The headline appeared at the Grand Junction Sentinel yesterday, bold face and ominous:
Followed by a story that might make what’s known in the business as “low-information voters” think that oh yes indeedy, Gov. Jared Polis remains in political hot water despite this summer’s failed attempt to place a recall question on the ballot:
The majority of those surveyed feel the recent efforts to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will have a meaningful impact on state politics, according to a poll on gjsentinel.com.
Efforts to recall Polis dominated the state’s political landscape this summer, but the groups gathering signatures ultimately fell well short of the 631,266 valid signatures required.
Slightly more than 65% of respondents affirmed the recall efforts, with 289 saying that it represented a large segment of the voting population. Others felt it sets the stage for further recall efforts (153) and sends a message to the governor (91).
Skeptical yet? You should be, because in the 5th paragraph a crucial detail is added below the fold:
Daily Sentinel polls are open-access and do not meet the criteria to be considered true scientific polls. [Pols emphasis]
That’s right, folks–although the Daily Sentinel is a legitimate news outlet that generally adheres to mutually accepted journalistic standards, this is a story about an online poll published on the Sentinel’s website. The respondents to the poll are self-selected visitors of the website. Basically the exact opposite a reliable cross-section of public opinion, online “polls” can be skewed simply by promoting the poll to an audience likely to vote a certain way. Even without deliberate manipulation there’s nothing to establish the poll’s respondents as representative of anything.
We also put up online polls from time to time, which are similarly unscientific and open to manipulation by anyone who cares enough about a poll on our blog to do it. The difference is that we would never represent such a poll as anything more than a discussion item for our readers. When you see a headline on this blog reporting the results of a “poll,” it’s an actual poll conducted with transparent standards and methodology.
With President Donald Trump Tweeting out the similarly absurd “results” of online polls at the hard-right propaganda website Breitbart News, it’s more important than ever that legitimate news organizations draw a bright white line between credible surveys of public opinion and garbage data with no credibility whatsoever.
For the Grand Junction Sentinel, that means never, ever writing a headline as misleading as this one again.