Topic: Media Research Center
The story of a political donation to the wife of an FBI agent who, months later, headed the FBI's Hillary Clinton email investigation isn't the only bogus WikiLeaks-based story the Media Research Center has been pushing in recent days. Here's NewsBusters blogger Tom Blumer in an Oct. 24 post:
Among the WikiLeaks documents recently released is a 2008 email with an attachment running to dozens of pages telling Democrats how to "maximize what we get out of our media polling."
Fox & Friends covered this story Monday morning. Very few other online and broadcast outlets have.
Whenever the strategies identified above are used — even oversampling, which when properly employed can be a valid polling practice — the routine standard line from pollsters about getting a "random sample" is obviously no longer true. Does that stop pollsters from claiming that their samples are random? Apparently not. If you're filling up quotas, it's not genuinely random.
What is going on here at the very least is an attempt to sway people who support Trump to rethink their choice before they actually cast their ballots. What could also be happening — anyone ruling this out hasn't been in the market research trenches, as yours truly has — is that some respondents might ask if they can change their previously expressed presidential preference for Trump, or that the survey taker may even ask such respondents if they wish to change their presidential preference.
Finally, there are many polls which don't reveal the detailed makeup of those polled, and they make reverse engineering the results to figure that out all but impossible. In these cases, deliberate oversampling of key groups without weighting to fit a representative demographic mix skews the results, and will go undetected.
Naturally, none of what's in this damning e-mail and its attached detailed instructions is news at the Associated Press or the New York Times. The only attention it's getting from establishment is from a few outlets like The Atlantic which claim that there's nothing to see here. Oh yes, there is — and plenty of it.
Um, nope, Tom, there really is nothing to see here. The Washington Post's Philip Bump explains:
First of all, [Democratic consultant Tom] Matzzie [who wrote the stolen WikiLeaks email in question] doesn't appear to be talking about public polling — nor does it make sense that he would be, since public polls from media outlets are developed by pollsters who work for or with those outlets. Matzzie's talking about polling that's done by campaigns and political action committees to inform media buys. In other words, before campaigns spend $200,000 on a flight of TV spots, they'll poll on the messages in those ads and figure out what to say to whom and then target that ad to those people as best they can.
The problem is that it can be hard to find enough people to get robust enough sample sizes to offer the necessary information. Normal polling in a state will usually have no problem getting enough white people in the mix to evaluate where they stand, but you may need to specifically target more black or Hispanic voters to get a statistically relevant sample size.
They recommend an oversample from Native Americans and Democrat-leaning independents and moderate Republican women. Those are all groups that are fairly small parts of the electorate, so to get statistically accurate data, you'd need to make sure you include more of those voters in your poll sample. This increases the cost of the polling substantially, but if you're spending hundreds of thousands on TV ads, it's worth spending an extra $20,000 up front to make sure that you're targeting the ads right.
So why do pollsters include more Democrats in their samples than Republicans? Well, because there is a secret national conspiracy in which there actually are more Democrats than Republicans. Gallup tracks party identification over time; in its most recent summary, 32 percent of Americans identify as Democrats to 27 percent who identify as Republicans. (Analysis from Pew Research has it at 30 percent to 24 percent.) The vagaries of polling and identifying poll respondents mean that there can be some fluctuations in the gap between the parties, but overall a national poll would be expected to include more Democrats than Republicans. And note that this is party identity, not party registration.
In short, then: This is an eight-year-old email talking about a common polling technique for ensuring accuracy among demographic subgroups from a guy who was not working for or representative of a media outlet.
It is not, in other words, an explanation of why Trump is losing.
So, the reason nobody else is reporting about this email is because it's a nothingburger -- except in the eyes of folks like Blumer and Fox News who are desperate to read into it things that simply aren't there.
And just as Brent Bozell and the MRC will never apologize for pushing the false donation story -- Bozell ludicrously called it "bribery" -- Blumer is highly unlikely to correct the record.