The Cost of POLL$

The Washington Times released a story today which calls into question the pollster behind the poll. You may remember a poll released last week which concluded that a majority of Americans believe that “Wal-Mart is bad for America”. The poll receive a lot of media attention because of the pollster himself, John Zogby. Given his solid reputation, the poll was reported largely ‘as is’ and remained unchallenged until the Washington Time decided to peel back a few layers and have a look-see.

It wasn’t pretty. Turns out that all dirty laundry looks and smells the same, no matter who it comes from.

In recent years, Mr. Zogby has pocketed roughly $90,000 to serve as an expert witness for individuals suing Wal-Mart, according to testimony he gave in a deposition last year in an Arizona case. Nowhere is Mr. Zogby’s prior work on behalf of plaintiffs mentioned in the press release announcing the poll results.

During a 45-minute phone interview for this column, Mr. Zogby willingly acknowledged when asked about his work on behalf of the various plaintiffs. He repeatedly requested that the column reflect his honesty, which shows that he understands the relevance of his past work.

So, as is usually the case, it all comes down to disclosure, and that’s what is most surprising about the actions of Mr. Zogby. Why would he risk his so-called “sterling reputation” by aiding and abetting Big Labor in their quest to kill Wal-Mart? People make stupid mistakes all the time, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who would accept an apology from Zogby if he admitted that this was one of those misjudgement moments. But no matter how many apologies he receives, it still doesn’t change the fact that a big question remains.

If John Zogby was willing to take $90K to back his friends and then conduct a dubious poll, how many other polls has he profitted from in the same way? What about other pollsters? This deserves a little pokin’ and proddin’.

Regardless of whether or not Mr. Zogby is a cash chasin’ bank paddin’ fixed poll makin’ fool, it still won’t change the effectiveness of polls. A poll is powerful, not for what it finds, but for those who benefit from it. I’m sure the folks at WakeUpWalMart.com could have had anyone conduct a poll, and do it pro bono for the publicity alone. But they knew they had to have someone influential. They needed a poll with the kind of caliber only John Zogby could provide. Why? Because they needed the media to pick it up, and they knew that if their poll came from Zogby it would go largely unvetted. And that’s the real problem.

Polls work because most Americans take them at face value. When a poll says that 53% of Americans believe the President Bush is doing a poor job in office, most people don’t think about the wording of the question that elicited the response. And let’s face it, a lot of Americans are completely ignorant of what is happening outside of their own lives and the lives of their inner circle of friends and family. Just listen to Jay Leno do his ‘man on the street’ interviews and you’ll see what I mean. We’re not engaged, and poll questions are geared to take advantage of this. Yet, the main stream media reports the findings and treats them like front-page news.

And as long as the MSM continues to spoon feed questionable polling data to the soft smooshy brains of ‘Joe’ public, politicians and political action committees will commission more biased polls. And now that Zogby is on the take, how many other pollsters are willing to profit, either directly or indirectly from the polls they create?

Wal-Mart isn’t the one who needs to wake up. It’s Americans who need to smarten up.

Others: Mark Tapscott – “Why Does Mainstream Media Blindly Accept Anti-Wal-Mart ‘Facts’”?

Comments

  1. Zogby Numbers Cooked for Clients?

    Mark Tapscott points to a Washington Times piece by Joel Mowbray that implies pollster John Zogby’s recent survey showing results unkind to Wal-Mart is suspect because Zogby has done work for anti-Wal-Mart interests. Tapscott observes that, &#8…

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