February 28, 2006

CBS = Certifiably Bogus Surveys

Hatched by Dafydd

Well, there they go again.

CBS has released yet another survey slamming the president. This one, they announced with breathless glee, found:

President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Indeed, the Bush administration loses across the board, on every conceivable question: approval, handling of the Iraq War, handling of terrorism, the economy, national security, and on and on. So how did they manage to get such wonderful numbers (from the Democratic perspective)?

First, we note that polling mere registered voters invariably yields a significantly more liberal result than polling likely voters; that is a given among pollsters. There really is no excuse, either, since by now everybody knows that only half of registered voters actually turn out to vote in off-year elections. What could be worse than polling them as a proxy for the voters who actually, you know, vote?

Continuing this series of unfortunate polling events, CBS managed to find a worse group to poll: they chose to poll "national adults" instead -- which gives results even more skewed to the Left. Very clever, these unbiased professionals!

Second, there is always the question of the political-party demography of the sample. Typically, we must tease out from various reported results the percent of respondents who are registered with the two major political parties (plus "Independents," which includes everybody else from Communists and Greens to La Roucheies and Libertarians).

But to my amazement, CBS's "the sky is falling on Bush's head" story actually linked to the underlying poll itself... and that pdf file listed (on the last page) the exact numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents polled.

Ready for the whopper? CBS managed to find a poll sample that, in raw format, comprised 1,018 respondents... of which 40.2% were Democrats and 26.7% Republicans, yielding an "advantage-gap" of 13.5% for the Democrats. Yow!

But not to worry; even more amazing than merely listing the total numbers of each, this time, the CBS pollsters actually weighted the sample, so as not to wildly oversample Democrats... an amazing innovation.

And they did a great job, too: the weighted sample now includes 37.4% Democrats and 28.4% Republicans. So the actual advantage-gap was only 9% for the Democrats, instead of 13%. Whew, there's a load off my mind!

So just bear that in mind when next you read a poll from CBS -- heck, from anyone -- screaming that Bush's poll numbers are plummeting, that they're at an all-time low, that his support has actually sunk below zero, and that he will soon be voted off the planet: if you conduct your survey at the Re-Defeat Bush dead-dog party, you can pretty much get the poll to jump up and spit sweet apple cider in your eye.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 28, 2006, at the time of 4:35 AM

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» BUSTED: Misleading CBS Poll Says Bush Approval 34%, All Time Low... But Wait... from RightWinged.com
The Drudge Report has a giant "34%" on the home page right now, just under this picture, obviously supposed to be of a sad President Bush: A similar display can be seen by following the link attached to that "34%"... [Read More]

Tracked on February 28, 2006 5:24 AM

» Another Tainted Poll from CBS from The New Editor
Much is being made over a new CBS News poll purporting to show that Bush's approval rating is down to 34%. The fact that the poll is of 'adults' and not 'registered' or 'likely' voters is certainly of interest, but what is more interesting is the polit [Read More]

Tracked on February 28, 2006 11:07 AM

» Ports Polls and Disinformation from The Lone Elm
Big Lizards describes how the CBS poll regarding the ports issue is messed up -- specifically the sample has an inappropriate excess of Democratic voters, and also uses registered voters, a sample that does not reflect those who actually vote. [Read More]

Tracked on March 1, 2006 5:27 AM

» Who do you trust? By The Bear from The Absurd Report
This should surprise nobody, just because they talk about reform doesn’t mean they mean it. So we are right back to the same old, same old. The inmates of the alyssum will police themselves; it never worked before so why change. ... [Read More]

Tracked on March 4, 2006 8:52 PM


The following hissed in response by: MTF

You have to wonder about CBS News management's capacity for embarrassment. Low, obviously, since they encourage the staff to throw this sort of day-old fish out for the public to smell, calling it "news". And the capacity for contemplation and improvement? Very low, just as obviously, since there has been zero improvement since Rathergate. A real public service would be served just by putting most MSM companies out of their misery, and that's doubly true for the self-important goofballs at the major broadcast networks, CBS especially.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 8:02 AM

