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Archive for April, 2009

Brittney M. Luedtke
April 16, 2009
19:169:SCA
Reaction Paper 5

Polls and Elections
This week’s reading by Asher, and Gawiser and Witt focus on election surveys covered by news agencies in print and broadcast media. Election polls have become highly anticipated and controversial in recent years, especially since the development of exit polls which can contradict actual election results (Asher, 2007). Journalists’ and their news organizations have been criticized for manipulating the media coverage of polls to adhere to their specific interests. As stated by Gawiser and Witt (1994), “handling political polls correctly is the hardest task facing the journalist writing about public opinion”, especially considering that election polls are a central focus of election coverage.
According to Asher (2007), the accuracy of polling predictions depend on many factors, including timing of polls, treatment of undecided voters, estimating turnout in elections, and the changing political and economic climate. The closer to the Election Day a poll is conducted, the more accurate the results will be. If the poll is conducted early, it will not reflect accurate election results, as it reflects only name recognition and perception of candidate’s performance. Tabulating the results of undecided voters is also of concern to the accuracy of the results, as the undecided is usually someone who knows little about the candidates’ or chooses this answer in order to be “safe”. News organizations will either ignore the undecided’s or split them in the same way the numbers were for the decided’s. Whichever method a news organization chooses in tabulating or not tabulating the undecided voters can be critical to the results of the poll. The most difficult task facing pollsters, according to Asher (2007), is estimating which respondents to their poll will actually vote on Election Day (this would not be a problem factor in exit polling, mentioned later). It is important to note, however, that although the accuracy of poll results is crucial to objective news reporting, the real issue with election polls is how they are reported by news organizations and their correspondence, considering that news organizations tend to focus on their own polls instead of possibly comparing to the competition, using polls to dominate news coverage of the election, and focusing on the poll standing instead of issue stances. The reporting of election polls depends on the type of polling technique that is used, considering that each present their own problems and different strategies.
The readings introduce and conceptualize between different types of election polls, including benchmark and trial heat surveys, tracking, horse-race, and exit polls. Benchmark surveys include offering a candidate the voters’ perceptions of whether or not they agree or disagree with the candidate, and their views on major policy issues. Trial Heat surveys compare two candidates, and which one the voters’ would chose to win if such a competition should arise (Asher, 2007). However, this response paper will focus on tracking, horse-race, and exit polls considering that they are used more often in news coverage, and can have the most impact on public opinion because of the timing of the polls conducted closer to and during Election Day.
Tracking polls provide a candidate with the most up to date information as to the extent to which their campaign is successful or not, using the poll results as a tool for their campaign strategies. The results of tracking polls also provide information for potential candidates, whom can analyze why voters’ views changed over time in response to particular campaign events and media coverage, therefore learning what to do and what not to do when running (Asher, 2007). These polls also have considerable appeal to news organizations considering there are new poll results each day; however, there are drawbacks to using this type of poll in election coverage. According to Gawiser and Witt (1994), the use of rolling samples cannot always be accurate considering that a respondent may not be available the first try by the interviewer, and there are shorter questionnaires used instead of in-depth questions which could present bias in the question wording. Although tracking polls provide an analytical tool for current and potential candidates, they are also scrutinized because of lack of in-depth questions and the use of rolling samples, as changes from sample to sample could not be just from the result of a particular respondents’ opinion, but the particular respondent may not be the same from sample to sample.
Considering that most attention to political polls is towards horse-race questions, this particular type of polling is viable to media organizations. “The horse-race question is designed to answer one question directly and one indirectly. First, who is leading in the race for president, or senator, or governor right now? Second, have the candidates’ standings changed since the last poll?” (Gawiser and Witt, 1994). The margin that one candidate has over another, the sampling error, and demographics of candidates’ supporters should be analyzed when viewing the results of this type of poll, considering that the media organization is more likely to have overemphasized the result in favor of their position and ignoring polls results from the competition. As discussed by Asher (2007), this type of polling produces wrong election predictions because of the mentality that poll standing, rather than issue stances, are more important and are given too much attention in news coverage. This dilutes the objective news reporting of a particular candidate and the election.
Exit polling has become a phenomenon since the 1960’s, when American television networks needed as much information about election results as early as possible, sometimes even before the closing of polls in Mountain and Pacific time zones (Gawiser and Witt, 1994). This type of polling is conducted by people whom have just voted and are asked to fill out questionnaires. Exit polls have advantages that other types of polling do not, such as the use of actual voters, collecting samples from several states allowing for a state-by-state analysis, and quick tabulations allowing for almost instantaneous news coverage. Exit polls permit the news organization to have ample coverage, considering they are able to project election results as well as analyze the information. “Exit polls are the key to one of the most controversial aspects of modern public opinion polling: the sophisticated ability to determine quickly which candidate has won a race, particularly when the race is not close” (Gawiser and Witt, 1994). With use of projection models, journalists are able to determine the winner of the “race” when the polls are still open; however, many voters believe that their vote may not count when the winner is “known” before their state has been closed. This presents a problem considering that some voters whom were going to vote decide not to based on the results of the exit poll, as exemplified in the 2004 exit polls for candidates George Bush and John Kerry.
Major television news networks should be careful about revealing exit poll results too early considering that most citizens believe that exit polls can influence election outcomes, especially in the case of the 2004 controversy. The hype of news coverage should not come first when it deals with the accuracy and objectivity of reporting the news story. Because the exit poll is not going to be 100% accurate and is not the official election returns, citizens should be critical of exit polls and early projections, thereby not compromising the election system (Asher, 2007). Besides the news organizations’ and citizens’ responsibility to understand the possible inherent problems and imperfections with exit polling (and polling results in general), there have been proposals to eliminate the problem of premature projections that effect actual election results. These include a common poll closing time across the country, and provide for the election of the president by popular vote, not electoral vote (Gawiser and Witt, 1994). However, it is not clear that there could be a federal law implemented to permit this type of action in the near future; therefore, I believe it is most necessary that the citizens’ understand this problem and critically analyze any type of poll result before jumping to conclusions. To rely on one’s self is much better than to rely on the government or any media outlet, taking into account that your own judgment is something that you trust.

