“They’re All Republicans” – Gallup’s Top Brass – No Wonder the Government is Broke – GOP Corporate Titans (Nelnet) Keep Fleecing It

August 23, 2012

Uncategorized

In 2004, journalist Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer blog wrote about what he perceived as Gallup’s Republican bias. His observations – nee warnings – seem all the more prescient now that we’ve learned that the U.S. Department of Justice has signed on to a fired Gallup insider’s account of the company’s long-time scheme to massively over-bill the Federal Government.

By Doug Henwood (writing about Bush-Kerry polling in 2004)

“What could be wrong? There may be some mischief hidden in Gallup’s “likely voter” filters – a series of questions about voting history, knowledge of the polling place, and intention designed to strip out the stay-at-homes from the polling results. (Other polls report the preferences of registered voters or even all adults.) While it may be reasonable to narrow the universe to likely voters in the days before an election, it may not be so sensible a month or two before, when people just haven’t firmed up their intentions yet. And it may not even be reasonable in the final pre-election polls: a review of the last four elections by Ruy Teixeira shows that Gallup’s estimates for all registered voters were actually more accurate than those for likely voters in three of the cases.

Likely voter filters may be especially inappropriate this year, with record registrations of new black voters, intense motivation among Bush haters to send him back to the hellish climes of Crawford, and uncommon interest expressed by young voters, who are often discarded in likely voter models.

“They’re all Republicans!”

But is all this just a matter of mere technique, or is something else going on? There may well be some hidden partisan bias at work.

As the blogger Kos reported, in June 2003, Gallup’s CEO James Clifton gave $2,000 to a right-wing Republican who was running for Senate, Herman Cain. Journalists are not supposed to do these things; many newspapers are even forbidding reporters to go to the Kerry benefit concerts headlined by Bruce Springsteen, since the proceeds go to the Democratic campaign. Taking this concern for appearances to an absurd extreme, former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee didn’t even vote. But this notion of ethics doesn’t extend to the CEO of the world’s most famous pollster.

Since I’m a paying member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), I subscribe to their electronic discussion list, AAPORnet. When I raised some questions about an apparent pro-Bush bias in the Gallup numbers on the list, I was met with mostly hostile responses; one participant even characterized my questions as “sleaze.”

But the postings inspired a call from a former Gallup researcher last week, who opened the conversation by saying “They’re all Republicans!” Well, not all, he clarified – just most of the senior people, like editor-in-chief Frank Newport and senior editor Lydia Saad. (An exception is Democrat David Moore, a senior analyst.) Saad and Newport have not yet responded to emailed requests for comments.

This isn’t to say that Gallup cooks the books; I don’t believe that. But in a field where you have to make a lot of choices about technique, your unconscious can easily lead you to embrace the ones that fit your preferences. But since polls can change the public opinion they’re supposed to measure – people shun a loser and cluster around a winner – such choices can really matter.”

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