The following hissed in response by: tristero

Go to the data; do the math; compare it to the RCP averages and/or list of polls available on Polling Report. If you like, reweight the sample--make it 50/50 Dem/Rep if you like--GWB is still polling at 38-40. Complain as one might, those numbers are consistent with all the other national polls--all of which tell us what is already evident. This president and congress: a) have some serious leadership/policy problems; b) are off message; c) aren't explaining their policies/actions adequately; d)are increasingly out of touch with reality (my fear); or e) some combination of the above. It's time to focus on the real issues and get them dealt with than to find problems with a single poll from a consistently skewed organization.

The above hissed in response by: tristero [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 10:54 AM

The following hissed in response by: Capt Ron

By all means do the math. . . .but if your intent is to show a precipitous fall in the presidents approval numbers since being elected, at least use the likely voter numbers. I have no doubt they would be higher, particularly when paired with a democratic challenger. It is also unlikely that any president in the midst of such challenging times with the opposition attacking with more political emotionalism than rational alternatives would score very high approval numbers (though that approach probably has a short political shelf life with independent and swing voters). Would anyone like to review the numbers for Lincoln or Truman? Sherman saved Lincoln's candidacy three months before the election or he would have been a goner!

The above hissed in response by: Capt Ron [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 11:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: James W.


The RCP average is now 40.4%, and that's including the CBS propaganda poll of 34%--the others included in the average:

Rasmussen 43%
Cook/RT Strategies 40%
Hotline/FD 45%
Time 40%

Without the CBS poll, the average would be 42%--not bad for a president who's, rightfully or not, being flogged daily by our media for:
Iraq war
Mexican border
This doesn't even include side-effects from things like the Libby indictment and Cheney's hunting accident.

That all being said, you do have a point. I just think that your point reflects more of a problem in Congress (Democrat party in particular--we'll know for sure after the elections) than it does for Bush.


The above hissed in response by: James W. [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 11:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I think your primary mistake is to conclude that low poll numbers at any one time mean a president is doing something very wrong... rather than concluding, e.g., that the American people are reacting with hysteria to nonsensical attacks on the president, because they are being consciously and willfully misled by the mainstream news media.

At the moment, there has been a concerted effort by the major news media to confuse, obfuscate, and mislead the people -- as bad as or worse than it was during Reagan's presidency. Since Bush's weakest characteristic is his lack of ability to speak directly to the American people (which was Reagan's greatest strength), he cannot counter that onslaught.

But neither would Clinton have been able to, had the media been against him as they are against Bush. Neither would any president of my lifetime except for Reagan -- the media loved Kennedy; but had they hated him they way they hate Bush, they could have driven his approval into the dirt. (They certainly did with Johnson.)

The crisis here is that we depend upon the media being more or less honest, more or less neutral, more or less honorable... and they are none of these things.

For example, I have heard at least five times in the last couple of days the Dubai Ports deal begin referred to, on the air, as "an Arab country trying to buy six of our ports." (Three times, it was some talk show, the other two were "newsbreak" items.)

I'm sure you know as well as I that this is an utter falsehood. But when the interviewers heard the propagandist say this, not a single one corrected the blatant factual misstatement (as they would swiftly have done if a Republican said something false). And of course, newsbreaks are scripted, so that is a pretty direct example of media agit-prop.

So if a voter (rather, an adult) hears over and over that we're selling off all our ports to the A-rabs, it's hardly a wonder that he thinks Bush has lost his mind. 70% of respondents think this is a terrible deal -- because 90% of respondents don't have a clue what is actually happening, believing some bizarre fantasy instead... a fantasy they have been deliberately misled into believing.

Democracy depends upon a well-informed electorate. In today's world, the questions that arise are far more complex than they were in the 19th century. Thus, the people need honest brokers of information to explain the dynamics; alas, what they get is CBS trying desperately to make the news, not report it.

