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“A Massachusetts Miracle?” and the Globe’s Agenda Journalism and Pseudo-Polling

Sunday, January 10, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My new Washington Examiner column looks at the the Brown surge in Massachusetts.

It is based on many bits of evidence, from Rasmussen’s poll from last week showing a 9 point Coakley lead to the Saturday shocker from Public Policy Polling showing a one point Brown lead.

Today, though, the Boston Globe publishes a story with the headline “Senate poll: Coakley up 15 points.”

The story does not reference the other polls, even though they both cast doubt on the credibility of the Globe’s poll’s results, thus making the story a double assault on the reader: The “poll” puts out obviously controversial findings while failing to print other findings that contradict the controversial “information.”

I don’t think Brown is ahead in this race, but I don’t think anyone in the Globe –anyone– believes Coakley is ahead by anything like 15 points. Publishing this poll with that headline is simple agenda journalism, a transparent bit of media malpractice that will influence the race by driving down the enthusiasm of Brown’s troops and introducing indifference among an electorate that might otherwise sense an opportunity to participate in a major upset. Momentum matters in politics, and a poll showing a 15 point deficit is a huge buzz killer.

The Globe no doubt has the poll in its hands, and an explanation of why it is so completely at odds with everything else known –and felt– about the race. But still it publishes it, and with that headline, on the cusp of absentee voting and just as the race crescendos. If a doctor made an equivalent decision based on equivalent inputs, he’d lose his license. A lawyer would be disbarred. But the media laughs and winks and moves on, even as the circulation slips into oblivion and advertising revenues collapse. Why buy a product you cannot trust to make even elementary decisions about stories that impact its credibility?

Lefty-but-fair FiveThirtyEight blog summarizes what it makes of all the data by concluding that
“I acknowledge that there is a fairly tangible shot of Brown winning — higher than the 3-5 percent I assigned to him after seeing the Rasmussen poll, but lower than the 15-25 percent chance I gave him before seeing the Boston Globe result.” In other words, a fair minded lefty saw a pretty decent shot of Brown winning before the Globe data arrived, which demonstrates the point about the impact of the Globe data. Outlier that it is, it still has an impact, which is why the Globe ought not to have run the story it did.

There’s nothing that can be done about lefty papers publishing lefty candidate-favoring polls. It is just a feature of the wildly left-wing MSM. When an objective obituary of the American newspaper is written, however, there will be space given over to the absurdity of the MSM’s political “polling,” and the impact on credibility/circulation/profits of such transparently biased interventions in the election cycle.

One more reason to vote for Brown: Embarassing the Globe. Though that appears to be impossible.

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