The MRC's Election of Failed Narratives, Part 3: The Polls
Despite declaring that it distrusted media polls after the 2020 election, the Media Research Center enthusiastically hyped media polls that made the Biden administration look bad all the way through the midterm elections (which didn't work out well).
By Terry Krepel
After the 2020 presidential election, the Media Research Center proclaimed its distrust of media polls, asserting that polls showing Donald Trump badly losing the election were "intentionally" wrong -- a serious claim for which it has never presented any evidence to support. (This still seems like an opening for a pollster to sue the MRC for libel and defamation.) That distrust was part of a conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from Trump because the Hunter Biden laptop story was allegedly suppressed -- a conclusion, ironically, based on dubious polls it bought from Trump's election pollster and the polling firm founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
But as polls showed President Biden down from his initial high favorability rates, the MRC suddenly trusted polls again -- despite them coming from many of the "liberal media" sources it was trashing just a few months earlier.
The flip-flop started in the spring of 2021, when Nicholas Fondacaro hyped a poll showing "President Biden’s approval rating was supposedly sitting at an anemic 52 percent. And according to their methodology, the margin of error for the poll was 3.5 percent. Now given how that meant Biden could be below 50 percent, it was understandable that the cast of characters on ABC’s Good Morning America were floored by the results." The next day, Kyle Drennen kept up the hype job under the headline "Here’s the Bad Biden Polling News Networks Are Hiding."
Neither Fondacaro nor Drennen mentioned that most mainstream polls didn't show Trump above 50 percent at any point during his presidency, nor did they reference their employer's insistence that such polls are rigged, if not completely made up.
In July 2021, Drennen had another poll to hype: "With COVID cases, violent crime, inflation, and illegal immigration all on the rise after the first six months of Joe Biden’s presidency, it’s no surprise that pessimism about the country’s future has surged in a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday morning. However, rather than provide full coverage of this bad news for the Democrat in the White House, the liberal network only managed a paltry 91 seconds of air time divided among three broadcasts on Sunday and Monday." Again, it was not discussed why the MRC suddenly finds media polls credible again.
When the Afghanistan withdrawal didn't go well, the MRC pounced on polls expressing disapproval -- and said nothing about why those polls were suddenly trustworthy. Fondacaro was happy with a poll gotcha from a despised "liberal media" reporter in an August 2021 post:
During another White House press conference where he tried to gaslight Americans about his poor decision-making and planning in Afghanistan, President Biden was confronted by CBS senior White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe with a network poll that shows the public was questioning his competence and ability to be president.
Drennen whined the next day that NBC shows "completely ignored the negative findings in the network’s latest survey." Tim Graham's Aug. 25 podcast similarly hyped bad polls: "On the latest NewsBusters Podcast, we discuss the media's temperamental use of polling results. They have a tendency to highlight polls that underline the narratives and candidates they like, but tend to bury poll results they don't like and don't match their talking points."
Scott Whitlock picked up the hype baton in a September 2021 post:
Joe Biden hit record lows in two new polls on Thursday. Will the journalists at ABC, CBS and NBC bother to cover, or even notice, the cratering polling for the Democrat? They certainly enjoyed covering bad news for Donald Trump. In the new NPR/PBS survey, Biden’s approval has slipped to just 43 percent, a new low. In the new Rasmussen poll, the President has fallen to 42 percent, a tie for his record low.
Whitlock went on to complain about "the 'Republicans pounce'-esque tone" of an article that pointed out how Republicans are trying to exploit Biden's low poll numbers for political gain ... in an article in which the Republican Whitlock is pouncing on Biden's low poll numbers in order to exploit them for political gain. What Whitlock didn't mention: Biden's numbers were still higher than Trump's at the same point in his presidency.
Whitlock pounced again the next day:
Another day, another record low poll for Joe Biden. But the media are still doing their best to hide the implosion of the Democrat’s presidency. ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday buried a survey the network did with The Washington Post finding Biden cratering to 44 percent. On Thursday, new polls showed Biden at 43 and 42 percent, also record lows.
Just like Whitlock is doing his best to hide the fact that his employer vehemently distrusted these very same media polls just a few short months ago.
Throughout the fall of 2021, the MRC continued to hype negative Biden polls, with Graham declaring in that last one: "The Joe Biden presidency is collapsing and the networks don’t want you to know about it." Meanwhile, the MRC have given zero seconds to explaining the MRC's polling flip-flop. By contrast, Graham ranted after the 2020 presidential election that pollsters "are damaging the legitimacy of our democracy, not helping it,' further declaring that election polls were "obviously rigged" and insisting that "It’s hard not to see intentional rigging, not some kind of accidental bias." But the polls suddenly have become accurate and un-rigged now that they showed Biden underwater.
