May
03
2013

Killing Civilians Is More Popular Than You'd Think–Especially Among Pundits

Gallup polling on whether it's OK for individuals to kill civilians.

Where do Americans get the idea that it's OK to kill civilians? Could it be that they're listening to media pundits?

Apr
03
2013

Keystone Polling and an Oil Spill Time Machine

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Reporting positive polling for the Keystone XL pipeline, USA Today reports, "The numbers come amid continuing efforts to clean up a major new oil spill in Arkansas." But "come amid" is another way of saying "entirely unrelated to."

Feb
11
2013

A Beltway Villager's Bad Advice for Obama

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The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote a piece giving Barack Obama some advice on what to say in his State of the Union address. The article almost reads like a parody of Beltway punditry.

Jan
25
2013

'Divided' on Abortion Rights?

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USA Today's point in covering this weekend's anti-choice "March for Life" is is to note that, 40 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, the country is divided on abortion rights. That's an odd way of describing a 24-point spread in public opinion

Dec
17
2012

Does the Public Really Oppose Gun Restrictions?

Gun store sign near Phoenix, Arizona. (photo: Xomiele)

One issue that comes up in much of the coverage of the Newtown massacre is the notion that the public's view on gun control has shifted towards the "pro-gun" side in recent years. It's important to look at that assumption.

Nov
08
2012

Mittmentum: Reporters Thought He Might Win Because He Said So

Asked about the pre-election sense that Mitt Romney might win the election, CNN reporter Candy Crowley told viewers (11/7/12): There was an optimism in the Romney camp. But it wasn't based on the numbers. It was based on the feel of things. And one thing you know when you cover a campaign, the feel of things can be really deceiving. She's not alone–others had the same sense that the numbers couldn't be what they were. A Politico story (10/31/12) reported that this feeling was fairly widespread among elite media: Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign says it still has momentum. President Barack […]

Nov
07
2012

Has Nate Silver Ruined Campaign Journalism?

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The results are in: Nate Silver won the election. The New York Times' polling/stats wonk was projecting an Obama victory, and it looks like he basically nailed it. Of course, this outcome thrills Silver's many fans, and has shown pretty clearly that the people the corporate media rely on to make election predictions aren't really good at the thing they're supposed to be good at doing. This is revealing, and should raise the usual questions about why some of these people continue to appear on television as election experts. But since it's very hard to lose your Pundit License, it's […]

Nov
05
2012

I Predict Dana Milbank Will Continue to Personify False Balance

After establishing that Republican operative Karl Rove is a terrible political prognosticator, Dana Milbank (Washington Post, 11/2/12) does the false-balance thing and attacks polling blogger Nate Silver: Rove is an easy target because his motive–conveying a false sense of momentum for Republicans–is so transparent. But he has plenty of company among prognosticators who confidently predict that which they cannot possibly know. There's Nate Silver, a statistician-blogger at the New York Times, who predicts with scientific precision that President Obama will win 303 electoral votes and beat Romney by 2 percentage points in the popular vote. He gives Obama an 81 […]

Nov
02
2012

Politico Makes You Glad Election Is Almost Over

Nate Silver

The gossipy, horse race-obsessed outlet┬áPolitico ran a story on October 29 about the credibility of polling expert Nate Silver, whose 538 blog at the New York Times is a must-read for people interested in election forecasting. What Silver does isn't, on one level, all that tricky–his model combines national and state polls and generates probabilities about election outcomes. This model finds it highly likely that Barack Obama will win the election. It's probability, not a crystal ball or a bet. Politico's Dylan Byers notes that Silver's model says this "even as the polls have [Romney] almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent." […]

May
02
2012

NYT Reassures Afghans That the Troops They Want to Leave Are Going to Stay

The New York Times' Alissa Rubin (5/2/12) reports of President Barack Obama's trip to Afghanistan: The trip communicated something of vital importance to the Afghans: reassurance that the United States is not in an all-out scramble to get away. It's not clear what the basis for Rubin's claim that "reassurance" that the U.S. is in no hurry to leave Afghanistan is "of vital importance" to Afghans. A poll taken in 2010 on behalf of the Washington Post, ABC, BBC and the German broadcaster ARD found that 55 percent of the Afghan public supported the rapid withdrawal of foreign troops (GlobalPost, […]

Feb
15
2012

NYT: Okinawans' 'True Views' Aren't What They Say

That a majority of people living on the island of Okinawa want the U.S. Marines gone seems a well-established fact. A plan to build a new airfield on a different part of the island in the town of Henoko is even more unpopular. One recent poll found 84 percent opposition to the new base. And yet the New York Times tells readers today that it knows better. The headline alone over the piece by Martin Fackler tells youthat those polls–not to mention the massive demonstrations against the base–shouldn't be believed: "Amid Image of Ire Toward U.S. Bases, Okinawans' True Views […]

Nov
16
2011

WaPo and Occupy 'Infestation'

All right, which newspaper posed this question about the Occupy protests today: Is this an occupation or an infestation? Has to be the New York Post, right? Nope–they wouldn't include a question mark. That's the Washington Post, which went on to report that "recent news updates from Occupy protests read like a crime blotter." And that Post's Eli Saslow and Colum Lynch explain that they're not the only ones who feel this way: In the wake of so much controversy, the Occupy movement–which began as a populist uprising to represent all but the wealthiest 1 percent–has begun to lose some […]

Nov
14
2011

Michele Bachmann and Made-Up Media Bias

The Michele Bachmann presidential campaign–formerly treated as atop-tier juggernaut by Beltway media–has been floundering for weeks. Which makes right now as good a time as any for them to grab some headlines by shouting about liberal media bias. The Bachmann campaign was furious about email correspondence concerning a possible Bachmann appearance on a CBS Web show after the Saturday night debate. The network's political director, John Dickerson, was lukewarm on the idea, mentioning that Bachmann's poll numbers are quite low and that she wasn't likely to be much of a factor in the debate. Even though Dickerson is correct, these […]