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Frank Luntz Uses Skewed Focus Group To Attack Obama’s State Of The Union Address

Reported by Ellen - January 26, 2011 -

Ever since I caught Frank Luntz skewing a focus group in favor of Republicans, I’ve been very suspicious of the make up of his groups every time he comes on Hannity with one. Last night (1/25/11), my suspicions were confirmed again when Luntz appeared on a special post-State of the Union Hannity show with a 29-person focus group in which, Luntz said, only 13 voted for President Obama. Given that 53% of the country voted for Barack Obama, 15 or 16 people should have been Obama voters to make it a representative sample of Americans. Furthermore, given their level of hostility to Obama, especially when he is enjoying a resurgence in the polls, you have to wonder how many of those 13 were Obama-voting Republicans or Tea Partiers. Luntz also repeatedly asked his group questions designed to elicit negative comments about Obama.

At the beginning of the truncated show, Sean Hannity asked, “Did (Obama’s) speech resonate with Americans?” Thanks to Luntz, Fox News viewers were left with the false impression that it had not resonated. Two polls of SOTU-watchers found that those who watched the speech overwhelmingly approved of it. By the way, those viewers skew Democratic. CBS News, one of the poll sponsors, noted that it’s the norm for more supporters than opponents of a president to watch a State of the Union speech. Pollster Luntz didn’t mention any of that to the “we report, you decide” network’s viewers.

Hannity seemed to mean it when he opened the discussion by saying, “I don’t know what your focus group has to say.” But he needn’t have worried. Luntz obviously had it covered.

Still, perhaps for extra insurance, Hannity started by offering his own negative opinions of the speech: “flat,” “it almost seemed like the ‘yes, we can’ magic disappeared a little bit,” and “the thing that really struck me, Frank… is the disconnect,” etc. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that “not connected with America” was one focus-group member’s “word or phrase to describe” the speech immediately following Hannity's summation. The other descriptions were, “optimism,” “platitudes,” “wishful,” “empty,” “redundant,” “political,” “hyperbole,” “Obama conflicting and (GOP-responder Paul) Ryan was speaking just like every American I meet,” and “hopeful on Obama but not compelling.” Can you feel the fair and balanced?

But just in case that wasn’t enough GOP spin, Luntz probed the Republicans to say what they didn’t like about Obama’s appeal to bipartisanship. Funny, how he didn’t bother to explore what Democrats liked about it.

Luntz later made an effort to get more negative comments. Seven people said they would definitely vote to re-elect Obama - more than half of those in the group who already voted for him. But Luntz, acting surprised, asked, “What did he do that was wrong?”

Meanwhile, Luntz ignored almost all of Obama’s proposals set forth in the speech.

In Part 2, Luntz asked if focus group members agreed with Obama that the recession is over. But what Obama actually said - as seen right in the clip Luntz played – was, “the worst of the recession is over.” However, the focus group members responded to Luntz’ question, “How many of you believe the recession’s over, raise your hands?” When only three people raised their hands, Luntz threw out this little undeserved dig, “Obviously that must have undercut the credibility when he said it?” Except Obama didn’t say it.

Still, while ignoring Obama’s proposals on such things as infrastructure, energy, and education, Luntz found time to remark to Hannity on how few people “feel comfortable with the things that he said or how he said them.”

Luntz concluded by saying that if he was President Obama, he’d be “a little bit nervous” hearing what the focus group had to say. Then Luntz gratuitously and apropos of nothing that had been discussed in either segment, added, “If I were Paul Ryan (the Republican who gave the rebuttal speech), I’d be pretty excited.”

I'd be excited, too, if I had guys like Luntz willing to stoop to such underhanded tactics and a media outlet like Fox News so willing to present them as legitimate.

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