When you suggest the president is "out of touch with reality," what you tell me is that he is doing things differently than you would have. Bush and Clinton are poles apart, but I certainly would not say Clinton was "out of touch with reality," a term that implies somebody thinks he's Louis XIV, or somesuch. When Clinton refused to take terrorism seriously for eight years, that was a very bad decision -- but it doesn't make him clinically insane.

Similarly, Bush is not clinically insane to want to help a very moderate, very helpful ally of the U.S. who happens to be Arab; but if one exaggerates and distorts the facts enough, one can make it seem insane... and that is precisely what the media, in close coordination with the Democrats, are trying to do: if they can trick the American people into believing that Bush is trying to hand port security off to Syria and Iran, then people will be furious at Bush.

One of the things we do here at Big Lizards is call the media when we catch them in outrageous acts of partisan dirty tricks. We will continue to do so.

You're correct that heavily overpolling Democrats only changes Bush's approval numbers by four or five percent.

  • But how much are they changed by the initial reporting of the DP World deal, which was so biased and inaccurate?
  • How much are they changed by consistently referring to the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program as "domestic spying on Americans without a warrant?"
  • How much are they changed by breathlessly reporting every death of an American soldier and every setback in Iraq -- while never reporting a single victory, achievement, or political move forward?
  • How much are the numbers moved when Democrats call Bush a liar a dozen times a day -- telling whoppers themselves in the process -- and the newsies soberly pass along the accusations without ever noting that the facts don't back them up?

Each individual act of bias and misreporting may only move the numbers a point, a couple of points, or (as in this case) four or five points. But add them all up, and what is the complete "misreporting factor?" 20%, 30%? What would Bush's approval rating be today if the Antique Media loved him the way they loved Bill Clinton?

I believe this to be a very significant and troubling story... but one that tells us far more about he media than about any alleged failings of George W. Bush.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 2:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Gee, does that mean he won't be reelected?

I linked from Bush Still More Popular Than CBS News

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 3:50 PM

The following hissed in response by: tristero

Did you notice what I forgot in my post (besides a semicolon or period in the last sentence)--"Rather." Hmmm. Perhaps my own Freudian error? But, then again, Freud is psuedo-science of the same vintage as Darwin and evolution.

Either way, I appreciate the concern about polling and the media. I don't agree with the liberal media bias, nor do I believe that CBS is any worse than say FOX. I also get the idea that the polls don't really matter (although we are certainly talking about one, aren't we.) After all, it is true, Bush was selected/elected twice (will anyone take that bait?--ha ha), and is not up for reelection.

But, such discussion misses my point altogether. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress (last I look Democrats were all but eviscerated in the House and Senate), not to mention the Republican-appointee dominated Supreme Court and court system more broadly have a variety of problems to address. And, like most Americans, I want those problems--Iraq, Iran, deficit spending, taxes, etc.--addressed. Thus, complaining that the media is slicing and dicing the Bush Presidency is a distortion, especially from the perspective of an administration that has played the media so well.

Indeed, to imagine the "mainstream news media" is a singular entity with a human will is simply in error. Moreover, I would venture to guess that most people who consume media in the 21st century are all too aware that the source is biased. Indeed, they consciously choose their bias when selecting media. Just like Hollywood is not some singular entity, the so-called liberal media has no interest in anything other than selling advertising and making money.

In other words, the media is not the problem. I would simply urge us to focus on the real issues. And, I agree, the real issues are NOT who owns a handful of US ports or who is shooting their friends while out huntng. If this is what the media is reporting, then the administration should change the story, not keep stoking such stories....

PS On a separate note, to ascribe more sophistication and complexity to the questions/issues faced by society today than those faced in the 19th century underappreciates just how challenging and dramatic were the societal changes then. The railroad, for example, turned a 1-week journey into a 12-hour journey. The instantaneous communications of today were being born, as was sound and image recording/projection. Don't forget nighttime disappeared, replaced by electric illumination, and that mass culture appeared for the first time. By the way, the media then was no better than the media now.

