Our Conversation With Richard Morin

UPDATE: Media Matters has more on Richard Morin.

So, earlier today I asked you to take part in an online chat with Richard Morin, the poll editor for the Washington Post. Looking at the transcript of the chat, I have to say that you guys did an excellent job: the vast majority of the questions were clearly coming from a progressive perspective. Well done!

The highlight of the discussion was definitely the questions surrounding impeachment. In fact, and I'm not sure if Richard Morin realizes this, but he is now on record stating that the next few ABC-WaPo poll will include a question on impeachment:

We do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion--witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls. Well, here is something that Morin should find interesting. From the "leadership" page on the House Democratic caucus website: Hon. John Lewis (GA-05), Senior Chief Deputy WhipAnd this:U.S. Rep. John Lewis said Monday in a radio interview that President Bush should be impeached if he broke the law in authorizing spying on Americans.And this:U.S. Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga) told WAOK-AM's "Atlanta's Best News" morning program he believes it is time for the House of Representatives to start thinking about preparing impeachment proceedings--or at least draw up articles of impeachment. There you have it: a member of the Democratic House leadership has called for impeachment, called to prepare impeachment proceedings, and called for articles of impeachment to be drawn up. Morin said, and I quote "witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls." His requirements have thus been fulfilled, and I expect the next several ABC News WaPo polls to include a question on Bush's impeachment, as per his word.

A polling director is now on record stating his conditions for polling on Bush's impeachment. Those conditions have been met. The MYDD community and Impeach PAC deserve some serious love for this.

Also, in the extended entry, I include some other interesting exceprts from the transcript.

First, some wonky stuf:Philadelphia, Pa.: Unlike past Post polls, this one does not show the demography of the respondents for factors like Party ID, ideology, income, sex, registered voter, etc.

I'm curious as to why this poll omits that very important data.

Richard Morin: Be curious no longer. My valued colleage and assistant is on a well-deserved vacation this week, leaving me with all this work! Between the story, graphic and assorted other pieces of business, I finally got the demographic breakdowns to our website late last evening and they were posted on the site a couple of hours ago. Here's the link. Enjoy!


That's nice. While it is a perfectly good explanation as to why it took so long to get the demographic breakdowns of the poll online, it is not a good explanation for why they ran the original story on the front page before the demographic breakdowns were available. Failing to post internals along with the story goes a long way toward proving my longstanding thesis that commercial news outlets conduct polls not in order to accurately report public opinion as a form of legitimate news reporting, but instead to actually create news and sell copies through a sensational headline. Internals should always be released along with the story, or the poll should be ignored, period.

Here's a nice bit of sidestepping on party id:

The first likely suspect is party id: perhaps our poll contained too many Republicans and Gallup's contained too many Democrats. Nice theory, but it is wrong this time. Our sample was slightly more Democratic than Republican (33 percent D versus 32 percent R). But Gallup also had Democrats up by 1 percent. This is just plain wrong from Morin. The issue is not so much how the ABC / WaPo internals vary from those found in another polling outfit, but instead from those found within the last poll from the same outlet. The two previous ABC-WaPo polls put Republican identification at 27%, a full five points below the 32% in the latest poll (source). While it could be argued that some of Bush's previous troubles in the ABC-WaPo poll were the result of too few Republicans being in the survey sample, there is no real way to argue that the shift in partisan identification from one ABC-WaPo poll to the next was a significant cause for the shift from one poll to the next, no matter if Bush was going up or down.

And here is this lovely bit from Morin:

Which brings me to this point. Gallup does terrific work. But I found it odd that they had Bush at 41 immeidately after the Iraq elections--down insignificantly from 42 in their pre-election poll. Bush didn't benefit--even a little bit--from the success of those elections and the favorable media coverage that followed? Certainly possible, but I find it hard to believe. Morin was clearly expecting that Bush's numbers would go up even before he took this poll. Justified or not, it certainly shows a tendency that he would be unwilling to accept any criticism of any poll that shows Bush's approval rating rising right now.

And then came the impeachment nonsense from Morin:

Naperville, Ill.: Why haven't you polled on public support for the impeachment of George W. Bush?

Richard Morin: This question makes me mad...

Seattle, Wash.: How come ABC News/Post poll has not yet polled on impeachment?

Richard Morin: Getting madder...

Haymarket, Va.: With all the recent scandals and illegal/unconstitutional actions of the President, why hasn't ABC News / Washington Post polled whether the President should be impeached?

Richard Morin: Madder still...

Dublin, Ireland: In a statement on Sunday, John Dean, former White House counsel during Watergate, stated that President Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense." Will The Washington Post be polling about impeachment of the President in the near future, now that this topic has taken on national significance?

Richard Morin: An impeachment demand from Ireland? Oh my gawd. Now I'm furious.

Yes. How dare anyone ask him about this topic. How dare grassroots activists decide to start putting pressure on the media the way conservatives have done for decades. This makes him mad? In a forum dedicated to explaining his poll, he is mad that people are asking for an explanation for why he isn't asking one question? Then why is he even having this forum?

Finally, I should note that he didn't answer my question about Iraq withdrawal. However, this is far from over, and I am going to keep pushing. After our success with the impeachment question, who knows what we can accomplish.

Tags: Media (all tags)



Logically, He's On Record, In Reality, Not So Much
It's great that Morin made that comment, but don't hold your breath waiting for him to come through as promised.  He needs to be pressed on this, and probably quite hard.  

"Leadership" can easily be defined to include Reid and Pelosi and no one else, if it suits their purposes to do so.  Given Morin's clear hostility to the question, I think you might have to picket his home to get him to budge on this.

