Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

Fox & Friends Do A Poll Dance

Reported by Guest Blogger - October 22, 2009 -

Guest blogged by Notveryhow

Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade, collectively known as the Fox and Friends couch, were all in a lather on Wednesday (10/21/09) about a new Washington Post/ABC poll that shows 57% of Americans now support the inclusion of a “Public Option” in health care reform legislation. They were joining the gathering (orchestrated?) chorus from the Right lambasting the poll. As Kilmeade said, “That is a dramatic change” from previous polling. Which it’s not. What is outstanding is the contrast of Fox polling with the rest of the field. With video.

Doocy clarified the spin for the unenlightened Kilmeade by saying “The key, Brian, is you have to read the fine print...They actually interviewed many more Democrats than Republicans...33% were Democrats, 20% were GOP.” And dear Gretchen chimed in, “I thought when you did polls you were supposed to try to get an even mix.” Now this says to me that either the couch doesn’t give any thought to what they are reading from the script, or that collectively they don’t have the sense that God gave a cabbage.

Let’s see if I can use an analogy to simplify this for the couch. If you were measuring the endowment of “Hooter’s” girls, and in counting you found out that only 20% of “Hooter’s” girls are really blonde...No, that doesn’t work, I’ll have to say this straight.

If polling shows that 33% of the public identifies as Democrat, and only 20% identifies as Republican, if you wanted a poll sample that represents the thinking of the American people, shouldn’t you use those numbers to create a representative sample? And wouldn’t a sample containing those numbers indeed be representative?

But Carlson had a further problem with the poll, saying “The way you put words together can sometimes sway the way a person answers the question.” To which Kilmeade responded, “Can I further illustrate your point?”

Oh, happy days! Brian Kilmeade brought his searing intellect to bear on this puzzling issue to the Fox audience. He said, “Happy Days, Fonzie was trying to lift Richie’s confidence. He wanted to ask out a girl...and he said ‘You don’t want to go out with me, do ya’. And of course she said no...And the same thing could be happening with polling.”

Pleased as punch, Carlson patted Kilmeade. "You know what, I love that analogy."

The poll question read “Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?” I fail to see any implicit bias in the wording of this question. But I want to thank Fox and Friends for bringing this up. The wording of polls can indeed influence the result.

Consider the results of a Fox News poll that asked the question: “Based on what you know about the health care reform legislation being considered right now, do you favor or oppose the plan?”

Now that question is not dripping with bias. So how did Fox come out with numbers that show only 33% support the Democratic plan, while 55% oppose it, considering that an average of non-Fox polls put the numbers at 43% support and 45% oppose. Well, like many things, the devil is in the details. And Nate Silverman at FiveThirtyEight has done a fine analysis.

A Fox News release reveals their health care questions, but these questions were not asked separately. They were part of a larger questionnaire that asked other questions first. Questions such as:

3. Do you think Barack Obama's travel and speaking schedule makes him look more like he is a candidate on the campaign trail or more like he is the president of the United States?

4. Do you think President Obama apologizes too much to the rest of the world for past U.S. policies?

5. Do you think the Obama administration is proposing more government spending than American taxpayers can afford, or not?

6. Do you think the size of the national debt is so large it is hurting the future of the country?

7. Would you rather: [ROTATE OPTIONS 1 and 2]
Cut spending now so future generations don't have to pay
Keep spending at current levels and let future generations pay?

Now where I come from that sounds pretty much like a “push poll” , “a seemingly unbiased telephone survey that is actually conducted by supporters of a particular candidate and disseminates negative information about an opponent.” To put it in “Happy Days” context, this would be like Fonzie asking a girl, “And would you go out with Richie if you knew he had active Herpes lesions?”

So what started out with the Fox & Friends complaining about the WaPo/ABC poll has seemed to reveal a much broader problem. Fox, and their friends on the couch, are not just doing polling, but a poll dance.