Alexander's Column

The "Pollaganda Effect"

The Fourth Estate's Political Polling as Propaganda

Mark Alexander · Jan. 18, 2008

“We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections.” –John Adams

At the time of our nation’s founding, journalists, like judges, were expected to comport with the highest standards of objectivity in order to protect the public virtue. Neither has held to that standard.

The press was charged with a heavy burden – that of providing impartial reports about the issues of the day and those running for political office. Unbiased reporting was essential so that the people could discern for themselves what was best for our country.

First Amendment champion Thomas Jefferson penned, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

Likewise, James Madison wrote, “The right of freely examining public characters and measures … has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”

But no sooner had the press outlets discovered they wielded enormous power over public opinion, did they begin to use their pages to that end. And, neither Madison nor Jefferson could have imagined the power of television, or that of the tabloid media’s dumbed-down message for the masses.

At the conclusion of his presidency, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare.”

Two centuries later, “the press” is composed largely of Leftmedia propagandists, those who have mastered the art of partiality cloaked as objective journalism in pursuit of their own political .

Explicit examples of this partiality abound on the pages of major Leftmedia outlets such as The New York Times. Indeed, numerous studies to assess the political views of national reporters in the major press pools of Washington and New York find that those reporters overwhelmingly self-identify as “liberal” or “Democrat.” A recent survey, in fact, determined that only eight percent of those reporters would vote for a Republican – no surprise to objective media analysts.

The most obvious method that Leftmedia “journalists” employ to shape public opinion is bias; they inculcate the masses with Left-elite perspective by selecting what news to “report” and how to frame it. This sordid practice has been well documented for almost two decades by media-watchdog groups and an intrepid handful of veteran reporters – those who ascribe to a standard of journalistic objectivity.

In recent years, as a result of greater Leftmedia scrutiny by content analysts, and consumer flight from mainstream media outlets to alternative news sources, the Leftmedia print and television outlets have begun to feign a more moderate and objective political posture. But let’s be clear: This is merely an attempt to conceal an abject bias.

Perhaps the most significant and insidious method the Leftmedia utilizes to shape public opinion, especially in the six-month period leading up to presidential elections, is “media polling,” a subtle scheme of circular propaganda The Patriot Post coined many years ago as the “Pollaganda Effect.” Indeed, you’ll be hard pressed to find any front page or nightly news broadcast between now and 2 November that doesn’t reference such polling. Of note, polls that support Democrat candidates are often above the fold in lead stories, while polls that are favorable to conservative candidates are below the fold and mentioned only in a negative or qualified context.

Polls, ostensibly, represent the views of a particular group of voters within an acceptable margin of error, but they are also used for a much more subtle and sinister purpose. At best, reputable pollsters can get it wrong – even though they poll representative statistical samples and ask objective questions.

However, most media-designed and reported polling is as “objective” as the mainstream media (MSM) outlets that sponsor them.

The “Pollaganda Effect” refers to political polling, which often masquerades as “objective sampling,” but in fact includes a particular bias – who is asked what and how. That bias can be driven by ideology, advertising revenue or both – which is to say that any commercial media outlet has an inherent conflict of interest in its polling.

Americans who participate in public-opinion polls about political performance are not political analysts, national-security specialists, economists or policy experts. Most are folks who work hard to support their families and make ends meet. They are the backbone of our nation. For better or worse, a large measure of their perspective on politics, national security, the economy and public policy is shaped by the MSM. Clearly most Americans perceive media bias – according to Rasmussen Reports, more Americans believe media bias is a bigger problem than money in politics.

Pollaganda depends on outcome-based opinion samples (polling instruments designed to generate a preferential outcome), which in large measure, reflects prior-opinion indoctrination or cultivation by the same media conducting the poll. I say “outcome based” because most polls reflect intentional propagation of a particular bias by television and print outlets to manipulate public opinion. They accomplish this by first indoctrinating viewers with “reporting” that reflects a particular bias, then conducting “opinion polls” which, of course, reflect that indoctrination. Then the media uses poll results to proselytize further by treating the results as “news,” which, in turn, induces “bandwagon” psychology – the human tendency of those who do not have a strong ideological foundation to aspire to the side perceived to be in the majority – and thus further drives public opinion toward the original media bias, ad infinitum.

The incestuous results are then used to manipulate public opinion further by advancing the perception that a particular candidate or opinion on an issue enjoys majority support. The MSM presents such polling as if it were completely objective. The Pollaganda process, then, is cyclical and self-fulfilling.

Polls are so often manipulated for this purpose that The Patriot Post rarely reports polling (conservative or liberal) as legitimate news because virtually all polling is a well-crafted instrument used to propagate a particular bias. This is not to say that polls don’t provide an accurate account of public sentiment. It is simply to say that such sentiment is largely a reflection of MSM indoctrination – and thus comports with a liberal viewpoint. Conservatives are therefore forced to run a considerable and unrelenting MSM opinion gauntlet.

If you find it difficult to grasp the “bandwagon effect” of political poling and the self-fulfilling cycle it creates, consider this. Virtually every media outlet refuses to publish entrance or exit polling from the time polls open until they close. The standard reasoning offered is that the media does not want to influence the outcome of the election – because they know such polls will either motivate or deter some people from voting. However, the same MSM outlets inundate voters with polling up until the minute election-day voting begins, as if somehow that polling does not influence voters.

Given the Left’s domination of the mainstream media, it’s remarkable that any political candidates to the right of the news editors of ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN or NPR, or their ideological kin on the editorial boards of The Washington Post and The New York Times, ever make it to Washington.

Indeed, several academic studies to assess the political views of national reporters in the major press pools of Washington and New York, conclude that those reporters overwhelmingly self-identify as “liberal” or “Democrat.” In fact, one academic survey (not a popular poll) determined that only eight percent of reporters would consider voting for a conservative – no surprise to objective media analysts.

I do not suggest that there is anything but a benign Leftmedia conspiracy to undermine anything conservative; the bias is largely the consequence of the mass-media zeitgeist and culture, which are uniformly and profoundly left of center. Such liberalism has become so embedded within the collective consciousness of print copywriters and television talkingheads that it flows freely from every front page and broadcast.

And a final note on the use of propaganda to corrupt public opinion. Propaganda was a staple in the playbook of Marxists, Socialists (Dezinformatsia) and Nationalist Socialists (Gleichschaltung), as it is today with Socialist Democratic Party. Consider this observation from Adolf Hitler from his book, Mein Kampf: “Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. … Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and…must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Hitler was, of course, a master of “The Big Lie,” and today’s propagandists have adopted his model with great success.

So much for the “free examination of public characters and measures.” When confronted with the next headline or talkinghead report about the latest poll results, caveat emptor!