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Coulter's Pollster Rant

Topics: Pollsters

Although we try hard to promptly report polling related new items, we missed a good one yesterday. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter dropped another one of her bon mots during a Fox News broadcast, this one aimed at the pollsters at Newsweek. On his show At Large on Monday, host Geraldo Rivera asked Coulter for a reaction to Newsweek poll results showing Barack Obama leading the various Republican contenders. As reported by News Hounds (via colleagues on the AAPOR list serv):

"I think this is Newsweek doing more push polling for Al Qaeda," Coulter told Geraldo Rivera. Rivera responded "You don't think they're making it up?" to which Coulter answered "Yes."

She went on to say that in polls "where Republicans are actually allowed to vote," they "do a lot better." thus suggesting that Newsweek did not call any Republicans.

News Hounds also linked to a YouTube video clip:

Not surprisingly, reaction from the pollsters was swift. Rob Daves, president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), released the following statement yesterday:

"Ann Coulter's kill-the-messenger assessment of the Newsweek poll exceeds the bounds of professional reporting and commentary," said AAPOR president Robert P. Daves, director of polling and strategic research at the Star Tribune. "It's pure-and-simple mudslinging on her part to question the ethics of a reputable polling firm and news organization that abides by a longstanding Code of Professional Ethics and Practices. Anyone who values solid public opinion research and intelligent public discourse should be outraged and ignore Coulter's irresponsible and groundless assertion that the results were fabricated."

[Interests disclosed: I serve as a member of AAPOR's executive council].

And finally, Evans Witt, the chief executive officer of Princeton Survey Research, the survey firm that conducts the Newsweek poll, had this comment for reported by the Associated Press [that was originally posted to the AAPOR member-only listserv):

"As the 2008 election campaign continues to heat up, I am sure that there will be informed and incisive criticisms of polls from many observers," he said. Coulter's comments "do not fit into this category," he added.

When it comes to Ms. Coulter's various lunatic comments, I tend to agree with those say that "she, like any bully, will go away if you ignore her." On the other hand, read over some of the comments left on this site over the last few days and you will see that some people will believe anything. So for those tempted to confuse the valid skepticism expressed by reputable voices about the reporting of Newsweek poll with Coulter's rant, let's restate what should be obvious: Coulter's remarks about the Newsweek poll are unfounded and preposterous.

 

Comments
Isaac:

How is this not slander?

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Watcher:

You're right, Coulter's charge that Newsweek made it up is slander. Her defense would probably be that she's so ridiculous that nothing she says is designed to be taken seriously.

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Isaac:

Wouldn't she have to change her job title to "comedian" rather than "conservative commentator"?

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Chris G:

I'm going to do something a little dumb and actually try to interpret the splatter of Coulter's noxious spew. She may be reacting against the relatively low number of Repubs in the Newsweek sample.

However, as discussed I think on this site and others, self-id'd party affiliation tends to fluctuate with public opinion on related issues, perphaps because, for example, when Dem Party is doing well, Inds more likely to say they're Dems. This may also explain some of the advantage McCain and Giuliani *appear* to have among Inds in the poll, only because more Repub-leaning Inds are left over in that group (and perhaps a few Repubs reluctant to express previous party affiliation are now calling themselves Inds?).

Pollsters and media should really talk about this more if they're gonna report party breakdown. Instead of just highlighting horserace numbers, they should also point it out when a survey also shows a change in party affiliation, and just leave it up to readers to judge whether they think its a sampling issue or real. Or better yet, pollsters could start asking respondents what their party affiliation was 2 months ago or whatever.

Coulter (or her character) may not be rational enough to get this however...

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Gary Kilbride:

There should be some form of financial penalty to a website for including a video of Ann Coulter. At worst there should have been a warning that the camera was going to pan down.

If not a monetary make good, at least balance it with a video of a real womanly figure. Currently, I suggest Denise Milani.

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