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Mediaite Profiles Fox’s Spin Meister Frank Luntz

Reported by Aunty Em - September 14, 2011 -

Long-time readers of News Hounds are well familiar with Frank Luntz, the so-called “pollster” who appears regularly on the so-called “news network.” Real pollsters try to get a candid snapshot of the public mood at any given time. On the other hand: Luntz poses the components in his snapshots to create the appearance of a public mood in order to push GOP talking points for Fox “News.” He is documented in these pages stacking focus groups to get more favorable responses on several occasions. He has also been caught haranguing his focus groups until they finally give him the answer he’s looking for. Luntz has also used his, err, talents to help the Republican Party fine-tune its message into easily digestible sound-bites, which don’t have to be true to be effective: “death tax” instead of “estate tax” or “tax relief” instead of “tax cuts.” His formulation “government takeover” of health care was Politifact’s Lie of the Year. That’s why it was so refreshing to see Mediaite tackle the problem that is Frank Luntz. Philip Bump writes:

Frank Luntz is Fox News’ go-to polling and messaging consultant. It’s only appropriate: what his fellow Fox News cohort Sean Hannity is to objective journalism, Luntz is to opinion research.


Candidates use polling strategically to guide their campaigns – not, as the popular perception goes, to inform their positions on issues, but rather to determine how best to talk about them. Polling can be, and is, used to evoke nuance.

This is why it’s often confused with spin. Polling and messaging operate in sync; polling informs which messages are most effective. However, the two differ in one critical regard: polling is informed by data, while messaging isn’t. Polling is a science; message is an art.

Luntz blurs this distinction. He intimates that his analysis is informed by statistical analysis, when often it’s simply his opinion (or, worse, his client’s opinion). Luntz is a conservative activist dressed in the garb of a scientist.

That is not to say Luntz isn’t talented. He is. It is, rather, to say that he is not objective, not scientific, that his goal isn’t to inform an audience of what people think – it’s to shape what the audience thinks. It is this that he does well.

Which is why Luntz is not a real pollster. Too bad his column won’t be read by more people because Bump has written a fair and balanced profile of someone who gets paid to deceive the eager-to-be-deceived viewers of Fox “News.” It includes much of Luntz’s history before he found his perch at Fox “News”: his first media mentions and some minor professional scandals. It’s well-worth the time to read. Bump ends big with:

Luntz has a doctorate, but he only plays a doctor on TV. Who he actually is in those appearances (usually; not always) is a salesman – a huckster pitching his clients, his ideology, or himself.

Luntz has a framework to sell and Fox is his QVC. Make up your mind fast, America. Time is running out.

However, I didn’t need News Hounds or Philip Bump to tell me anything about Frank Luntz to have formed an opinion because I have lived my entire life by this motto: Never trust a man with a bad toupee.