WaPo Slams Rasmussen's Professionalism, But Doesn't Tell Readers His Critics Are Liberals

The Washington Post ran a story slamming pollster Scott Rasmussen on Thursday on the front page of the Style section. Political reporter Jason Horowitz earnestly channeled the Democratic spin from the story's beginning:

ASBURY PARK, N.J. -- Here is a fun fact for those in the political polling orthodoxy who liken Scott Rasmussen to a conjurer of Republican-friendly numbers: He works above a paranormal bookstore crowded with Ouija boards and psychics on the Jersey Shore.

Here's the fact they find less amusing: From his unlikely outpost, Rasmussen has become a driving force in American politics.

Democrats surely dislike how Rasmussen's polls (like this week's showing Harry Reid losing by 11 points) affect the optimism of their donors and activists. But are his numbers accurate?

The Post wanted its readers to know this guy Rasmussen was a scary conservative: he played guitar in a band in high school in Massachusetts called "Rebel's Confederacy" (racist?!) and he quotes the Bible:

He graduated from DePauw University and moved to Charlotte. There he married, started a family and became a devout Methodist. He is given to quoting Scripture, including the principle: "Let every man be quick to listen, but slow to speak, and slow to anger." (James 1:19.)

In the mid-1990s, Rasmussen had discovered the business model of automated polling, and folks he polled heard a recording of his wife reading poll questions. In 1998, heavy traffic crashed his site when Rush Limbaugh unexpectedly told listeners to visit. Two years later, in August 2000, Bill O'Reilly invited him onto his show. He wrote columns for the conservative site WorldNetDaily in 2000. In 2001, he wrote a book advocating the privatization of Social Security.

But are his numbers accurate? The pull quote in the story as it continued on page C-9 attacked his professionalism for his newer methods:

"The firm manages to violate nearly everything I was taught what a good survey should do." -- Mark Blumenthal, a founder of Pollster.com, speaking about Rasmussen Reports

Then there's this hilarious attack from Daily Kos veteran Nate Silver, soon, a new hire of the New York Times: He "faults Rasmussen for polling only likely voters, which reduces the pool to 'political junkies.'"

Adds Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center in agreement: "It paints a picture of an electorate that is potentially madder than it really is...And potentially more conservative than it really is."

Would it be wiser for a political candidate to focus on wooing unlikely voters?

Jason Horowitz is dishonest for suggesting it's Rasmussen versus the professionals -- and not disclosing that Mark Blumenthal is identified correctly in others stories as a "Democratic pollster," and not disclosing Nate Silver came from the hard-left Daily Kos, and not even hinting that the Pew Research Center is deeply invested in a series of liberal causes, and whose newest poll (also out Thursday) coos that "The president gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the world (with the notable exception of the U.S.) for how he has handled the economic crisis."

They can even admit Rasmussen's critics are liberals in the headline on C-9: "For some, pollster Rasmussen is a minus man." For some?

GOP pollster Ed Goeas, identified as a "Republican pollster," defends Rasmussen but suggests he take on a Democrat to "balance his analysis" (or to please The Washington Post?) Rasmussen has a "conservative constituency" of Fox, The Washington Times, and the Drudge Report, adds pollster John Zogby insists. No one in the Post is going to suggest that perhaps a pollster for The Washington Post or The New York Times is a "liberal constituency."

How transparently odd. Just like the liberal media elite on a daily basis. For them, the playing field cannot be described as conservative professionals vs. liberal professionals -- it's upstart conservative peasants with pitchforks versus the established objective professionals who define the standards for everyone.

Of course, Horowitz left out of his Rasmussen profile his latest poll showing how angry the public is with the media, that two-thirds of respondents are angry and say reporters slant the news to favor candidates they want to win. Instead, we get leftists dismissing Rasmussen numbers as "sorcery" that leads to conservative media bias:  

Rasmussen said he is simply a "scorekeeper," but his spike in clout has sharpened skepticism about how he tracks the dip in Democratic fortunes. Frustrated liberals suspect sorcery. Markos Moulitsas, the creator of the Daily Kos blog, has accused the pollster of "setting the narrative that Democrats are doomed" with numbers that fuel hours of Republican-boosting on talk radio and cable.

Pardon conservatives if they might find it laughable that Markos Moulitsas as a polling professional, considering he concocts smear polls of "self-identified Republicans."

But are Rasmussen's numbers accurate? The caption beneath Rasmussen's picture brings the disturbing news for liberals: "Scott Rasmussen's polling detected the groundswell for Scott Brown, who won the special election in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy, earlier than most competitors."

That's what has them worried about his ability to be a "driving force."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis