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Friday, September 5, 2008
The Finkelstein File
Topic: NewsBusters

The Republican National Convention seems to have fired up Mark Finkelstein's propensity for making misleading claims.

In a Sept. 4 NewsBusters post, Finkelstein ridiculed DNC chairman Howard Dean for referencing an "informal focus group" of his wife and "five women [who] work for her and some of them are Republicans" to gauge reaction to Sarah Palin's RNC speech. "Move over, Rasmussen, and let Howard take over!" Finkelstein sneered, adding, "Any polling experts out there?  Wondering what the margin of error might be on a non-anonymous, five-person sample exclusively composed of people who rely on your family for their livelihood."

Of course, Dean never claimed his little group to be an accurate representation of opinion -- his use of the word "informal" might have clued Finkelstein into that. But, via TPM, let's check in with some actual focus groups whose methodology may be a little closer to Finkelstein's liking, for reaction to Palin's speech:

  • The independents in a voter panel assembled by the Detroit Free Press appeared to be less than impressed by Palin's speech.
  • Two different focus groups of Nevada women who had supported Hillary Clinton showed that they "were impressed with Palin's speaking ability and poise. But they were hardly convinced that she was qualified to be vice president, or that she truly represented the 'change' they were looking for, especially in light of what was deemed an overly harsh "sarcasm" pervading her address."

In a Sept. 5 post, Finkelstein played the conservative card of favorably comparing U.S. troop deaths in Iraq to, say, murders in a given American city, citing a report claiming 123 people were murdered in Chicago over the summer, "nearly double the number of soldiers killed in Iraq over the same time period." Finkelstein adds: "Will some enterprising MSM member ask Obama if he'll call for a police surge to protect the lives of his own Illinois constitutents?"

As we and others have noted, such death comparisons are misleading because they don't take into account the population base from which the numbers are taken. In this case, the 123 murders in Chicago took place in a population of 2.8 million; the half-that-number deaths of U.S. soldiers took place in a population of about 150,000 troops stationed there. This means the death rate of the soldiers in Iraq is still several times higher than the murder rate in Chicago.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:33 PM EDT

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