The MRC's sudden poll addiction inevitably led it to tout polls of lower quality because they fit its anti-Biden narratives. An August 2021 post by Joseph Vazquez cheered that "A new poll revealed that American voters are rejecting the false narrative that the spending-obsessed President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package has much to do with infrastructure." But that poll came from Rasmussen Reports, whose polls heavily skew Republican and have a history of inaccurate results.
Later that month, Vazquez touted a Trafalgar poll touting that "a 42.7 percent plurality of respondents were 'more likely' (10%) or 'much more likely' (32.7%) to do business with companies 'NOT requiring employees [to] be vaccinated,'" which flew right in the face of the media, many of whom have been playing the part of COVID-19 vaccination tyrants shaming businesses into forcing their employees to get the jab."
But Trafalgar is not of the best quality either; the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, heavily hyped Trafalgar polling before the 2020 presidential election because they showed Trump winning, and it quoted Trafalgar's chief pollster Robert Cahaly, claiming that Trump would win the 2020 race with an electoral total in the "high 270s." Further, Trafalgar's poll results were purchased by Convention of States Action, a right-wing effort to call for a convention of states to rewrite the Constitution to "limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints, and place term limits on federal officials."And it wouldn't be releasing poll results that contradicted with its agenda. Nevertheless, Vazquez promoted another Trafalgar poll the following month, this one claiming a majority of respondents "do not believe President Biden has the constitutional authority to force private businesses to require vaccine mandates for employees."
Called out for poll promotion
As 2022 rolled around, the MRC was getting annoyed at being called out for promoting narrative-advancing polls. Kyle Drennen complained in a March 1 post:
Just hours before President Biden’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday, MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd wailed that the “right-wing echo chamber” was to blame for a majority of Americans having a bad view of the Biden economy in multiple polls. He went on to complain to fellow Democratic Party hack Jen Palmieri that the “Democratic echo chamber” needed to do a better job of spreading propaganda.
Drennen didn't dispute the existence of a "right-wing echo chamber" that lives to hype Biden's poll numbers -- presumably because he knows he can't. Indeed, the MRC is a proud member of that right-wing echo chamber. Indeed, it continued to crank out numerous poll-hyping posts in just the first few months of 2022 alone:
The MRC did not similarly obsess over Donald Trump's perennially low approval ratings during his presidency, nor did it chastise its fellow right-wing echo chamber residents for largely ignoring them.
Complaining about getting called out for promoting right-wing-favorable polls continued to be a thing at the MRC as the midterm elections approached. Kevin Tober ranted in an Oct. 31 post:
On Monday night, MSNBC’s Joy Reid went full-blown conspiracy kook during her show The ReidOut. She was apparently wearing her tin foil hat so tight that it was cutting off her circulation because she claimed with a straight face that over half of the midterm election polls published over the last few weeks are Republican polls that are skewed to create a media narrative that a red wave is coming.
Funny, the MRC didn't think this was a "conspiracy kook" claim two years ago, when it put on its tinfoil hat to make a very similar accusation. Tober censored how Reid's complaint mirrored that of his employer two years earlier[ instead, he ranted some more about Reid:
Despite claiming that you can’t trust partisan pollsters because they spin for their side, Reid quoted from Democrat pollster Simon Rosenberg who she described as “sounding the alarm, and saying “of the roughly 40 polls taken in key battleground states” over half are “from Republican firms or groups.”
Tober didn't disprove any of that, of course; his goal was to smear Reid as a crackpot because he knew he couldn't. He concluded with one more attack he didn't back up:
She ended her delusional and conspiratorial rant by falsely claiming that "Real Clear Politics, has become more openly pro-Trump," because during the 2020 presidential election, "their polling averages seemed skewed in Trump’s favor."
Needless to say, the MRC took part in that zone-flooding by hyping polls that conform to right-wing narratives and attacking polls that didn't -- which ramped up again as the midterms neared. Vazquez declared in an Aug. 19 post:
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows ignored reporting on a devastating poll that shows the American people are not buying President Joe Biden’s spin on the meaning of a recession.
The MRC has been obsessing over GDP to blame Biden for creating a recession -- but when GDP actually went up in the third quarter of 2022, it flip-flopped to keep up the narrative because the increase meant it had to look beyond "the technical definition of a recession." Vazquez didn't mention that the poll was conducted by Investor's Business Daily, a financial paper that's even further to the right than the Wall Street Journal.
