Opinion

Accuracy is in the eye of the poll-holder

Back in late 2008, as part of my research for my documentary film “Media Malpractice” at great personal expense I commissioned two highly scientific polls of the electorate to determine how the dreadful media coverage of the campaign impacted what voters knew (or thought they knew) about the candidates.

The first, a Zogby poll of just Obama voters, created a huge, largely internet based, controversy, ending with John Zogby refusing to take my money to duplicate the poll with McCain voters added. The second, asking essentially the same multiple-choice questions of all voters with similarly astonishing results, was basically ignored by the media.

So, when the highly respected Pew Research Center came out with their recent poll assessing the knowledge base (or lack thereof) of the average voter I was intrigued on several levels.

First, I was struck by how incredibly similar the Pew poll (in both methodology and results) was to the ones I commissioned, which were viciously and wrongly attacked by the left as nothing but right-wing propaganda.

Both asked twelve, rather easy, multiple-choice questions to gauge how much voters actually knew about current events. In both sets of polls the lack of knowledge was equally stunning and in both cases the most informed voters were white, educated, male Republicans and the least informed were minority, undereducated, female Democrats. In both cases these potentially earth shattering results were treated by the news media like week-old NHL hockey scores. (Heck, Pew’s own laughably benign headline indicates they were afraid to publicize the results themselves!)

Before we get into an analysis of the significance of all of this, let’s first delve into the actual results which should stun and horrify almost everyone (at least those not already exposed to the polls for my documentary).

Here are some high-low-lights:

• Only 2 percent got all 12 of the simple questions correct. Thirteen percent failed to get even two right answers (remember, if you simply guessed you should expect to get about three correct answers).

• Given four multiple-choice options, only 26 percent knew it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate.

• Just 48 percent of Republicans knew Harry Reid leads the Senate, while only 33 percent of Democrats did.

• On no question did 60 percent of the respondents get the right answer.

• Republicans got an average of 5.9 correct, while Democrats scored just 4.9. Even often maligned Independents did better than Democrats, averaging 5.6 correct answers.

• On almost every question, men out-did women, whites got more answers correct than blacks, the more educated did better than the less schooled, the richer did better than the poorer, the older outscored the younger, and Republicans did best while Democrats did worst.

• Women did particularly poorly on the economic questions with a 21-point gender gap on an inquiry about the debt, 18 points on the Dow question, and 14 on the unemployment rate query.

It would seem to me that these results demand that we radically rework the “conventional wisdom” about virtually everything that the news media would have us believe about our electorate. I find it particularly ironic that polls which ask people what they “think” are routinely given far more attention than polls like this one which determine what potential voters really “know.” After all, in a remotely rational world, it would be rather difficult to justify caring about what people “think” if they don’t actually “know” anything.

But in 21st-century America, everyone’s opinion is equal regardless of what it is actually founded on. In fact, based on the media’s matrix (especially in Hollywood), often what the poor, the young, the less educated, the allegedly oppressed minority or female, and the openly liberal have to say is given greater value than the voice of the already over-privileged old, rich, educated, white, male Republican. Who cares that they may actually know what the heck they are talking about; that simply doesn’t matter any more. Instead it is all about how you “feel” that we care about, not what you “know.”

The implications of this study obviously go far beyond exposing the inaccurate cultural perceptions created by political correctness. Clearly, we are simply not well informed enough to maintain the democratic republic that our founders created. In fact, it is not even close.

Politically, the evidence is overwhelming that elections are not remotely decided by issues or substance. Hollywood has long ago discovered just how unintelligent the average American really is and has done a suburb job of exploiting that reality. Politicians have been a little slower in coming to this realization but the remarkable success of an Obama campaign that pulled off an historic upset on little more than “Hope” and “Change,” certainly indicates that the “ignorance awareness” gap between D.C. and Los Angeles is quickly closing.

Taking this concept out of the theoretical and into the practical, I have written previously about how Scott Brown’s magnificent win is being overrated as an indication of a political shift in this country. How could his victory really be all about repudiating health care reform when only 32 percent of adults in this country know that no Republicans voted for it and only 39 percent know Harry Reid leads the Senate? This means that at least 61 percent of potential voters have absolutely no clue about what is really going on regarding the most publicized public policy issue of the past year!

More and more I am convinced that all that matters in elections is how you look/sound, what your personal narrative is, whether you are part of the party the public (often wrongly) thinks is in power, and how the media treats you. That is a recipe for both the destruction of the conservative movement as well as the nation itself.

John Ziegler is currently a documentary filmmaker who most recently released a movie on the 2008 election called, “Media Malpractice… How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted.” He has also been in radio talk show host in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Louisville and Nashville. Ziegler has written two books and has appeared live on numerous national television shows including the Today Show, The View, Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC.