More reasons why I don’t trust Rasmussen polls
As I’ve noted on numerous occasions here, the only political polls I trust are those that have proven records of reliability — no matter whether the results comport with my political biases.
For example, when reputable outfits like Gallup have shown declines in President Obama’s approval rating in Gallup polls, I’ve reported them. In several instances, I’ve even predicted such declines. I’ve also compared Obama’s Gallup numbers to those of previous presidents at similar junctures in their first terms.
Note, too, that I’ve almost invariably deemed polls commissioned by Fox News to be perfectly acceptable, because Fox, like most of the major media, employs the services of a reputable polling firm. Granted, the talking heads on Fox sometimes downplay poll results they don’t like, but the hard numbers speak for themselves, and they usually seem legitimate.
The one pollster I’ve criticized most is Scott Rasmussen, for various reasons, including dubious methodology and loaded questions. In disparaging Rasmussen polls, I’ve repeatedly noted that they often produce what are called “outlier” results — that is, numbers that are significantly at variance with those produced by more reputable polls, in the aggregate.
Rasmussen’s “outlier” tendency is dramatically illustrated in the chart shown above, created by Jed Lewison on the basis of data from Pollster.com. (I should mention that the “other polls” designated in light green include surveys commissioned by Fox News. So, we’re not just talking about polls sponspored by the so-called liberal media.)
The question naturally arises as to why Rasmussen’s numbers on generic congressional ballots so often differ from those in other polls. The answer, I suspect, is that those numbers get Rasmussen a lot of mention in conservative media, especially right-wing blogs.
And then there’s the matter of Rasmussen staying away from political contests that might embarrass him.
On that score, Kos has a good piece HERE that deals with Rasmussen’s apparently fearful failure to do polls on the various noteworthy primary races that were decided yesterday. (Warning: The piece includes a mild vulgarity.)
The most curious aspect of this matter is that Rasmussen uses a dubious “likely voters” model in measuring Obama’s popularity, despite the fact that nobody’s going to be voting for or against Obama until the year after next. But when the “likely voters” method might make a little more sense in cases of imminent elections, like those this week, Rasmussen is absent from the scene.
FOOTNOTE: Here’s another instructive example of how Rasmussen’s “likely voters” model skews his numbers:
The most recent Fox News poll shows that 48 percent of respondents approve of the job President Obama is doing while 43 percent disapprove. The Fox poll covered registered voters in general.
The most recent Rasmussen poll on the job Obama is doing shows 44 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval.
That’s a pretty wide variance from the Fox numbers — 11 percentage points on the disapproval side.
Of course, the Rasmussen poll covered only so-called likely voters, whatever the hell that means.
I rest my case.
FOOTNOTE II: My favorite example of Rasmussen using a loaded question to get the desired result goes back to last year, when he clearly wanted to ingratiate himself with Republicans who were annoyed at the perception that Rush Limbaugh was the real leader of their party.
In a question directed only to Republican respondents, Rasmussen asked: “Agree or Disagree: ‘Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party — he says jump and they say how high.’”
Naturally, the vast majority of respondents said they disagreed. Who wants to admit that they jump at the command of a talk-show host (or at anyone’s command, for that matter)?
The right-wing media dutifully reported that this so-called poll clearly showed that Limbaugh was not the leader of the GOP.