studio he brings with him a version of reality that conveniently skews to their prejudices.

Now Rasmussen has introduced an innovative new index that tracks the variances between what he calls the Mainstream public and the Political Elite. In a recent example of this breakthrough, he reports that the Tax Day Tea Parties were viewed favorably by 51% of “Americans” but only 13% of the Political Class shared that view.

So you may be wondering how Rasmussen determines who is an Elitist and who is a Mainstream American. He does this by conducting a comprehensive psychological regimen of inquiry to create a detailed profile of a respondent’s subjective tendencies. I am including here the questions that make up his comprehensive study – all three of them:

  • Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more – the American people or America’s political leaders?
  • Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group?
  • Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?

Answer two of more of those questions affirmatively and you are a Mainstream American. Answer two or more in the negative and you are a Political Elitist. What could be simpler? Or more simple minded?

The good news is that, despite the fact that I am one of the most politically oriented people you could ever hope to meet, according to Rasmussen I am a Mainstream American. I would answer both the second and third questions with a firm “aye.” As for the first question, I do not so much disagree with it as I am confused by it. I don’t know how to compare the judgment of America’s political leaders to that of the American people. Is there an authority to whom I can refer to ascertain the American people’s judgment on any issue? And aren’t America’s political leaders a reflection of the people’s judgment? No matter – I am still squarely Mainstream as measured by Rasmussen’s index.

The problem here is that Rasmussen is using this index to draw distinctions between the two groups and characterize them as significant. Never mind that the Political Class he defines occupies a mere 7% of respondents. With this gimmick he can report nonsense like the Tea Party numbers above. After all, who really cares if 13% of the 7% of Elitists don’t like tea? If he surveyed 1,000 people, then we’re talking about 9 who fall into that category. That’s 9 out of 1,000, or less than 1%.

This has absolutely no statistical value whatsoever. The only purpose it can possibly serve is to create an imaginary group against which to compare other results whose significance you wish to artificially enhance. This permits Rasmussen to imply that an invented class of people have decidedly different values than the rest of us. And since his test for what constitutes a Mainstream American is so broad, the whole process is worthless, and worse, it’s phony. He may as well have asked…

  • Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more – Mr. Rogers or the KKK?
  • Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that tortures kittens and feeds their remains to crocodiles. Would you oppose the federal government feeding dead kittens to swamp beasts?
  • Do government and big business often work together in ways that pad the campaign accounts of politicians and deregulate the affairs of corporations?

Those that do not answer in the affirmative are Poopyheads and may not play with the rest of us Americans. We all owe Rasmussen a debt of gratitude for revealing to us the stark differences that are hidden amongst our nation’s people. He is a master at exposing the vast, make-believe divides that were meant by divine providence to keep us apart and at each others throats. Heaven forbid we might all be more alike than we assumed.