Even with disgraced former CEO Roger Ailes out, Fox News has still been, well… Fox News. By that I mean, they’re still the mainstream media arm of the Republican party — but it seems at least some of the executives aren’t exactly thrilled with the lengths Sean Hannity and a few others at the network have gone to when trying to promote Donald Trump. In particular, the last few days when several online polls were used by Hannity and others to claim Trump “won” the debate.
Citing online polls from Drudge, CBS, Time and The Hill, Hannity used these online surveys as “proof” that Trump handily defeated Clinton, dismissing CNN’s actual scientifically conducted poll showing that the former Secretary easily defeated him.
There’s just one problem with that: Online polls aren’t remotely scientific or credible.
It’s no wonder Megyn Kelly took a rather not-so-subtle jab at her fellow Fox News coworker Monday night when she said she hoped Trump would talk to actual journalists after he finished his “interview” post-debate with Hannity.
Well, apparently executives at Fox News sent out a memo essentially calling out everyone at the network who had been citing these worthless polls that don’t meet the “editorial standards” required to be considered credible information.
Dana Blanton, vice president of public-opinion research at Fox News wrote:
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.
Another problem — we know some campaigns/groups of supporters encourage people to vote in online polls and flood the results. These quickie click items do not meet our editorial standards.
News networks and other organizations go to great effort and rigor to conduct scientific polls — for good reason. They know quick vote items posted on the web are nonsense, not true measures of public opinion.
Fox News policy is to focus on non-partisan telephone polls (with both landlines & cellphones) that use live interviewers, and random digit-dial sampling techniques — a methodology that enables everyone an equal chance of being interviewed.
Websites often do online polls for nothing more than fodder for them to discuss (even though they know they’re worthless) and interactive clickbait to increase traffic to a website. But they’re completely useless because they lack any of the scientific credibility needed to be considered somewhat reliable.
While some folks might not be aware of this, there’s a fairly rigorous process that goes behind creating and conducting a respectable poll or survey. One of the key “must-haves” is a true random sample. If your sample isn’t truly random, then the final results are going to be skewed, making the final results meaningless. Well, meaningless if you are trying to conduct a credible poll — not if you’re trying to push propaganda.
Online polls rely entirely upon who decides to participate, without any way to control who’s responding or even how many times they respond. If someone can mask their IP, or has multiple browsers/devices, they could vote multiple times. Then, as Blanton pointed out, it’s not uncommon for groups of supporters to encourage people supporting a particular candidate to visit multiple sites to “cast their vote.”
For example, if a huge pro-Trump Facebook page posts a link to an online poll, bringing in thousands of “votes,” clearly that’s going to skew the results of that poll in his favor. Not only that, but if you’re a website like Drudge that’s clearly ultra-conservative, obviously the vast majority of their audience are Republican voters.
While Donald Trump, Sean Hannity and many other conservatives have tried touting these online polls as “proof” of the GOP’s candidate’s “success” on Monday night, the fact that they’ve had to stoop as low as to cite online polls that many of them know are complete garbage proves that even they know his performance in the first debate was terrible, and that Hillary Clinton easily mopped the floor with him.