Alex Christy spent an Aug. 23 post looking for good news in a poll and criticizing a commentator's interpretation of it for not conforming to right-wing narratives:
Logic was in limited supply on Monday’s edition of The 11th Hour on MSNBC as journalism professor Jason Johnson argued that an NBC News poll showing Republicans leading in the generic congressional ballot is proof that voters love abortion, which the “illegitimate Supreme Court” took away from them.
Curtis Houck issued the same complaint about another poll in an Aug. 29 post:
Monday’s CBS Mornings furthered the liberal media-wide narrative that their friends in elected office still have a chance to win the midterm elections as, thanks to the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker, CBS’s experts believe Republicans will only come away with an eight-seat advantage in the House tanks to the supposed popularity of expanding abortion.
Gabriela Pariseau wrote in a Sept. 9 post: "Eighty-two percent of American parents are concerned about Big Tech’s influence on their children’s lives, according to a new poll by child advocacy nonprofit Parents Defending Education. The survey found that 'over two-thirds of parents (68%) are not comfortable allowing their kid to use TikTok without adult supervision, including 73% of parents aged 18-34.'" Parents Defending Education is a right-wing group that's obsessed with attacking critical race theory, and attacking TikTok has been a right-wing narrative the MRC has pushed for months (with the apparent help of Facebook, which wants to eliminate competition).
A Sept. 13 post by Vazquez hyped:
The Trafalgar Group, in conjunction with Convention of States Action, released a survey Sept. 12 of 1,084 likely 2022 election voters spelling possible doom for leftist candidates who support Biden’s legally dubious plan to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for anyone making less than $125,000 (or $250,000 for couples filing jointly).
Brad Wilmouth spent an Oct. 1 post whining that CNN wouldn't use a poll more favorable to right-wing narratives on Republicans busing or flying migrants to other cities, claiming that using a different poll was all about "doing its part to spread misinformation to undermine the GOP on the issue.
An Oct. 10 post by Vazquez rehashed old news about Hunter Biden's laptop, going on to further rehash the MRC's own dubious polling: "A 2020 MRC poll found that 45 percent of President Joe Biden’s voters weren’t fully aware of the New York Post story precisely because the media and Big Tech whitewashed it."
An Oct. 14 post by Vazquez complained that Yahoo Finance was "blaming pro-lifers for the diaper shortage," huffing in response: "Yahoo! didn’t bother mentioning CRC Research’s August poll that reportedly found that both Republicans and Democrats are 'in agreement that pro-life clinics should receive government assistance, with 70 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans strongly favoring their public funding.'" It's unclear who paid for the poll -- CRC Research is a Canadian firm that, presumably, would not be conducting a lot of polls in America on its own -- but Students for Life also hyped it, which suggests that anti-abortion activists bankrolled it.
Tim Graham used an Oct. 24 post to claim that that "the public is ardently bored" with anyone who focuses on the Capitol riot, citing polls that fail to actually make that specific claim.
Jorge Bonilla touted poll results that meshed with his narrative in a Oct. 30 post:
We’ve often said that the nation’s Spanish-language corporate media are unequivocally the biggest source and spreaders of Spanish-language disinformation to a vulnerable audience that relies on these news divisions for information on the events of the day. A recent poll has now arrived at the same conclusion, thus confirming our long-held thesis.
Bonilla didn't disclose that Bienvenido is a right-wing group, which you can tell from the reference to "preserv[ing] constitutional values" in its euphemistically written "about" page -- which makes it yet another biased, low-quality poll the MRC decided to embrace because it advanced the narrative.
A Nov. 4 post by Rich Noyes noted: "A poll released this week showed a whopping 45 percent of registered voters said inflation was their top concern going into the election." This poll was paid for by NewsNation, the news operation that has been hyped by the MRC for its purported lack of bias -- but it's actually being run by former Fox News operatives.
Given how the "red wave" hinted at by these MRC-hyped polls was a failure, you'd think the MRC would be lashing out at all these pollsters for being "deliberately wildly wrong" the way it did in 2020. But it didn't -- those wrong polls served the MRC's purpose of advancing their preferred narratives, and it's not about to start criticizing them now in case it needs those same results manufactured in 2024.
Tober concluded his anti-Reid rant by huffing: "Make sure to check out NewsBusters on election night and in the days after to see Reid’s reaction when she’s proven wrong." How'd that work out for you, Kev?