The above hissed in response by: tristero [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 4:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

Selective cheery picking of polling numbers is misleading.

For instance within the last few weeks Rassmussen had Bush at 50%

Feb 19 and 18 were 49 and 48%

Trends are more revealing, the trends I see is something dramtic happens, Bushes numbers dip, the public after a while notices the sky has not fallen they start to rise again.

This dip seems to be due to the Port Hysteria and the Crisis in Iraq. It looks likw the numbers have stabalised, they should start rising again in a week or so.

Isn't 43% about the same as the percentage that voted for Clinton in 1992?

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 6:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


On a separate note, to ascribe more sophistication and complexity to the questions/issues faced by society today than those faced in the 19th century underappreciates just how challenging and dramatic were the societal changes then.

I said contemporary times are more complex, not more challenging.

Even World War II was less complex than wars today: the issues, alliances, and goals were easily grasped by virtually everybody. (Yes, occasionally countries flipped from one side to the other, such as the USSR; but those cases were infrequent.)

  • Today, we have a "war against jihadi terrorism." What is jihadi terrorism? Does that include the anti-cartoon riots? How about mere anti-cartoon protests? Who is on our side? Does that mean the government, or the people? It makes a difference in the case of, e.g., Pakistan.
  • Is there global warming? If so, is it anthropogenic? If so, is it dangerous? If so, does it also carry offsetting benefits? If not, is there anything we can do about it? If so, would those changes cause problems themselves which might be worse than global warming?
  • What are the effects of a coarsening society on our children? What can we/should we/will we do about it?
  • When does human personhood begin? When does it end?

You see what I mean, Tristero? It's not that we have more challenges today than in the nineteenth; the Civil War was pretty challenging to anyone caught in the middle of it. But today's challenges are not so clear-cut; often, they require specialized knowledge that is outside the experience of the vast majority of people, forcing them to rely upon experts -- whom they are similarly not qualified to pick!

You didn't need a newspaper in 1860 to tell you whether you were for or against slavery, for or against allowing the South to secede, for or against "states' rights." Any person of at least average intelligence knew enough to have an informed opinion about any of these.

But who here has enough knowledge to be for or against funding of embryonic stem-cell research, in contrast to adult stem-cell research and placental stem-cell research? I know I don't: my degrees are in math, not human genetic- and biological-engineering.

Raise your hand, anybody reading this board who is a qualified meteorologist, atmospheric physicist or atmospheric chemist, or other doctorate-level professional in a field that would train you to read and understand global-warming articles in relevant refereed science journals?

And could somebody here please tell me, from his personal intelligence experience, exactly what we know (and how we know) about the status of Iran's nuclear-weapons program?

Most of us rely on the popular media for nearly all our information on these subjects, information without which we cannot even begin to form a judgment. Thus, even in theory, a biased media in 2006 is far more destructive than the same degree of bias in 1906 or 1875 or during the Revolutionary War.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2006 8:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

I agree the President's message is not clearly heard by the public, at least on the subject of the war, but tristero's point that he's somehow "increasingly out of touch with reality" turns the reality of why public doesn’t hear his message on it's head.

If the administration were making little or no effort to explain their strategy in Iraq to the public then he might have a point. If there was little or no good news to be told about successes in the war, then he would certainly have a point. But, those things aren't true at all.

The President talks constantly about the war, and there's lots of great news from Iraq. That news isn't widely reported and in those few instances where some news is reported, the tone accompanying the report is often sneering and belittling. Bush's speeches get little notice in the MSM and provoke hardly any serious discussion. Instead, the public is under constant assault with "news" that is little more than propaganda against the administration and everything it does, the war especially. Right now, as an example, wouldn't you expect that most Americans probably believe the bulk of Iraq is being torn asunder by sectarian civil war, that Americans are dying by the hundreds in daily firefights all over the country, and that the Iraqi people have little or no interest in or capacity for democratic self government. Don’t you talk to people every day who say these things to you? Why would Americans believe such bunk, if not for the mainstream news organizations who feed it to them like pabulum?

