Blue City Politics & Commentary

Steven J. Gulitti

Steven J. Gulitti

Steven J. Gulitti
Location
New York, New York, USA
Birthday
March 27
Bio
I am a resident of N.Y.C., and a political independent. I attended SUNY Buffalo (BA) and University of Illinois (MA) and NYU (Professional Certificate). I am a retired commissioned Chief Warrant Officer and 25-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. I am member of the Iron Workers Union and a freelance writer who has been published in textbook, periodical and professional venues. I contributed a subchapter to the textbook The Tea Party Movement, part of the Current Controversies Series.

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NOVEMBER 8, 2010 5:21PM

Fair and Balanced? Rasmussen Found Biased and Inaccurate

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If you have ever spent any time watching Fox News Network’s cable news programming, and especially Bill O’Reilly, you would know just how much the network relies on Rasmussen Reports. Why political commentator Dick Morris is practically a shill for Rasmussen. In fact, during the 2010 election cycle, Fox News commissioned Rasmussen via one of its subsidiaries, Pulse Opinion Research, to conduct polling for the Murdoch owned network. The great irony of all this is, that like Fox News, Rasmussen is also anything but “fair and balanced.” In fact a study of more than 100 polls conducted by Rasmussen revealed a pattern of bias towards the Republican Party and a level of accuracy far below that of the competition.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight concluded:” The 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points, a considerably higher figure than that achieved by most other pollsters. Moreover, Rasmussen’s polls were quite biased, overestimating the standing of the Republican candidate by almost 4 points on average. In just 12 cases, Rasmussen’s polls overestimated the margin for the Democrat by 3 or more points. But it did so for the Republican candidate in 55 cases — that is, in more than half of the polls that it issued.”

Silver went on to further point out: “Rasmussen’s polls have come under heavy criticism throughout this election cycle, including from FiveThirtyEight. We have critiqued the firm for its cavalier attitude toward polling convention. Rasmussen, for instance, generally conducts all of its interviews during a single, 4-hour window; speaks with the first person it reaches on the phone rather than using a random selection process; does not call cell phones; does not call back respondents whom it misses initially; and uses a computer script rather than live interviewers to conduct its surveys. These are cost-saving measures that contribute to very low response rates and may lead to biased samples. Rasmussen also weights their surveys based on preordained assumptions about the party identification of voters in each state, a relatively unusual practice that many polling firms consider dubious since party identification (unlike characteristics like age and gender) is often quite fluid.” Moreover further analysis by FiveThirtyEight revealed discrepancies in Rasmussen Poll results on the subject of the president’s favorability ratings which go all the way back to the beginning of the Obama Administration. Rasmussen's byline is "The Most Comprehensive Public Opinion Data Anywhere". Surely that claim is a bit of a stretch even when viewed in the most generous light. 

In contrast to Rasmussen that had the highest combined error and bias scores, the top tier firms surveying voter sentiment in this election had error scores below 4 points and most had bias ratings below 1.0. These results were obtained even though Rasmussen conducted far more polls than any of its competition. The methodology employed by FiveThirtyEight was to analyze all the polls for average accuracy in predicting the margin of victory for the top two vote recipients and then to see to what extent the polling consistently missed the trends. Thus a very fundamental question comes to the fore. To what extent are the folks who rely primarily on Fox News for their political views being led astray by consistently faulty information? Or to put it another way, how can anyone who is interested in forming an unbiased conservative political opinion do so if Fox News is his or her primary information source? Don’t these findings call into question the very integrity of Fox’s political and news presentation? How can the Fox News Network continue to display its “fair and balanced” byline given its heavy reliance, if not its incestuous relationship with Rasmussen Reports? Based on the evidence produced by FiveThirtyEight, there is little reason to believe that the conservative audience is being well served if it is spending its evenings watching Fox News in search of fair and balanced programming upon which to shape its opinions. In fact one could conclude that America’s conservatives are being deliberately led astray.
 
 
Steven J. Gulitti
11/8/10
 
Sources:
 

Rasmussen Polls Were Biased and Inaccurate; Quinnipiac, SurveyUSA PerformedStrongly;http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/?
emc=eta1
 
Pollster Ratings v4.0: Methodology; http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/06/pollster-ratings-v40-methodology.html

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You didn't really have to do all that work, all you had to do was look up Scott Rasmussen, founder of the Rasmussen report and see that he is on the GOP payroll, and by bush during the 2004 campaign. He is about as unbiased as faux "news".