Fox News memo to staff: Stop promoting unscientific garbage online polls about who won the debate

I wonder if they have any particular staff in mind. Could it be the unpaid volunteer for the Trump campaign who occupies their 10 p.m. hour?

Hannity’s guilty here, but as it turns out, he’s not the only one. Evidently Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade from “Trump & Friends” and Martha MacCallum were also talking up Drudge-style online polls yesterday as evidence that the country thought Trump won the debate. In reality, not a single scientific pollincluding Breitbart’s — showed Trump ahead. The most overtly pro-Trump website on the Internet had more integrity than Fox News did in describing public reaction. And the shame of it is, Fox News’s own polling department is well respected. Imagine being an FNC public-opinion researcher, having worked hard for years to convince professionals in your field that they can trust your numbers even if they don’t trust Fox writ large, only to turn on “Hannity” last night and hear him say, “I have it in front of me. Time magazine, Drudge Report, CNBC, The Hill, CBS — the only one that has Hillary winning is CNN, and they are the ‘Clinton News Network.'” The “Clinton News Network” poll, as it happened, was the only one of those polls that was conducted scientifically.


Dana Blanton, Fox’s polling guru, could take no more:

Dana Blanton, the vice president of public-opinion research at Fox News, explained in the memo obtained by Business Insider that “online ‘polls’ like the one on Drudge, Time, etc. where people can opt-in or self-select … are really just for fun.”

“As most of the publications themselves clearly state, the sample obviously can’t be representative of the electorate because they only reflect the views of those Internet users who have chosen to participate,” Blanton wrote.

As the Fox News executive pointed out, users who participate in such polls must have internet access, be online at the time of the poll, be fans of the website in question, and self-select to participate.

“Another problem — we know some campaigns/groups of supporters encourage people to vote in online polls and flood the results,” she wrote. “These quickie click items do not meet our editorial standards.”

The Daily Dot found posts all over the 4Chan boards on Monday night linking to online polls elsewhere and begging Trump fans to vote in them, exactly what Blanton was worried about in terms of skewed results.

I think it’s fine to tout those polls on the air as a measure of enthusiasm for Trump among his fans if they’re put in context. Explain what the scientific polls say, then note the unscientific ones and the methodological difference between them. Mentioning only the latter because they’re more favorable to Trump is propaganda. When Fox News was asked for comment on that by Business Insider, they played the ol’ get-out-of-jail-free card: Hannity is an opinion personality, not a reporter, and therefore apparently should be held to no standards whatsoever, up to and including pushing information that the network’s own polling experts acknowledge is garbage. Between this and their nothingburger reprimand last week after he turned up in an ad for Trump, they’re telling you as plainly as they can that nothing short of Trump putting Hannity on the official campaign payroll would be an ethical problem for them.


And maybe they’d be okay with that too. Hannity’s made them a lot of money this year, after all: His ratings are up 43 percent in total viewers and 39 percent in the 25-54 demographic, no doubt precisely because he’s willing to give Trump fans pure streams of favorable news for their candidate every night. Cable news overall could be looking at a $2.5 billion bonanza this year in ad revenue thanks to the Trump effect. The candidate is a cash cow and his closest media allies have been milking it for months. And yet, somehow this escaped Hannity’s lips last night amid his tribute to garbage polls:

According to Hannity, those who champion Clinton are out of touch with ordinary Americans struggling with wage stagnation, unemployment and debt.

“My overpaid friends in the media, well, they have their chauffeur-driven limousines, they like their fine steakhouses and expensive-wine lifestyles,” Hannity said in the eight-minute monologue. “None of them are feeling this, the people you’re watching on TV, and therein lies the contempt.”

Forbes claims that Hannity made $29 million last year. He has command of a private jet, which he used to shuttle Newt Gingrich to meetings with his pal Donald during the VP hunt. The real test of elitism, though, evidently is putting more stock in scientific polls that give you a result you don’t like than unscientific ones that give you a result you do.


Here’s a fun clip from 2007 dug up last night by Oliver Darcy of Business Insider. Fox’s unscientific text-message poll, noted Alan Colmes at the time, showed a clear win for Ron Paul, which was unsurprising given the enthusiasm of Paul’s fans and also irrelevant given that everyone understood Paul had no chance at the nomination. Meh, said Hannity. Text-message polls don’t matter; loyal fans can spam them by texting over and over again. Right. And yet, here we are.

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