Sunday, January 29, 2006

Misrepresentation - or a Syntax Error?

My view of politicians is rather simple – there are good and bad in both parties. The reason I consider myself a Republican is that at I believe that they take a stand and stick to it. You can rely on them, for the most part, not to flip-flop on issues based on the latest poll data.

Interestingly enough, I have read several articles lately from MSM predicting the demise of the Republican Party – or at the very least, the loss of power in the next election. And I have seen Democratic leaders make complete fools of themselves in public by saying things that were either too ridiculous to believe, or were just plain misleading. I’m speaking of “plantations”, “chocolate city”, “OWL club”, “AIIIYEEEEEEEEEEE”, “We defeated the Patriot Act”, calling for a filibuster before counting votes, etc. Finally I see MSM bending the facts – slanting the truth – to attempt to bring this about.

But what is worse, is when poll data used by the MSM and the leading democrats is slanted like the recent polls by AP-IPSOS (Sorry – I can’t get to the original poll data any more, but AnkleBitingPundits has the information) and LA Times/Bloomberg.

Let’s take a quick look. First off – the AP-ISOS poll was reported in several large, left-leaning newspapers. But the problem with the poll was the fact that 52% of the respondents were Democrats and only 40% were Republican. Now compare that with the fact that during the 2004 election, voters of both parties were split evenly at 37%. Right away you can see that the results are going to be slanted – yet they were reported as fact by the MSM.

The LA Times/Bloomberg poll situation is different. The report from the poll does not contain the demographic information on the respondents, so nobody can actually tell how honest the poll was. They gloss over this by reporting:

The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll contacted 1,555 adults nationwide by telephone January 22 through 25, 2006. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the nation, and random digit dialing techniques allowed listed and unlisted numbers to be contacted. Multiple attempts were made to contact each number. Adults were weighted slightly to conform with their respective census figures for sex, race, age, education and region.

Note that results were weighted by everything except political affiliation. So it begs the question. But there is more:

Poll results may also be affected by factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.

There…they said it, not me. The wording of the question counts. Let’s look at some questions to see how they are worded:

Q30. Which do you think is more effective in stimulating the nation's economy: An economic agenda focused on returning money to taxpayers through tax cuts, or an economic agenda focused on reducing the federal deficit and paying down the national debt?

Q31. Which do you think is more effective in stimulating the nation's economy: An economic agenda focused on returning money to taxpayers through tax cuts, or an economic agenda focused on spending on such issues as health care and education?

I won’t debate the poll results from these questions, because of the wording. That is because the way they are worded makes it sound like tax cuts are simply designed to put money back in taxpayers pockets. But the issues is different. As John F. Kennedy asserted, tax cuts are designed to spur the economy by giving people more money to spend and invest. The economy is not driven by what the government does, but by how much money people are spending. These questions misrepresent, on purpose I would opine, the reason tax cuts are done.

Q34. As you may know, George W. Bush authorized federal government agencies to use electronic surveillance to monitor phone calls and emails within the United States without first getting a court warrant to do so. Do you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? (IF ACCEPTABLE/UNACCEPTABLE) Do you feel strongly about that or not?

Q35. Would you mind if you found out that your phone calls were being monitored by the U.S. government as part of the fight against terrorism?

In each of these examples the entire question is biased by the way it is worded. In Q34 it says “use electronic surveillance to monitor phone calls and emails within the United States…” What is wrong here is that this particular question does not take into account the fact that the NSA program is monitoring phone calls and emails of people with links to international terrorist organizations. Quite clearly, if the question made that distinction, the answer would have been very different. The next question is in the same vein – they fail to point out that the people being targeted by the program are suspected of ties to organizations that have attacked – and are claiming to be planning additional attacks – on US citizens. Again, if the questions had been worded the answers would have been much different.

A different take on the same issue is from this Fox News Poll. The same basic questions are asked but worded differently. It is obvious from the results what a difference a word or two makes:

30. Do you think the president should or should not have the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor electronic communications of suspected terrorists without getting warrants, even if one end of the communication is in the United States?

31. In an effort to identify terrorist activity, do you think the president should or should not have the power to authorize the National Security Agency to do computer searches of large numbers of international phone calls coming in and out of the United States without getting warrants?

Clearly there is a tremendous difference in the way these questions were worded. It is somewhat disingenuous to word questions to purposely slant the answers. But there is more to it than that. Just as a glaring example, the LA Times/Bloomberg poll asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?” The result of the question was that 43% of the respondents said they approve and 54% said they did not. The next question is how did the LAT report this result?

Overall job rating: A majority of Americans (54%) disapprove of the way the president is handling his job, while 43% approve. This includes 39% who strongly disapprove. This is a big drop from the beginning of last year, when a January L.A. Times Poll had Bush’s job rating at 50% approve (47% disapprove). Throughout much of 2005, most national polls have shown Bush’s popularity declining dramatically. The poll results are very close to the average of other national polls released in the last two weeks.

This analysis is at best misleading. It compares Bush’s ratings now, to those of January 2005, and reflects a 14% decline since then. What they fail to point out is that Bush reached a low in his ratings shortly after Hurricane Katrina. At that time his rating was at 35%. Since then, his rating has risen almost 23%. The analysis truthfully states that through much of last year Bush’s approval rates were dropping. But it completely ignores the fact that Bush’s approval rating has risen at a much quicker rate than when it was dropping. Unfortunately for all of us, this is what passes for “unbiased” journalism at the LA Times.

All of this leads me to be suspicious of every single story I see in MSM. To doubt every single word that comes out of the mouths of Democratic Party leaders. And that is sad. But it is funny at the same time. I can’t understand how a party that wants to be a centrist force in the United States can continue to rely on the MSM to be their PR branch, or make statements that so clearly go against the wishes of the American people.

If you want to see something even funnier, check out Jon Stewart’s take on some of the Democratic leaders. The Political Teen has the clip.