When I was in college many moons ago, we were required to read a book entitled “How To Lie With Statistics.” The book discussed the many ways that information can be misrepresented to mislead an audience. We learned how a single set of data can be manipulated to tell two different stories – or multiple stories.
A textbook example of this phenomenon comes to us from an NBC/WSJ poll published over the weekend. This poll actually contained some positive results – that is, if you happen to be a Trump supporter. But, considering it’s an NBC poll, they do their best to cover up or at least to understate those numbers.
NBC’s article was entitled “‘A deep and boiling anger’: NBC/WSJ poll finds a pessimistic America despite current economic satisfaction.”
The first item that jumps out is when the writer makes her first comparison to October 2015 data, she dutifully adds “when the presidential election was being upended by the anti-establishment message of then-candidate Donald Trump.” Trump was far from the presumptive nominee in October 2015. Although he had the edge, the lead bounced back and forth between Trump and Ben Carson throughout the entire month. This data can be viewed here. In addition, it was believed that no matter who won the Republican primary, Hillary Clinton would win the presidency.
The writer tells us, “The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that — despite Americans’ overall satisfaction with the state of the U.S. economy and their own personal finances — a majority say they are angry at the nation’s political and financial establishment, anxious about its economic future, and pessimistic about the country they’re leaving for the next generation.
She immediately discounts the good news (for Trump) with the word “despite,” and gives us the bad news.
We are told that 69% of respondents are “satisfied with their overall financial situation today” but they do not tell us what the result was in 2015. I assume it was lower or they would have included it. Then, they quickly write that “a majority — 56 percent — also say they feel “anxious and uncertain because the economy still feels rocky and unpredictable. That’s down slightly from 61 percent in 2015.” I’m surprised that was included.
The writer reports that “70% of Americans say they’re angry at the political establishment.”
This number has not changed since October 2015 when Obama was the President. Instead of reporting that this “deep and boiling anger” at the political establishment began during Obama’s presidency and has remained at the same level, they present it in the title as if Trump is responsible for it. They want readers to believe that these numbers began to head south when Trump took office and have continued to drop ever since because he is so racist and divisive.
Issues & Insights’ John Merline compared this poll’s numerical results to the conclusions the writer drew from them. He wrote:
Sure, you can say that the anger has continued under Trump. But the story we’ve been told repeatedly for two years is that Trump is responsible for the current climate of hatred and discord. The fact that the poll debunks this narrative is newsworthy.
The results also state that 36% of respondents believe that race relations are currently either very good or fairly good. That’s up from 24% in July 2016, the waning days of the Obama administration.
Currently, “36% of Hispanics rate race relations as good, which is up from 23% in July 2016.”
Although 36% is not stellar, today’s data is up 12% and 13%, respectively, from the 2015 data.
Because this result flies in the face of the what the mainstream media would have us believe, that Trump is sowing racial hatred, NBC ignores it. Instead, they focus on the finding that 56% think race relations have gotten worse under Trump.” And once again, they don’t tell you that number is precisely the same as it was in 2015.
NBC’s analysis ignores the results of another question which asked if respondents were “satisfied that our political system is being shaken up and those who have been ignored for too long are now being heard and put first.” 52% were satisfied. This is surprisingly high because the media would have us believe that Trump only cares about the wealthy when, in reality, Trump connects very well with working Americans.
Finally, the poll offers a choice of two answers. Either a statement describes you very well or somewhat well. I realize that simply leaving it blank is an option, but that provides no distinction between those who feel a statement doesn’t describe them at all and those who don’t know.
In some cases, we see actual numbers, and in other cases, we just have to take the writer’s word for it. And still other answers are left out altogether.
This is a BS poll and it’s conclusions are presented haphazardly. It’s smoke and mirrors and it is meant to mislead. Be prepared for a lot more like this in the next 15 months.