Jan 31, 2011 6:19 PM GMT
Fascinating, if not surprising, look at how even right-wing boosters like Frank Luntz get less air time if they don't toe the party line...
Los Angeles Times
On the Media: Fox News 'pollster' Frank Luntz's sleight of phrase
GOP consultant Frank Luntz gives Fox News a room full of President Obama opponents and feeds them misleading information.
January 29, 2011|James Rainey
We all know by now that cable TV news provides cozy destinations for the two political poles: Liberals go to MSNBC for aid and comfort. Conservatives flock to Fox to be told what they want to hear.
What's offensive is when the people hawking these highly branded properties pretend they're doing something else, like playing it down the middle. You see it during big news events when MSNBC's lefty commentators suddenly try to morph into "news" anchors.
You saw it after this week's State of the Union address, when Fox offered up a famously partisan political operative as an unbiased pollster, just wanting to help us understand the American people. Surprise, surprise — GOP consultant Frank Luntz spoon-fed Fox viewers a focus group chock-full of Obama haters.
Bogus public opinion sampling is nothing new. Neither is cable television's insistence on rolling it out, flogging it and regurgitating it at every opportunity. So why not fill those hours after the State of the Union with a little faux science?
Never mind trying to find neutral language — the goal of any truly nonpartisan pollster — so as not to taint the subjects. In one question, Luntz allowed the panel to say only that the speech had exceeded or fell short of expectations. No chance for the panelists to stake out the likely middle ground. Lo and behold! Most of them said the speech fell short.
Perhaps the slipperiest of Luntz's tricks played on the most important question of all: how Obama has handled the economy. First noting that the president called the "worst" of the recession over, Luntz later said: "How many of you believe the recession is over, raise your hands?" He then relayed the result: "Three of you. So obviously that must have undercut credibility when he said it?"
Of course, when you misstate what a politician says — in this case taking out the all-important qualifier that Obama referred to the worst of the recession ending — it's not hard to make that politician look woefully out of touch.
Luntz defends himself by saying that he has conducted focus groups before that favored Obama, including during the 2008 campaign. He has suggested that his airtime has previously been cut on Fox because his findings didn't comport with the outlet's orthodoxy.
The set piece he delivered this week had a rank smell for another reason, though. It didn't jibe with what we all know. A broad sampling from real public opinion surveys showed Obama's approval rating in a long swoon, which has begun to lift slightly in recent weeks.
A composite of surveys at Pollster.com shows 49.8% of Americans approving of Obama's performance and 45.1% disapproving. That's not a ringing endorsement. It's not a beat down.