Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Poll Vaulting

Just in time before the start of 2016, a new poll just released has rocked the political and academic world! By the widest margin ever recorded, Brian Wilson, noted broadcaster, blogger, podcaster, author and LRC contributor, has been named 2015 “America’s Most Admired Political Pundit” according to a Gallop survey.
Mr. Wilson was named by an astounding 82% of respondents to the poll taken Dec. 24-26, followed by Lew Rockwell, Judge Andrew Napolitano, James Bovard, Walter E. Williams, Karen DeCoster, David Gordon and Robert Higgs, tied for 2nd place. Others rounding out the 3rd – 10th place finishers: James Ostrowski, Jim Quinn, Ron Paul, Jim Rogers, Paul Craig Roberts, John Whitehead, Tom DiLorenzo and Ron Paul.

Mr. Wilson reacted to the announcement with typical humility: “I am humbled.” He went on to say: “This is a great and well-deserved honor. I’ve been typing with my fists for decades as well on my radio shows speaking Truth to Stupid. It’s comforting to know others have finally noticed! With all due respect to my colleagues, 2016 is going to be one helluva year. This is no time to be timid; we have a nation of aggressively ignorant, virally apathetic and terminally narcissistic “citizens” who need to become aware how corrupt America has become. We are teetering on the precipice of the brink! The 2016 election will determine the future for future generations in our future!”

Hopefully you noticed above, many of the glaring omissions and commissions that litter the media landscape reporting on polls. Here’s just one example. Notice the absence of any reference or link to the details of the poll: sample size, questions asked, demographic range, geographic location, percentage of error, etc. (The Gallop Poll cited above: conducted Christmas Day among 12 adults, 25-55 near Smith Mtn Lake, Virginia. 50% surnamed “Wilson”. Margin of Error: 0%)*

However, just as there is a “Whole Kernel of Truth in Every Form of Humor”, too many of my Media Associates use of poll results would be laughable if not for a serious downside: the manipulation of what remains of the mind of the voter.

In 2002, James Bovard introduced me to Matthew Robinson’s Mobocracy: How the Media's Obsession with Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy. Now 13 years later and out of print, it remains the best primer for those unfamiliar with a subject, thanks to technological advances, has morphed into a “political science”. Those with the appropriate academic and technical credentials find spiffy full-time gigs with Big Poll operations (Gallup, Rasmussen, Harris, Pew, Marist, Quinnipiac, Mason-Dixon, etc). Blend in the unholy alliance of “Mainstream Media” and Politics, enormous amounts of money, manipulate for an extended period of time and “Mobocracy” is born!

Despite the overwhelming admiration ladled upon me in the Gallup poll above, it would be supercilious to appear to inform LRC readership of the basics of polling; Robinson’s book handles that all quite well. Yet, who among us could not use the occasional “review”? 
 
The beauty of Robinson’s “Mobocracy” is his thorough coverage of every point referenced in the title in a mere 360 pages of reasonably sized print including, but not limited to:

Does the Public care about Media Polls?
When Ideologues Attack: Journalists and Polling Language
Media Polling Undermines Political Debate
Who Paid For It?
The Accuracy of Campaign Polls

Now 13 years after my only interview with Robinson (KSFO/San Francisco), I recently tried contacting him for this article to get his thoughts on the impact of “social media” (email, web sites, blogs, texting, YouTube) on polls and polling as well as interactive platforms (Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Tumblr) now driving huge swaths of public opinion. Unfortunately, while I may have located Mr. Robinson, allegedly working for a large telecom, he has not responded to my several requests.

Still, with 2016’s coming increase in political insanity already approaching Happy Dale proportions, a quick read of “MOBOCRACY” here at the beginning of the New Year would be instructive, informative, entertaining and economical. Despite being out of print, Amazon has a limited supply of hardcover copies starting at $.01 (plus shipping and handling!) **

**89% of respondents said “Wow! What a deal!” or something similar.

*For those unfamiliar with Satire, Ingrained Sarcasm or feeble attempts at Levity, the Gallop poll above is USDA Select Bull***t.

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