Alexander's Column

Polling Pravda!

Mark Alexander · Feb. 18, 2000

If the media reports it, it must be “pravda” – “truth.”

John McCain’s campaign finance “reform” proposals will effectively protect the media’s Fourth Estate from the Constitution’s First Amendment, free speech being the only obstacle to the liberals’ hold on public opinion, and thus public office. His proposals, if ever approved, could hand the media a virtual monopoly on candidate selection.

How? Listen to Mr. Gore’s talking head netwonks slip their so-called “media polls” into broadcasts as if they were “news”? Such polls are outcome-based, designed to portray a particular perspective – liberal! This “news” then builds “me too” momentum and becomes self-fulfilling. Each week The Federalist provides a few examples of liberal media bias in our Dezinformatsia section, but there is no bias more insidious than the use of media polling to shape public opinion.

To understand this effect, recall if you will how, during the Clinton impeachment, media polls saturated the TV airwaves. Television is the news source of choice for the masses, thus a major medium for shaping and molding public opinion. The “news” was full of outcome-based polling such as this from talking head Dan Rather: “The Republican-led House schedules key votes on an impeachment inquiry as the latest CBS poll indicates more than half of the public would be satisfied with no punishment for the President at all.”

Arguably, if the public is saturated with the media’s liberal perspective, and the media then polls on that perspective, such outcome-based polling will shape public opinion. It certainly elevated the Senate’s fears of media-driven public opinion, which delivered Mr. Clinton’s acquittal.

Now, the media are warming up their quadrennial polling apparatus to influence the election of the next president, prompting us to revisit two important definitions from The Federalist Dictionary for understanding how the media polling process shapes public opinion.

Pollaganda – n. 1. Media polling used to manipulate public opinion and advance a particular bias. This is primarily accomplished by television networks, on which most people rely for daily news. (Those who rely on print media for information are less likely to be subjected to extreme bias, and more inclined to discriminate between balanced and biased reporting.)

Pollagandize – v. 1. To engage in pollaganda. 2. The systematic propagation of television media polls to manipulate public opinion by: first, saturating viewers with “reporting” which reflects a doctrinal bias; second, designing and conducting public opinion surveys which reflect that bias; and third, further proselytizing viewers by treating media poll results as “news.” 3. Using pollaganda to induce “bandwagon psychology” (the human tendency to aspire to the side perceived to be in the majority), thus driving public opinion toward an original media bias.

Most people answering early polling questions about who will receive their vote do so on the basis of name recognition. And, of course, name recognition is driven primarily by the television media – both media buys and free media bias. Then the media conducts and reports its outcome-based polling, setting up the bandwagon momentum, which greatly influences the outcome of elections.

Exercising free speech – via public advocacy lobbies – remains one of the last vestiges of defense against the media’s ability to control public opinion. If that exercise is bridled by McCain-Feingold, and the media becomes the sole moderator of the “truth,” our constitutional guarantee to free, open debate will have about as much standing as dissenting opinion had under Stalin and his successors.