Thursday, February 9, 2017

Believe it, or Don’t

You may have seen the news about a recent poll that purports to show that “Voters feel Trump administration more truthful than news media.”  Or something similar.  I realize that using the words “news,” “poll,” and “Trump” is bound to cause someone to yell “FAKE NEWS,” but bear with me.  Remember, I have a little history with polling (from my market research days), but the issues I have aren’t statistical.  That just means you should be able to follow along.

The poll was done by Emerson College, and there ARE a few statistical issues I could raise.  First, they didn’t ask “Who is more truthful…Media or Trump?”  What they did was ask separate questions about Trump, the news media, the Trump Administration, and others.  So there wasn’t any comparison like every headline I’ve seen so far makes it out to be.

Second, while it claims to be a “National” survey, the data doesn’t reflect a very even distribution.  Almost a third of all responses come from just THREE of the 50 states – New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Granted, Emerson is located in Massachusetts, and it IS a student poll, so maybe they were trying to save money.  I’m joking – I have no idea why this is.  There are other issues I have with the methodology (land-lines, weighing, etc.) – you can read about their methods here, though again, this isn’t my beef with the poll.

Big issue #1 is this – the gap between “Trusts Trump” and “Trusts Media” is very small – 49% versus 48%.  That’s smaller than the actual “plus or minus” accuracy (margin of error was +/-3.9%) quoted for the survey.  So in all likelihood, if you were saying STATISTICALLY if one was considered more trustworthy than the other, you’d be wrong.  Too close to tell.

What you CAN tell without any doubt is that there is a W-I-D-E gap in how Democrats and Republicans responded.  As you can imagine, Dems think the media more trustworthy than Trump and his administration, GOP voters think just the opposite.

And it’s not even close.  Here are the “crosstabs” from the survey:

Do you believe the Trump administration has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?


Do you believe the news media has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?


One more issue I have here about the survey, before we discuss – “news media” is an all-encompassing description.  It covers…well, a helluva lot of ground.  NPR, CBS, AP, Fox News, Huffington Press, NY Times, my local paper, etc.  That’s ALL “news media” and they are as different to me (and most likely, to most everyone) as night and day when it comes to truth.

And so there are two problems here.  One, the gap between Democrats and Republicans, and two, the definition of news media.  In short, had they asked the question(s) differently, they may have received a different perspective.

What if, instead of asking:
Do you believe the news media has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?

They asked:
Do you believe the news media YOU USE has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?

A follow-up question would have asked about WHAT SPECIFIC news media is used, of course.  But this is actually beside my point.

My point is this – now that the “results” of this poll are out, there are about 90gadzillion posts about it, all with the same MISLEADING headline that Trump (or Trump Administration) is more truthful than the news media.  Which isn’t the case, even according to this poll.  Naturally, Trump has already tweeted it, which is interesting because he told us we couldn’t trust polls or the news, and that’s what this is.

Oh, only if it’s favorable to him could we trust it?  Riiiiight.  Got it.

Colorful, but wrong as hell

This is wrong in so many ways, which brings me to the graphic shown above.  This is also making the rounds in social media, supposedly showing where on the LEFT-RIGHT axis certain media falls.  It also has a HIGH-LOW quality rating.

And while it looks impressive, it’s ONE GUY’S OPINION.  Well, maybe it’s ONE GUY’S OPINION of SOME OTHER GUY’S OPINION.  But there’s NO methodology shown, no information – just a graphic that people can point to and say, “See, all the networks are leftist.”  Which is just so much bullshit.  Of course, that’s MY opinion.

What’s also my opinion is that most people choose the media that reflects their own opinions.  Trump with a 90% “truthiness” rating from Republicans?  That makes sense.  They’ll believe just about ANYTHING he and his administration tell them.  At least, they have so far.  They don’t bother with fact checking and even looking at other sources just to see if maybe, just maybe, they’re not getting the real deal.  That’s why when pundits wonder what, if anything, Trump could say or do to make his fanbase squeal, I say “Nothing.”  He really could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to his base.

So…I really don’t see things getting better, communication-wise, in the near future.  The rallying cry of “FAKE NEWS” will be shrill, loud, and off-base. 

At least Saturday Night Live will have new material for the next four year.  If we last that long.

No comments:

Post a Comment