I'm no Bush lover, that's for sure (and the absolutely incredible Medicare monstrosity he's saddled us with will someday, hopefully, be the most talked about remnant of his administration) but I give him full credit for one big thing: he saw the war from it’s inception as the long struggle it would become, and he has consistently tried to lead the public to support it. He knows as should we all that the GWOT is nothing less than yet another war against would-be fascists. If the mini-minded nut bags in the White House Press office weren't so preoccupied with trying to bring down the President, the Veep and the republicans generally they might just have the mental bandwidth to see this struggle for what it is, and the intelligence to support it. They’ve long since given up any pretense of being disinterested reporters of news, and have become a roomful of Helen Thomas’: hysterical, dishonest and manipulative. That's the primary reason demonstrably false polling data doesn't surprise me like this stuff doesn't concern me, and doesn't strike me as relevant to anything, much less indicative of the departure from reality you seem to think the President has taken. This is all just one more self reinforcing fallacy CBS gins up to reassure NBC, who reports stories comforting to ABC. Reform the broadcast networks!

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 1, 2006 8:43 AM

The following hissed in response by: James W.

"nor do I believe that CBS is any worse than say FOX."

I was curious if you could support your belief with an example or two--other than just saying "Fox is right-wing"? I have yet to see anything from Fox that approaches RaTHergate or this new propaganda poll; although, I must admit that I'm at a disadvantage living in Germany--I'm only able to watch Fox videos and read the articles from their website.

The above hissed in response by: James W. [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2006 11:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: tristero

Funny what happens in conservative blog spaces when big brother is described as being out of touch. Fox is not right-wing; we should read the science of global warming; a vast left-wing media conspiracy emerges to get Bush, Cheney, and all the righteous Republicans who have a choke-hold on power. More on that in a minute.

My point about complexity was really misunderstood by Dafydd ab Hugh. I made a purely academic point: that the modern age is no more or less bewildering than previous eras. Instead, I emphasized just how enormous the change was from agrarian cultures to industrial cultures. Of course, the world is certainly more complex to the degree that it has more layers; good god, we have plastics. But, that embraces complexity from 20,000 feet. I spoke not of complexity in those terms but from the perspective of the individual. The discussion point was, after all (and I paraphase): that today's questions were somehow more complex than previously and that people need honest brokers to understand the dynamics of the world. I disagreed that people in the nineteenth-century were any less bewildered by the complexity of their world than we are of the complexity in our own age. Indeed, from the perspective of most of the population in the 19th or 18th century, the world was marvelously complex. That is, after all, why we attribute such genius to our founding fathers. They managed to take a very complex world, explain it, and create a durable form of governance. Their task and the task of any political and/or societal leader is to render complexity comprehensible, whether that complexity takes the form of genetic engineering at the molecular level or at the level of organism. Mine was, though, a merely academic observation.

For example, Dafydd ab Hugh writes that "You didn't need a newspaper in 1860 to tell you whether you were for or against slavery, for or against allowing the South to secede, for or against "states' rights." Any person of at least average intelligence knew enough to have an informed opinion about any of these."
This statement assumes that the world of the 1850s and 1860s was divided into simple binaries crafted by historians and biographers. This logical fallacy views their world from our perspective. Life in the 19th century was not so easily reducible to simple oppositions, just as the red-state/blue-state dichotomy does a very bad job of describing the complexity of contemporary America.

Although Dafydd ab Hugh does not raise it explicitly in his discussion of the complexity of the past/present, I do want to concede one implicit point that he makes. In the case of nuclear weapons, we are definitely at a place where the consequences of error are more enormous than ever in the past. (This is not, though, the case with biological weapons, which have already been used explicitly as a weapon in past wars--conquest of the Americas, World War I, etc.)

