Media polls flawed

Media polls flawed

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

Much is made in the national media these days of the results of public opinion polls. They are used to “prove” nearly any point of view the media wish to promote.

One of the first such polls was done by Gallup in 1997. This was a “poll on polls.” To no one’s surprise Gallup found that polls are accurate in measuring public opinion.

Last month, Retro Poll, a new grassroots polling group, conducted a different type of poll. They asked, “Does the public opinion reported in the major media polls reflect the true beliefs of those polled?”

Using random samples and the same methods as companies like Gallup, the pollster says its results showed the degree to which Americans accept major media misinformation and disinformation as fact.

The poll was taken between Sept. 20 and Oct. 6 of this year. It used the war on Iraq as its central issue. Some 150 people from 39 states were queried. Of that sample, 65 individuals believed Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda terrorists are linked; a theory advocated by the Bush administration. The poll said among this group, the war was supported 2:1. That’s about the same margin that ABC News said Americans supported the war on Sept. 27.

But the 33 others in the poll who did not buy the al Qaeda claim rejected the war by a margin of 4:1. The remainder were undecided.

Retro Poll said the difference “suggests by continually highlighting Washington’s viewpoint unchallenged, the news bureaus can change the facts in the minds of many Americans. The opinions formed from those unsubstantiated facts are then used by polling organizations to report back the values, ideas and thinking of the public.”

Dr. Mark Sapir, a long-time activist, said: “Corporate media don’t look at antecedent events. They just say, ‘This is what the public thinks.’ The idea of Retro Poll is that you’ve got to look behind.”

Other results obtained by the poll showed 82.7 percent of those polled believed the U.S. should prove its charges against another nation before attacking it. Some 89.2 percent thought the U.S. should make international efforts to prosecute war crimes rather than unilateral prosecution. When queried about the war on terror, 80.4 percent of the respondents were opposed to such outlaw practices as torturing prisoners, and 71 percent were against holding suspects without charges, proof or trials.

The pollsters say that shows Americans’ basic values are still very democratic and fair and suggest some opposition to the anti-civil liberties actions of the Department of Justice.

Dr. Sapir commented: “These questions show the same thing. The American people are not for Bush’s wars. It’s only the misinformation that’s causing this.”

Although the polling sample was small , it was large enough to yield significant results. Poll takers said a larger sample simply reduces the margin of error. Retro Poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 to 8 percent.

Justin Lewis, author of Constructing Public Opinion, said the results are statistically significant, particularly when the numbers of 70 and 80 percent responses are considered.

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