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Chapter 4 in The Best War Ever by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber discussed the way the U.S. was manipulated by the INC and the lies that made the government and the public believed that 9/11 had a connection to Iraq. As Karl Wiegand said, “Politicians lie to journalists and then believe those lies when they see then in print.” In this case U.S. politicians created a third party to do the lying for us, the INC and Ahmed Chalabi, a man said to be able to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime and ultimately lead America to war. Hundreds of millions of dollars went to the INC and the promise they made to transition Iraq into a democracy. To sell the war to the people all they had to do was come up with a way to link Iraq to Al Qaeda and feed lies to the media. They made up the story of Salam Pak being a terrorist training facility, but didn’t realize the truth until after the occupation and by then it was too late to change what had already been written. Not only that but the INC also played a role in promoting the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction- later also proven to be false.

This chapter also talks about journalist Judith Miller who also got information from the INC about WMD. She even went to Iraq and wrote about seeing the sites, but all she really saw was a man pointing at the ground where they were “supposedly” buried. Avoidance of specifics in her stories is a characteristic that they were mostly propaganda. A big problem is that many readers never found out that these stories were false. Miller later testified in court for what she had done and the Times did not defend her refusal because she would not be protecting them, but the most powerful officials in the government. Chalabi was later investigated by the FBI for having ties to Iran and lost many U.S. supporters.

            Chapter 5 is about rewriting history because the U.S. was manipulated by the intelligence and mislead to go to war. Bush said that is was “deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began.”  It shows what the arguments were leading up to the war and how they have shifted, such as “we know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” changed to “We were wrong about our intelligence assessments, but so was everyone else.” It then goes into this statement and the mistakes made by Congress, the White house, and National Intelligence. They said that other countries reached the same conclusions, but this is false and many rejected the Bush administration’s case for war. It is also blaming the media for the failure to do a responsible job reporting during the runup to the war and duing the war.