However, our gracious host uses this academic point to drive home another point, which is far more insidious. Namely that the world today is woefully complex and we need leadership. Who, after all, can figure out if Iran has nukes? Who knew (besides the administration) that there were not WMD in Iraq. Thus, we need someone--the media--to make sense of it for us. Please, the media has bias; it has always had bias. Don't forget Hearst. A "biased" media was critical to stoking the American Revolution and to fostering genocide throughout the American West. Media bias has been responsible for all sorts of strange things. It is not anything new, and this (not incidentally) is why Fox does not trouble me.

But, all this talk of obvious media bias is a red herring.

Dafydd ab Hugh seems to be saying we need the media to be an honest broker. Sure that would be nice but unlikely (as I suggest above.) Indeed, that is why RealClearPolitics does the RealSensibleThing of averaging polls. It produces a concensus based on some reasonable middle (more on the value of debate below.)

But, what I am curious about is whether Dafydd ab Hugh really means to suggest that science is an objective broker, as the message suggests. Indeed, I agree, but I don't find the current administration very amenable to science and/or reasoned debate. Indeed, Dafydd ab Hugh asks if any of us is well enough trained to read the scientific literature on global warming? I applaud the question, but the current administration is not interested in anything that smacks of science, skepticism, or debate.

Bush, Cheney, et. al., reject the overwhelming scientific evidence for global warming. (Misrepresenting the very interesting debate among scientists about how rapidly the globe will warm as evidence of uncertainty about global warming itself.) Republicans nationwide, with the President among them, seek to teach religious belief as a legitimate alternative to scientific methods? Bush, et. al., prefer the ideology of the perfect market--in the face of economic science. Bush asks the American people to trust him, prefering to hide his actions behind a veil of secrecy. Bush likens the opposition to a poorly planned and executed Iraqi invasion to not supporting the troops.

I prefer debate, reasoned discussion. Sadly, this makes me an iconclast, especially in the academy, because I don't see red or blue solutions. Initially, I found much to like about Bush, especially after 911 (and his initial poor reaction), but increasingly have found his excesses more than troubling. For example, I favored the principles of the so-called "war on terror" but dislike the "crusades" rhetoric and poor planning. Bush could have asked for national sacrifice. Or, more importantly, he could have led the nation to war in Iraq without intentionally deceiving about WMD (or not really caring.) This bothered me for an obvious reason (it is wrong) but also for a secondary reason, it makes the legitimate use of force more difficult in the next situation. I would like to see private social security, but only partially, recognizing that markets cannot be expected to provide a meaningful safety net. I reject tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans but prefer them for ordinary folks in no small part because I reject preferential treatment based on wealth(i.e. class, or race for that matter.) And, as a civil libertarian, I find myself demanding individual rights--to own guns, to choose, to speak, not to be listened to by the government, etc. But, I also reject that corporations should be treated like individuals, because individuals they most certainly are not. You get the point, I am not red or blue.

What I do prefer, though, is debate and discussion, which has all but disappeared with Republican control of all three branches of government. That is probably why I entered this blog and engaged the simplistic attack the messenger headline: CBS = Certifiably Bogus Surveys. Rather than attack the so-called liberal media (notice, I have invoked "Rather," unlike in my first post), I want to encourage something more than attack. (And, by the way, I have enjoyed reading the responses to my initial post. Thank you for the courtesy.) I would prefer a reasoned debate about policy. My hope is that Bush's low poll numbers will encourage some reflection in the administration or at least among his most fervent supporters--perhaps encouraging them to give feedback that will right the ship's course.

While I doubt I will vote for a republican candidate anytime soon(only because McCain won't get the nomination), I would hate to see those things that GWB has done well get tossed aside with the mounting number of failures... That would be too bad.

The above hissed in response by: tristero [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2006 8:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: James W.


"What I do prefer, though, is debate and discussion, which has all but disappeared with Republican control of all three branches of government."

Oh I don't know--you've made several assumptions in your comments and pass them off as if they're some sort of universally accepted fact. That doesn’t necessarily sound like a person who is ready for an open debate and discussion.

The above hissed in response by: James W. [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2006 12:25 PM

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