Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

A Catch to Steve Benen for a fun post about how Fox News rigs its polls, or at least some of its polling questions, to ensure properly conservative results. He concludes, semi-sarcastically: “It’s possible -- just possible -- Fox is less concerned about accurately reflecting public attitudes, and more interested in advancing an agenda.”

Whatever the motivation, it’s probably not working. To find out why, read this important post from Jonathan Ladd about the futility of framing. Yes, framing can have strong effects on public opinion, but only when the circumstances are exactly right. Ladd has a great example: the supposed triumph of Republican wordsmiths in labeling the estate tax as a “death tax.” It turns out the plain-vanilla estate tax was always unpopular; and the only real changes have come as a result of elections, not shifts in public opinion.

So it’s easy to manipulate the outcome of any survey by tweaking the questions. But in most cases that will have no effect on underlying public opinion. About the best you can hope for is to manipulate some of the more malleable pundits and journalists, though even they are unlikely to fall for an over-the-top Fox News poll.

It's possible the rationale for commissioning these “polls” has nothing to do with a political agenda. They may be seen just a way of generating content that appeals to Fox News viewers. But if the goal is to affect elections or public policy, they're a dud.

Nice catch!

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net.