Oh, and about "serious" presidential candidates. What do you want to bet that any candidate who raises impeachment will automatically be dropped from the list of "serious" candidates.

Circular logic--the logic of people in certain circles who go in circles, circle the wagons, and never circle you in.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 10:37AM | 0 recs
I was the one from Arlington at the end of the chat who referred to Boxer and Dean discussing impeachment.  I thought his refusal to comment further was really insulting to the whole chat concept.
by ZamboniGuy 2005-12-20 10:40AM | 0 recs
Chat=Dog And Pony Show
Obviously, two different concepts of "chat."
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 11:06AM | 0 recs
sounds like the poll is biased
If you compare the WaPo/ABC poll to the others out in the field at the same time, there were about 3 saying high 30s/low 40s and 2 WaPo and Fox I believe, saying mid 40s.  That, combined with his statement that he expected a bounce and "found one" seems like there might have been some tweeking to get the bounce they wanted.

The poll was news becuase it was such an abberation, no other respectible outfit got numbers like the Post and the internals of the Post were still bad for the President.

So why is the Post suddenly so pro-Administration?

by DaveB 2005-12-20 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: sounds like the poll is biased
Correction it was Hotline...Fox News even had Bush at 42
by DaveB 2005-12-20 11:17AM | 0 recs
Follow with Contact Info
Please follow up this post with contact info for us to pressure Morin to include this in the next poll.
by RCR 2005-12-20 11:15AM | 0 recs
coup d'etat and "emergency powers"
I think we should consider that we are fooling ourselves. Bush has already effected a coup d'etats and taken on absolute power in this "state of emergency." The MSM is happy to cooperate and the judicial and legislative branches of government are too week or too complicit to do anything. Bush said himself that he will do want he wants to do in the name of the war on terror. And one reporter astutely pointed out that the "war on terror" might go on for decades. We are in 1984 and this has become a police state. Only a general uprising in this country can make a difference. Elections are manipulated and may even be postponed indefinitely in the future. Do you really think he is leaving in '08? Democracy is dead and the constitution is dead.
Bill R.
by cmpnwtr 2005-12-20 11:20AM | 0 recs
Uh, no.
We are not in 1984, and this is not a police state.  You have not been tracked down and "disappeared" for stating this opinion.  People are not routinely being locked up in gulags and tortured.  You are not being watched in your home.  Secret police do not routinely monitor internal domestic communications.  There is no indication whatsoever that Bush plans to cancel the 2008 elections.  This kind of hyperbole is not helpful to the progressive cause.
by arenwin 2005-12-20 01:58PM | 0 recs
You're Missing His Point
I think, on party ID. His point, repeated by a great many, if not most, pollsters, is that party ID follows job approval, not vice-versa. Thus, the fact that Bush's approval has gone up by a few points CAUSED the number of Republican ID's to go up. To be honest, it makes sense to me. This is why it would be a whole lot better to give party numbers in terms of registration (harder to change quickly), but that  takes more time/money.
by ColoDem 2005-12-20 11:24AM | 0 recs
Do unto others
Perhaps poll respondents should now reply to all WaPo-ABC polls "madder, madder still, furious..."
by Bean 2005-12-20 11:29AM | 0 recs
Morin Is The Enemy
It's way past time that we realized the only thing this press corps recognizes or respects is savage attack.  Treat Morin as the enemy who has to be forced at gunpoint to do what we want, and we'll be fine.  That's what the rightwing does, and that's what we need to do as well.

Of course, what we want is completely different. Twisting his arm off to get him to do his fucking job.  But the need to treat him as an enemy is exactly the same.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 12:37PM | 0 recs
unbiased questions
For me, this underscores something I've been meaning to post in one of the "MyDD sponsored poll" threads.  If part of the goal is to get MSM coverage, it's going to be incredibly important to be very careful about the wording of the questions.  People like Morin are out there ready at a hair trigger to claim that the results aren't newsworthy because of biased wording.

So, for example, paradocs had a great suggestion, seconded with some modification by Paul Rosenberg, that began with:

President Bush has recently acknowledged that at his direction and with his approval the National Security Agency has been monitoring the communications of American citizens for some time within the United States without first obtaining a court warrant. Critics of this activity have pointed out that this violates federal law and the prohibitions against such in the United States Constitution.

But of course Bush has claimed it wasn't illegal, and even inasmuch as that might seem self-evident to us, chances are that many people believe him.  I.e., it's part of the controversy.  So, a more neutral way to phrase it would be something like:

[...]obtaining a court warrant.  President Bush has argued that he has the legal authority to do this, and that he has carefully monitored the program to preserve civil liberties.  Critics have argued that this violates federal law and prohibitions in the United States Constitution, and sidesteps the U.S. Congress.

Or some variant; then ask if people think it was illegal.  This may be too long, and I'm not so much concerned with the specific example -- the point is that fine-grained edits will be incredibly important throughout the poll, to make sure they are as unimpeachably neutral as possible.  Otherwise, the results will be too easily ignored by MSM editorial staff.  Morin's assertion that even mentioning impeachment is biasing demonstrates what kind of a hurdle we have to jump over; squeaky-clean is going to need to be the rule.

by arenwin 2005-12-20 03:57PM | 0 recs
Socratic Method
Rather than repeatedly asking him the "impeachable offense" question, I wonder whether it would have worked to have asked Morin something like:

"Do you agree the constitution says, ..."

and then:

"Do you agree with the reporting in your paper that Bush ..."

and then let him draw his own conclusions.

by Hong Kong Chevy 2005-12-21 12:12PM | 0 recs


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