An in-depth look at Rasmussen and vintage Democratic whine
posted at 4:49 pm on January 3, 2010 by Karl
Democrats are turning their fire on Scott Rasmussen, the prolific independent pollster whose surveys on elections, President Obama’s popularity and a host of other issues are surfacing in the media with increasing frequency.
The pointed attacks reflect a hardening conventional wisdom among prominent liberal bloggers and many Democrats that Rasmussen Reports polls are, at best, the result of a flawed polling model and, at worst, designed to undermine Democratic politicians and the party’s national agenda.
Notably, the weakest quotes in the piece are from actual pollsters. The Politico’s Alex Isenstadt talked to Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin, both of whom observed only that Rasmussen’s polling is less favorable for Democrats and is used frequently by Republicans. This is not surprising, as both have addressed the topic at length in the face of the ongoing lefty whining about Rasmussen.
In December 2009, Mark Blumenthal charted the “house effects” of the pollsters charted by Pollster.com in a post about Rasmussen’s results. Blumenthal identified at least three possible reasons why Rasmussen tends to show Obama with lower approval and higher disapproval than most (but not all) pollsters: (1) sampling likely voters; (2) giving them four possible answers (strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove); and (3) the robo-calling method. While Blumenthal thinks the robo-calling is a minor factor, Democratic polling firm PPP uses the same method to reach registered voters and also tends to show lower approval for Pres. Obama. Thus, this part of the Politico story is not surprising, either:
“The way he does polls is that he’s more likely to get high-energy voters,” said Tom Jensen, a pollster for the North Carolina-based Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. “I think Rasmussen favors Republicans this year, but I don’t think he inherently favors Republicans.”
Blumenthal’s charts show similarly large “house effects” that inflate Obama’s approval number (CBS/NYT, Ispos/McClatchy, CNN and ABC/WaPo) and deflate his disapproval (CBS/NYT, Pew). His colleague Charles Franklin produced charts for each pollster that make the same point in a slightly different way.
These charts demonstrate one of the common righty responses to the Politico story — that the establishment media never does stories about the Right’s complaints against polls like CBS/NYT, ABC/WaPo and CNN. The charts also underscore the degree to which the Politico story appears to have been written simply to advance a lefty narrative. After all, this story could easily have been written to advance the narrative that “lefty bloggers complain about Rasmussen, but pollsters the Politico interviewed do not back their complaints.”
Note: I previously addressed lefty complaints about Rasmussen’s polling on ObamaCare, finding them wanting.
Update: Lefty blogger Nate Silver (because he knows better) adds a new spin — Rasmussen may not be biased, but news outlets that cite Rasmussen too much may be biased. Yet during the 2008 campaign, Silver rated Rasmussen one of the most accurate pollsters.