If Old Media can cook their numbers to make their favored candidate look good, they will.
Earlier today, I covered two cooked AP-GfK polls (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). The pollster dramatically changed the party-ID makeup of the second poll to include a much higher percentage of Democrats, and watered down the strong-GOP component of the Republicans sampled. As a result, the two poll results, taken together, fabricated an illusion of Barack Obama momentum, and John McCain decline. The results couldn't be more bogus; holding the mix constant from one poll to the next would have caused John McCain's lead from three weeks ago to shrink by about 1%.
Its also seems that if Old Media can't use a poll to fabricate its way to the result it wants, it simply ignores it. Two examples from the same poll will demonstrate this.
On Wednesday, NewsBusters' Scott Whitlock noted that ABC ignored its own national poll conducted with the Washington Post that showed a 4% national edge for Barack Obama -- down from 9% the previous week.
Yesterday, the Washington Post's Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta didn't totally ignore the poll (full results are here). Like ABC, they ignored the topside result just mentioned, which is pictured below:
Instead, the two reporters focused on questions that emphasized potential negatives relating to McCain's vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin:
With the vice presidential candidates set to square off today in their only scheduled debate, public assessments of Sarah Palin's readiness have plummeted, and she may now be a drag on the Republican ticket among key voter groups, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Though she initially transformed the race with her energizing presence and a fiery convention speech, Palin is now a much less positive force: Six in 10 voters see her as lacking the experience to be an effective president, and a third are now less likely to vote for McCain because of her.
A month ago, voters rated Palin as highly as they did McCain or his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, but after weeks of intensive coverage and several perceived missteps, the shine has diminished.
Cohen and Agiesta wrote over 1,100 words, yet never named a single "perceived misstep," let alone "several." That also seems to be a tacit acknowledgment that the Alaska Governor has committed no real missteps. Naming the ones that are "perceived" would be embarrassing -- not to Ms. Palin, but to the reporters and the Old Media establishment they represent. Just take your pick from Charles Martin's accumulated list of myths and rumors, now up to 97 (the first 85 are here; scroll through his content or search on each relevant number to find the rest), and you'll see what I mean.
Here's an obvious question: If Palin's alleged negatives on experience and readiness are such a "drag," why did Obama's lead over McCain get cut by over half in one week in that very same poll? The crosstabs, which are fairly consistent between the two polls, don't appear to explain McCain's improvement. Logically, whatever caused McCain to gain has to be a more important factor than the negative items relating to Palin that the WaPo reporters chose to dwell on.
No wonder Mr. Cohen and Ms. Agiesta ignored their own poll's overall result.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.