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Monday, January 21, 2008
The MRC's Double Standard on Polls
Topic: Media Research Center


The Media Research Center hates polls when they don't conform to its ideology. In November, for example, Seton Motley offered this theory of polling:

The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.

And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have “reported”, or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.

So, when the MRC praises a poll's results, beware.

Which brings us to a Jan. 21 NewsBusters post and CyberAlert item in which Brent Baker proudly proclaims that "For the sixth time in a year, a national survey has found many more Americans see a media bias to the left than to the right." 

Unmentioned by Baker: Groups like his employer have spent millions of dollars over the years to promote and promulgate that very viewpoint, which is then echoed by right-wing radio hosts and TV talking heads who repeat it. It can easily be argued that polls that come to this conclusion, rather than presenting an accurate picture of the media and the public's view of it, reflect, in Motley's words, "one-sided coverage" that is "calculated, then executed to produce a result." Polling that finds the public concurring with the idea of a liberal media bias, thus, gives the MRC "guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been."

This is a flaw we pointed out last year when Accuracy in Media -- another group that has spent millions of dollars promoting the idea of liberal media bias -- promoted a poll declaring that because there must be liberal media bias because conservatives perceive a liberal bias and liberals don't.

In other words, the MRC has paid good money over the years to get this polling result. Why wouldn't Baker be proud to promote it?

UPDATE: A Jan. 21 article by Fred Lucas on the poll likewise ignores the role conservative propaganda has played in the liberal-media meme, but his article raises a point Baker didn't: He quotes Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute noting that "she thought the questions [in the poll] were weighted toward Fox News Channel by using the phrase 'fair and balanced,' the network's marketing logo, in the question. She also thinks Fox News, which respondents in the poll believed leaned to the right, approaches news coverage with a larger political agenda than most other news organizations." McBride added:

"The poll implies the old theory that journalists are biased liberally and that there is a gap between professional journalists and mainstream Americans," McBride said. "Bias seeps into news reports not so much out of an ideological conspiracy as much as other factors. If a newsroom is too thin, and there is no one to screen for bias, of course bias will go through."

Lucas also quotes Jerry Lindsley, director of the Sacred Heart Polling Institute, which conducted the poll, spouting a conservative talking point, which casts more doubt on the poll's veracity: "The news media presents the facts, but they don't present all the facts, such as the lower death toll, the hospitals being built, the soccer clubs and the women in the streets."

Posted by Terry K. at 11:05 AM EST
Updated: Monday, January 21, 2008 10:30 PM EST

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