the detroit news lies

OK, I’ve looked at the Detroit News twice in the past month and both times I’ve found what appear to be purposeful misstatements concerning the status of the presidential race. Both times it concerned the assertion that Kerry was behind Bush in Michigan. (In the last instance, which I wrote about, the print version of the paper contained the assertion that Kerry was behind, but it was suspiciously missing from the on-line version of the article.) This time, the News is suggesting that Bush has a more than four point lead over Kerry in the state. It’s laughable, and it amazes me that they can get away with such things under the banner of “news.” Here’s their graphic from today’s paper:

And, here, from my friend Rob, the poll-watcher, are the most recent Michigan projections from reliable sources, along with his comments concerning the firm that the Detroit News has been using for their polling data.

The only other poll I have seen since July giving Bush a lead in Michigan was The Free Press Poll, the other Detroit News. The Detroit News used Mitchell Research & Communications, Inc, which is a Republican firm, that has a poor record with accuracy in political polling.

date firm Bush Kerry Kerry lead
10/6/04 Survey USA 42% 52% 10%
10/12/04 Rasmussen 46% 49% 3%
10/12/04 Research 2000 43% 48% 5%
10/14/04 Strategic Vision 40% 49% 9%
10/18/04 Zogby Interactive 46% 52% 6%

I just checked out the list of Mitchell Research’s clients, and it looks like they’re doing work for Democratic candidates as well, so I’m not sure if they really are a “Republican firm,” as Rob suggests, but, for all I know, they might be the only local pollsters we have… Irregardless of the firm’s political bent, however, the numbers are just plain wrong. Zogby is historically the closest at predicting these things and they were showing Kerry up by six points three days ago, and he’s been gaining ground since then. That puts the discrepancy at over 10%! So, I have to wonder, is the Detroit News held to no basic journalistic standard?

I don’t know that it’ll do any good, but I’m going to write a letter to the editor this evening. If you’d like to do the same, you can find the contact information here… Clearly, they’re trying to influence the electorate by suggesting that Bush has momentum when it’s not the case, and that can’t be tolerated. Editorials are one thing — this is quite another. A 10% discrepancy goes beyond just plain old bad journalism and into the realm of state-run news agencies like the one in North Korea. We should demand better.

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4 Comments

  1. Tony Buttons
    Posted October 22, 2004 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    It also says that the sample size was only 400 people, which doesn’t seem to me to be big enough to be reflective of a state as large and diverse as Michigan. It’s probably also likely that they found their prospective voters either out shopping at the mall or sitting at home watching Touched By an Angel. Let’s remember too that these polling calls don’t reach anyone without a landline. That means all those young urbanites who use their cellphone as their sole mode of communication aren’t included.

    And I’m sorry I made that poop comment the other day, Mark.

  2. ina grazzardy
    Posted October 22, 2004 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    The Detroit News may suck, but there’s a good letter to the editor in today’s paper.

    http://www.detnews.com/2004/editorial/0410/22/a11-311894.htm

  3. Posted October 23, 2004 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    The News poll has a 5% margin of error. Given that fact, it may well be an accurate “result”, but it is also rather meaningless.

    It’s yet another example of “If Kerry’s up by a few points, ‘it’s a statistical dead heat’, but if Bush is up by a few points, ‘Bush has a lead'” Bad reporting – incompetent or biased, take your pick. It’s one, the other, or both.

  4. Posted October 23, 2004 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m putting my money on imcompetent. Then again, the News hasn’t been the same since the big strike.

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