January 8, 2008, the date of the New Hampshire primary, media pollsters
made their biggest prediction gaffe since dubbing Thomas Dewey a
shoo-in to beat incumbent president Harry S. Truman. Eleven different
polls forecast a solid win by Barack Obama; instead, Hillary Clinton
took New Hampshire and recharged her candidacy. The months that
followed only brought more dismal performances and contradictory
results — undeniable evidence that something is terribly
wrong with the polling industry today.
It's easy to spot the election polls that get it wrong. Equally
misleading and often far more disastrous are polls misrepresenting
public opinion on government policy. For instance, in the period
leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, every major media poll showed
substantial public support for a preemptive strike. In truth, there was
no majority of Americans calling for war.
For the first time, David W. Moore — praised as a "scholarly
crusader" by the New York Time — reveals that pollsters don't
report public opinion, they manufacture it. And they do so at the peril
of our democratic process. While critics cry foul over partisan
favoritism in the mainstream media, what's really at work is a power
bias that polls legitimate by providing the stamp of public approval.
Drawing on over a decade's experience at the Gallup Poll and a
distinguished academic career in survey research, Moore describes the
questionable tactics pollsters use to create poll-driven news
stories—including force-feeding respondents, slanting
question wording, and ignoring public ignorance on even the most arcane
issues. More than proof that the numbers do lie, The Opinion
Makers clearly and convincingly spells out how urgent it
is that we make polls deliver on their promise to monitor, not
manipulate, the pulse of democracy.
The Opinion Makers
An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Poll
by David W. Moore