In a clear case of “attacking the messenger”, because they don’t like (and are unable to suppress) the message, Democrats are increasing their attacks on pollster Scott Rasmussen.
Democrats are turning their fire on Scott Rasmussen, the prolific independent pollster whose surveys on elections, President Obama’s popularity and a host of other issues are surfacing in the media with increasing frequency. The pointed attacks reflect a hardening conventional wisdom among prominent liberal bloggers and many Democrats that Rasmussen Reports polls are, at best, the result of a flawed polling model and, at worst, designed to undermine Democratic politicians and the party’s national agenda. On progressive-oriented websites, anti-Rasmussen sentiment is an article of faith. “Rasmussen Caught With Their Thumb on the Scale,” blared the Daily Kos this summer. “Rasmussen Reports, You Decide,” the blog Swing State Project recently headlined in a play on the Fox News motto. “I don’t think there are Republican polling firms that get as good a result as Rasmussen does,” said Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow with Media Matters, a progressive research center. “His data looks like it all comes out of the RNC [Republican National Committee].”
This is a case of the Democrats falling back on the terminology that they’re used for decades. Anything which disagrees with them is “biased”, and often part of a right-wing conspiracy to distort the news, mislead the voters from the Constitutional duty to vote for Democrats, and so forth. Naturally, there’s never any such thing bias, agenda, or follow-the-money issues with anyone who agrees with them. Oh no.
“Whether intended or not, Rasmussen polls have been used by conservative voices as talking points, and when that happens on one side it inevitably produces a reaction from the other,” explained Mark Blumenthal, a polling analyst and the editor and publisher of Pollster.com. “Rasmussen produces a lot of data that appear to produce narratives conservatives are promoting, and that causes a reaction.”
Rasmussen’s polls are evil because Republicans like the results. There’s never any sign of evil or bias when polls show results that Democrats like, even when the polls are demonstrably rigged to produce pre-determined results. (See also: The New York Times.) If there is, indeed, a growing sense in the country that Obama is not the anointed messiah, than Rasmussen is simply doing his job by reporting this. But as I mentioned above, this is not a message which the Democrats want to hear, and so – time to attack the messenger. After all, someone who’s been in the business as long as Rasmussen must have a long history of inaccuracy that they can use to attack him with, right?
Rasmussen is quick to point out the accuracy of his surveys – noting how close his firm was to predicting the final outcome in this fall’s New Jersey governor’s race. (Rasmussen’s final survey in the race showed Republican Chris Christie edging out Gov. Jon Corzine 46 percent to 43 percent. Christie beat Corzine 48 percent to 45 percent on Election Day.) And he argues that he was among the first pollsters to show Obama narrowing the gap with Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. Last year, the progressive website fivethirtyeight.com‘s pollster ratings, based on the 2008 presidential primaries, awarded Rasmussen the third-highest mark for its accuracy in predicting the outcome of the contests. And Rasmussen’s final poll of the 2008 general election – showing Obama defeating Arizona Sen. John McCain 52 percent to 46 percent – closely mirrored the election’s outcome.
Oops. I was thinking of The New York Times again.
Rasmussen, for his part, explained that his numbers are trending Republican simply because he is screening for only those voters most likely to head to the polls – a pool of respondents, he argues, that just so happens to bend more conservative this election cycle. Polling all adults – a method used by Gallup, another polling firm that conducts a daily tracking poll of Obama – Rasmussen acknowledged, is “always going to yield a better result for Democrats.”
It has been known for quite a long time that polling “likely voters” is going to give you more accurate results than simply polling “registered voters” or (even worse) “all adults”. That being the case, all you have to do is check which method a pollster is using to see whether they are interested in accuracy or “a better result for Democrats.” Go ahead and check that out the next time you see a poll … provided the pollster (or the media outlet reporting the poll) is willing to give you that information.
Others assert Rasmussen is simply reflecting a more GOP-friendly political environment in his polling.
So wait. If the environment is currently more GOP friendly (when it’s not dropping record snow to make a fool of Al Gore), and Rasmussen’s polls merely reflect that fact… how is it his fault? Just for fun, here’s the latest from Rasmussen: