AP Goes Back to Cooked Poll, This Time to Make Things Up About Public Opinion on Medicare and Social Security

This morning, Associated Press reporters Ricardo Alonso Zaldivar and Stephen Ohlemacher went back to an AP-GfK poll yours truly thoroughly discredited on May 11 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). That's when the AP's Liz Sidoti and Jennifer Agiesta laughably claimed that President Obama's approval had jumped to 60%.

This time, Alonso-Zaldivar and Ohlemacher didn't "merely" revisit a poll with an absurd 46%-29%-4% Democrat-Republican-Independent makeup (after classifying leaners). They went further, proving that my characterization of the AP's polling partnership with GfK North America in a subsequent May 16 column as "Absolutely Pathetic Garbage for Koolaiders," which makes an utter mockery of the AP's “Statement of News Values and Principles," was in no way over the top.  The AP pair went even further  this morning by misrepresenting the relevant questions on Medicare and Social Security in their headline and opening paragraph:

AP-GfK Poll: Medicare doesn't have to be cut

 

They're not buying it. Most Americans say they don't believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.

The trouble is, guys, what you've reported doesn't reflect what the poll questions were, as seen in this graphic taken directly from the poll's full topline (red underlines are obviously mine):

APGfKsocsecMedicareQsMay2011

For cryin' out loud, Alonso-Zaldivar and Ohlemacher turned answers as to whether cuts to Medicare and Social Security can theoretically be avoided (i.e., whether they are "possible") into hard claims that those polled believe that those programs don't "have to be cut." To call this "horse manure" is to be overly kind. The fact that they finally get around to referencing the word "possible" -- in Paragraphs 11 and 12 -- doesn't compensate for their opening misrepresentations, given that the text of those paragraphs will almost never hit the airwaves, will be cut from many if not most print and online publications, or will escape the notice of readers who won't get that far where the full report appears.

While I'm discussing those two paragraphs, perhaps someone can explain how the AP pair reached this (as far as I could tell) not present in the topline conclusion: "Taking both programs together, 48 percent said the government could balance the budget without cutting either one (Social Security or Medicare)."

Properly-worded questions would have gone something like this:

  • "Do you believe that Medicare will have to be reformed or restructured as part of balancing the federal budget over the long-term?"
  • "Do you believe that Social Security will have to be reformed or restructured as part of balancing the federal budget over the long-term?"

Of course, those answers might have come back with a majority in the affirmative. We can't take a chance on that happening.

The questions as formulated by AP-GfK are textbook examples of polling malpractice. By misrepresenting the answers given, the AP reporters have engaged in journalistic malpractice.

This really is a perfect partnership, isn't it?

Anyone who can stand reading the entirety of the AP item will see that the wire service's reporters claim that "the Republican Medicare privatization plan" has already "flopped," that "Medicare seems to be turning into the new third rail of politics," and that "nearly every solution for Social Security is politically toxic." If the final claim is true, which I'm not ready to concede, you have to ask: "With poisoned polling like AP-GfK's -- Gee, I wonder why?"

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.