Thursday, September 27, 2012

Media Polls: The Newest Negative Campaign Ad

Mike Flynn:
None of the factors driving Democrat turnout in '08 exist today. Recent polls from AP, Politico and the daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup, all of which assume relatively lower Democrat turnout in November, show the race essentially tied. Only those polls showing an electorate with equal or greater numbers of Democrats show Obama with any sizable lead.

Yet, it's these polls that are driving the political narrative. Every day the media launches a number of stories about Romney's "struggling" campaign. They cite anonymous GOP sources who wring their hands that the campaign is losing ground. The only real evidence of this, however, are the polls which heavily over-sample Democrat voters. Without these skewed polls, the media's narrative would be untenable.

Quite simply, and apart from past years, the media have decided to weaponize the polls.
There's an obvious question here. "So what?"

Here's "what." There has been much discussion on the right, among those opposed to this President's policies, of the potential for a "preference cascade," for millions of on-the-fence Americans to recognize that yes, their concerns about this administration's competence and policies are shared by millions of their fellow citizens, that they are not bad or racist or greedy or alone in their disapproval of what's gone on in Washington for the last four years. No one wants to be alone in his position; no one wants to be the only one who can't appreciate the emperor's new clothes.

This 2002 piece from Glenn Reynolds is right on point.
[Totalitarian] regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers - or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they're also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

And more than that, everyone wants to play on the winning team. Marginal voters are much more likely to show up at the polling place to check the box or pull the lever for a candidate that is likely to win than for one that has no chance.

So putting out reports that the Romney campaign is struggling, running skewed polls that show Obama pulling away, isn't just "news." It's propaganda. It's propagating the storyline that Obama is just fine, Romney's a bad guy, running a bad campaign, no one wants to vote for him, so you don't want to vote for him, etc. It's propaganda intended to marginalize and depress the Romney support.

If, that is, they're wrong. And that's really the question. Are they? If the Democrats have a better year in 2012 than they did in 2008, they are. Look at all that's happened over the last four years, and ask yourself if that seems likely...

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