Several times each year, the Erik Wemple Blog goes through a frustrating exercise. We spot a poll regarding the public’s view of the media, or some cable-news channel, or whatever. Said poll contains some eyebrow-twitching findings. But then it turns out that poll doesn’t meet Post standards for publication. Too bad.
Axios might have published the results of one such poll on Sunday in an article titled “Exclusive poll: AOC defining Dems in swing states.” This “exclusive” came from the desk of Mike Allen, an icon of the publish-everything madness with which political journalists first embraced the Internet. Here’s the top of the piece:
Top Democrats are circulating a poll showing that one of the House's most progressive members — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — has become a definitional face for the party with a crucial group of swing voters.
Why it matters: These Democrats are sounding the alarm that swing voters know and dislike socialism, warning it could cost them the House and the presidency. The poll is making the rounds of some of the most influential Democrats in America.
The piece reports that the poll was taken in May and that it “included 1,003 likely general-election voters who are white and have two years or less of college education.” An important constituency, in other words.
Absent, however, is any indication of who did the poll, who commissioned it, how it was conducted, what the questions were, what its other results were and so on. The write-up by Allen totals 390 words, in alignment with the Axios brand promise of “smart brevity.”
There’s such a thing as benighted brevity, though. More words, after all, are required to provide readers with critical information about the poll — and whether it complies with polling standards. The American Association for Public Opinion Research maintains a checklist of elements that should be disclosed when releasing such information to the public:
Name of the survey sponsor
Name of the organization that conducted the survey
The exact wording of the questions being released
A definition of the population under study. What population is the survey designed to represent?
A description of the sampling frame used to represent this population
An explanation of how the respondents to the survey were selected
The total sample size
The method or mode of data collection
The dates and location of data collection
Estimates of sampling error, if appropriate
A description of how the data were weighted (or a statement that they were not weighted), and any estimating procedures used to produce the final results
If the survey reports findings based on parts of the sample rather than the total sample, then the size of the subgroups reported should be disclosed
HuffPost has more on the ways in which the Axios piece veers from industry standards. And Ryan Grim, who has helped turn The Intercept into an accountability machine for the Democratic establishment, wrote a Twitter thread about the shortcomings of the poll report.
The leak of the polling numbers to Axios had a clear purpose contextualized by the Democratic infighting of recent weeks. In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democratic congresswomen of color: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.). They’ve chafed under Pelosi’s establishment Democratic leanings. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world," Pelosi told Dowd. "But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.” The Axios “scoop” contained these nuggets about Squad members:
Ocasio-Cortez was recognized by 74% of voters in the poll; 22% had a favorable view.
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — another member of The Squad — was recognized by 53% of the voters; 9% (not a typo) had a favorable view.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Trump tweeted racist instructions that the Squad should “go back” to deal with problems in their own lands, even though three of them were born in the United States.
A midsummer stew has continued to feed the story: There aren’t too many other pressing issues on the national news map at the moment; Trump continues recommitting himself to the racist sentiments; Republicans have been forced to respond to the outrageous comments with varying degrees of apologism, evasion and, occasionally, disapproval.
So Trump has felt compelled to continue his self-defense. There’s the too-much-protesting tweet:
And then, the let’s-quote-Axios tweet:
How appropriate — Axios abandons journalistic standards and gets a signal boost from a man with no standards of any sort.
We asked Axios about its requirements for publishing polling information, among other questions. The publication declined to comment.