Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Government: Polling and the Media

CNN and Gallup have broken up:

CEO Gallup Jim Clifton wrote to employees: "We have chosen not to renew our contract with CNN. We have had a great relationship with CNN, but it is not the right alignment for our future. .... CNN has far fewer viewers than it did in the past, and we feel that our brand was getting lost and diluted," Clifton continued. "...We have only about 200,000 viewers during our CNN segments."


"We want to make it clear that the decision to not renew our polling arrangement had to do with Gallup's desire to produce their own broadcasts and not about CNN viewership figures. In fact, Gallup had negotiated with us for four months in an effort to extend the partnership. While we appreciate that Gallup does not wish to have any broadcasting partner for the future, I must note that CEO Jim Clifton's excuse to his employees for ending the relationship has no basis in fact. It shows ignorance of not only our viewership figures but of the reach and value of the CNN brand."


"For the last few months," CNN has "been in the process of reevaluating" their polling strategy "and have been in discussion with a number of other polling services. We hope to have an announcement of our new partner in the near future. It is unfortunate that Mr. Clifton's insecurity about the strength of the Gallup brand has pushed him to send out an inaccurate and unprofessional e-mail to his staff."

Here's a dirty little secret about polling. (Well, its not really secret, but most people don't know about it). The vast majority of polls are commissioned by the six major media outlets, which collectively own 95% of the television, print, and radio media, with large presences online as well. These polls are commissioned, written, fielded, and analyzed with one purpose - to create or support news stories.

They are also wildly inaccurate. They don't tell you how popular the President is or who is going to win the next election. They don't tell you what people feel or think. They tell you how 400 people, who picked up their land line telephones after a computer randomly dialed their phone number, responded to poorly worded questions, presenting false dichotomies, that vaguely relate to well known political figures or issues, for 20-40 minutes without hanging up.

I hope that Gallup goes under, and that CNN and the other media outlets stop buying news. Here's an idea - investigate the government, business, military, and anyone else in positions of power. If only they had a word for that? Isn't it journal-something?


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