ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer took on our survey about what tv news operations viewers do and don't trust yesterday on his blog.
I encourage you to read it but ultimately Langer's point is that you should only pay attention to polls that he finds acceptable, and to meet his standards for acceptability your poll pretty much has to be sponsored by a major news institution, foundation, or university.
Ultimately what I see coming through in Langer's writing is insecurity- not so much about the fact that ABC News came out poorly in the poll, but about the fact that he and the small fraternity of other polling organizations he finds acceptable no longer control the polling world. Organizations like Rasmussen and PPP that are getting more and more public attention and showing themselves to be as accurate or better than traditional pollsters are a serious threat to the folks who used to have the marketplace to themselves, and that's why you continue to see the likes of Langer cut us down whenever they have have the opportunity. They're still trying to fight the battle against people taking our polling as seriously as their polling, but they're losing it a little more day by day.
One of the most amusing things Langer and others in his cohort claim is that polls should not be judged by their accuracy- i.e. PPP, Survey USA, and Rasmussen are bad no matter how good their polls are at nailing election outcomes because he doesn't like the methodology. That attitude may still hold water in the small self appointed fraternity of elitist pollsters, but in our results oriented society most consumers of polls will continue to turn more and more toward organizations that have proven track records of accuracy.
One of the ironic things about ABC and similar polling operations is that they rarely poll anything they could be held to public account for. For instance the Massachusetts Senate race was undoubtedly of huge national significance but none of the outfits that pass Langer's litmus test of reliability conducted a pre election poll there that could have shown that they do- or don't- know what they're doing. We're just supposed to take their word for it that their polling is correct because they said so.
Langer went through our poll and nitpicked a bunch of stuff he didn't like from a demographic standpoint, generally because it didn't line up with his polls. You could go through and do that with any poll (and none of it would have significantly impacted the overall conclusions) but what I found most interesting was that he criticized the fact that the people we interviewed didn't report voting for Barack Obama by a 53-46 margin for President in 2008.
Beyond the fact (that I'm sure he would agree with) that we're not going to weight every poll for the next four years to the self reported 2008 vote, I find it most interesting that Langer levied no criticism of a June CBS/NYT poll where respondents reported having voted for Barack Obama by a 23 point margin. It's hard to justify that as a representative sample by any stretch of the imagination but Langer didn't see fit to say anything about that at the time probably because CBS is part of the insider club whose polls he sees fit for existence.
He also tries to undercut our finding that Fox News is the most trusted by citing a bunch of other polls while neglecting to mention a Sacred Heart University one last fall that found the same thing we did.
Whether ABC News does or does not cover our polls is really immaterial to our success as a company. Relying on the mainstream media to get your work out is so last century. But I do think organizations that continue to not report IVR polls do their readers/viewers a disservice. Three weekends ago two polls came out on the Massachusetts Senate election- one from the Boston Globe showing a 15 point lead from Martha Coakley and one from us showing a one point lead for Scott Brown.
Our poll got massive mounts of attention, but certainly not as much from the MSM gatekeepers as the Globe one. At this point it's pretty clear which of the polls gave a truer picture of the race but to Langer that doesn't matter- the Globe poll was still better because methodology is more important than results. He's entitled to that opinion- but I think few outside of the polling elite would agree.