Succeeding Scalia: The New York Times rediscovers push polling

Screenshot from the series Yes, Prime Minister.

The British TV comedy series Yes, Prime Minister* made fun of political issue polling by pointing out that shady pollsters can get any result they want, and someone with an agenda is usually more than happy to use such a shady poll to push that agenda.


Today The New York Times reported giddily that if they led up to their key agenda question, with a series of selected talking point questions, that they, too, could get precisely the issue result they wanted!

Screenshot from the series Yes, Prime Minister.
Screenshot from the series Yes, Prime Minister.

They wanted a poll that agreed with them on appointing a replacement for Antonin Scalia, but they wanted results! So they went through the firm Morning Consult. The result was a poll that said only 39% of Americans agreed that the Scalia vacancy shouldn’t be filled until the American people get a vote, versus 46% who wanted Obama to get the pick. Winning this issue was the goal of course, and they had to rig it to get there:

[We] asked Morning Consult to add a small number of questions to the survey, about whether respondents’ views would change if they knew more information, like the average number of days from the time of nomination to a vote on a successor (25), the longest number of days for that process in a nominee’s confirmation (125) and the length of Mr. Obama’s remaining term in office (340).

And so the scene played out just like did in Yes, Minister: They asked leading questions like any good push poll, and nudged the person being polled until they got the answers they wanted. And like Yes, Minister said: the reputable pollsters don’t do it. Morning Consult, however, is not very reputable:


Morning Consult, which began as a health newsletter in 2009 and now conducts a weekly online poll, surveyed 1,763 registered voters. About 68 percent of Democrats surveyed said they wanted a nominee this year, and about 66 percent of Republicans surveyed said they wanted the next president to choose.

So there you have it. The New York times will find any shady online pollster they have to, in order to rig and get the results they want. All the truth that’s fit to print, plus whatever else they can scrounge up.

* Buy it and the original series and Yes Minister.


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