            I get very frustrated and disheartened when I read books such as this one because when you put it all together it makes so much sense and I wonder why we didn’t have the right answers before. The public needs more authority in the government, I feel like we are slipping away from out democracy as well. I think it is sad that people who do work for the government cannot speak out without loosing their jobs and that the propaganda that gets put out is rarely fixed when proven wrong. I still bet that there are people out there who still think there are weapons of mass destruction and think that the was in Iraq is somehow justified. Government documents and reports need to be less secret so that the public is aware of what is going on.

by, Katrina Christenson

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-Michael Reid

While much of the blame (though rightly so) for going to Iraq is placed on the Bush Administration for using incorrect intelligence, some blame must be attributed to two outside sources.  The Iraq National Congress led by Ahmed Chalabi and the New York Times reports by Judith Miller are also main reasons for American involvement in Iraq.  In “Our Man In Baghdad” and “Rewriting History,” Rampton and Stauber consider the roles these two individuals played in the accepting of false military intelligence.
“Our Man in Baghdad” covers the history of the Iraq National Congress in the United States.  Initially created by George Bush senior as a means to “create conditions that would lead to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq,” the organization became a major propaganda tool under the leadership of George W. Bush.  The INC, with Chalabi at its head, was essentially a PR firm.  Chalabi’s goal was to link al Qaida to Iraq.  Throughout the war, the INC supplied news about “findings” of WMDs not only to the United States, but also to other major countries; making it all but impossible for the U.S. to correctly verify reports received.
One eager reporter, Judith Miller, bought Chalabi’s lies and published numerous stories about WMD findings in The New York Times.  In “Rewriting History,” Rampton and Stauber discuss Miller’s failures to double check her sources and the influence the mistakes had on the government.  As the U.S. forerunner of news, the majority of political elites read The New York Times.  This, then, can point out why most government officials believed WMDs existed.
The two chapters bring to light how journalist failures led to U.S. decision to invade Iraq.  By being too eager to be the first to release information on weapons findings, Miller published false information.  I can understand why she would want to step down after her release from jail.  I think as a whole, viewers of the media forget to keep in mind the credibility of the journalists themselves.  We see journalists as the watchdogs of the government, but it now seems necessary that we, as U.S. citizens need to be watchdogs of the press.  How can we be entirely sure that what we read is 100% correct?

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Erin Krohn

Reading Response

4/29/09

An Exposure of Lies

 

In Chapter 4, “Our Man in Baghdad”, there’s a focus on the third party created by President Bush and members of the government. Ahmed Chalabi is the head of the Iraqi Nation Congress, which is a group that was created in the 1990’s by a public relations firm and answered to the orders of President Bush. This group created some of the politics surrounding the Iraq war and gave it more steam for supporters to go off of. The author states the INC “spun a web of disinformation” that deceived many in the government and public. After the U.S. invasion in 2003, it came to a conclusion that much of the evidence found from INC was in fact false and a waste of money. In fact they were a central source for propaganda in the Iraq war. The London-based Rendon public relations firm was able to supply $12 million in “covert CIA funding to the INC.”

Chapter 5, “Rewriting History”, discusses tactics in the Iraq war. The author states that in the beginning of the war, the main arguments were: “we know that Iraq has WMD, Saddam Hussein is allied with Al Qaeda, The people will welcome American troops as liberators, the war will be a cakewalk.” The main arguments after the war include: “we were wrong about out intelligence assessments, but so was everyone else, we can’t leave now, or the terrorists win, if we leave now all the live and money we’ve spent will have been wasted.” I felt that saying the people’s lives will be wasted is a harsh comment, because many see dying in duty as an honor, not a waste.

In these chapters we again see the negative consequences that arise when government actions go unquestioned by the press. When reporters simply relay “facts” fed to them by the White House, CIA or other government agencies, they may unknowingly pass on propaganda and lies taken out of context to feed a political agenda. This is what happened with the Iraq war. If journalists become cowards and fail to seek out the whole story – or report dissenting views – democracy and free speech are threatened at their core. Reporters look like fools when other non-media-professionals, such as The Dixie Chicks, make statements that foreshadow the discovery of truth and popular opinion. When Garofalo made her statements, everyone ignored her, thinking she had no authority on the issue. When the Dixie Chicks said they were ashamed to be from the same country as President Bush, they were slandered by American citizens and the press. And now here we are six years later with the majority of citizens – and many politicians –echoing those views. It’s too bad that the press failed to uphold their civic and professional duties at a time when the country needed their services most.

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Aubrie Carinder

April 29, 2009

Rampton and Stauber Chapter 4 and 5

In chapter 4 the book talked about the use of the media as a third party in the war.  Journalists are always held responsible for their work but in this case it can mean lives being saved or taken.  According to Rampton and Stauber the Iraqi National Congress spun a web of misinformation that ended up in the hands of US sponsors.    The INC was created after Operation Dessert Storm when the country was still under Saddam’s reign.  The INC had huge bills to pay in Iraq with basically nothing to show for if and according to Rampton and Stauber the propaganda in Iraq was little to none.  This chapter basically talked about how the media was becoming very involved with the war and how deceptions were created when politics get involved.  There are a lot of strings that can pull and journalists and it is in their power to make sure that they are reporting accurate and unbiased news.

 

Chapter 5 talked more about President Bush and his administration during the beginning of the war.  He used Veteran’s day to lash out at the people who were in opposition to the war and to remind the democrats and American people why we were at war with Iraq.    The chapter touched on the main reasons why we went to war and what they eventually shifted to.  For example,
“we knew that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction vs. we were wrong about our intelligence assessments, but so was everyone else.”

“We can’t leave now, or the terrorists will win”

“If we leave now, all the lives and money we’ve spent will have been wasted.”

·         Many US military officials had different views on this and gave facts and opinions onto why the US needed to pull out of Iraq.  A quote from retired Army general William Odom, “the only issue yet to settle is how high a price we’re going to pay-less, by getting out sooner, or more, by getting out later.”

 

I think these chapters are a reflection of the rest of the book.  They are pointing out details and findings that should have been apparent to the Bush Administration, and maybe they were, but they were not acted upon.  In hindsight all of these facts and knowledge would probably question the fact if we should have gone to war with Iraq.  I did like how this chapter pointed out the reasons on why we went to war with Iraq and then how they shifted to something else after the fact.  This book would be a good book for the American public to read because it seems like many US citizens are “rallying around the flag” but they are not quite sure for what.

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Ali Hayes
4/29/09
Media and Process Effects

Misleading Information
For Wednesday, I read chapter four Our Man in Baghdad, and chapter five Rewriting History, in the book The Best War Ever, by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber.
In chapter four the authors argue how US politicians created a third party to blame all of their mistakes on. They were called the National Iraqi Congress (INC). The INC managed to position itself as a central source of what we now know as discredited intelligence information. Since the United States put so much trust in to the INC, in the long run it made us look like fools. Although there is no way to fully know who you can/cannot trust in a time of war, The United States could have stepped back and realized they were moving too fast to have any concrete results in the war. Because we are such a fast pace nation, we tend to forget sometimes that the best thing to do is to sit back and really analyze the situation before doing anything about it. Since we did move so quickly into this war, we made wrong decisions and put our trust in people and government organizations such as the INC.
In chapter five the authors argue how the Bush administration has tried many times to rewrite the history of the Iraq war. He used fear to get people’s attention, and when that didn’t work he praised the American Army and said we are almost victorious and about to win the war. When that didn’t work he blamed other people for the mislead information that he got from sources he supposedly can’t name. For eight years President Bush made absurd choices that dug this country and even Iraq into a whole. What I don’t understand is why he isn’t being held accountable for what he and his administration have done? It’s time to stop playing the blame game and start apologizing for all the mistakes they made in this war.

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Christina Mirro

Media Process and Effects

4/29/09

The Corruption of Government

Chapter 4 talks about the false information revealed to the United States by the Iraqi National Congress by Ahmed Chalabi. This information led us to invade Iraq because we though Saddam developed a nuclear weapons program. The nuclear weapons had a lot to do with the September 11th terrorist attacks. The chapter also mentions how the INC did a good job in fooling the U.S. Under President Clinton, the CIA and State Department had formed a negative view of the INC and declined the funding by Congress. But once George W. Bush ascended to the White House as president, Chalabi and the INC were guaranteed U.S. funding and “friends” in the White House and Pentagon. Chapter 5 talks about the arguments of why we choose to go to war and how it’s hard to get out of the war now. How we got in the war was false accusations of Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass. There were also false accusations of Saddam Hussein having connections with Al-Queda, which was also false information. The Bush administration tried to avoid the blame by stating, “everybody else was wrong too.” It is scary to think that there are so many views of the war and so many reasons why this war should have never started. We fully trust the government when it comes to war, and when the government makes a mistake they should take full responsibility. It’s sad that the government thinks they are better than everyone else and won’t admit their mistakes. How can the public trust their leaders?

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