Farah’s Dishonest Handling of Polling Data

Farah’s Dishonest Handling of Polling Data December 11, 2012

Over the last couple years, the Worldnutdaily has contracted with Wenzel Strategies to do polling, as many conservative groups do. And now he’s promoting a new poll by Wenzel that purports to show what Muslim-Americans really believe — naturally, it’s what Farah thinks they believe. But he wants to establish the poll’s credibility by emphasizing that it’s “scientific.”

Before the presidential election, I got the idea to commission a scientific poll to find out what Muslim-Americans really think – and how it might affect their votes.

The results were eye-opening and alarming. They should be to every American who believes in the U.S. Constitution and Judeo-Christian morality.

And he calls Fritz Wenzel a “respected pollster.” Well let’s check the track record. Wenzel is a Republican polling company. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean his results are bad, but we can easily find out by comparing their polls to actual results. And they aren’t even close. For example, when all the other polling companies were showing Todd Akin being down by as much as ten points, Wenzel’s poll had him up by as much as five points, and showed him with a consistent lead.

Wenzel also was about the only company that showed Romney with a three point lead in Ohio just days before the election (Obama won by 2), and even had him pulling very close in Wisconsin (Obama won by 7). They also had Romney winning in Virginia just prior to the election (Obama won by 3). They were just as inaccurate in the Senate races, and all tilted toward the Republicans. They had Josh Mandel leading Sherrod Brown by five points and Tommy Thompson leading Tammy Baldwin by two points.

And Wenzel was one of the many conservatives arguing before the election that all the other pollsters were getting it wrong because they were oversampling Democrats. Here’s Fritz Wenzel in September explaining why his polls are accurate and all the others were wrong:

There’s a lot of noice out there right now regarding the polling of the race for President of the United States. Some polls show Democrat Barack Obama up by a few points, while others show it is a really close race. Almost no polls show Republican Mitt Romney with a meaningful lead. That does not necessarily reflect what is really going on.

The reasoon Obama seems to enjoy a lead over Romney is straight-forward, and by now, well-explained: it is because the survey sample includes more Democrats than Republicans.

Simple enough.

Yep, simple enough. And absolutely wrong. So once he was proven wrong on this, did he admit that his sample was wrong? Nope. He blamed it on stupid people who just didn’t realize that Obama was evil and Romney was better:

Pollsters and consultants across the country whose interpretations of the polling numbers were off the mark were expecting voters to be smarter than they apparently are. They expected voters to look at Romney’s weaknesses and strengths, and judge them against Obama’s weaknesses and strengths…

It was H.L. Mencken who once said that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” and this appears to have been the guiding principle to the Obama re-election campaign.

It worked.

It wasn’t his fault! It was all those dumb people who voted for Obama! He just has to put more dumb people into his polling sample! Alex Koppelman pointed out back in 2009, when Wenzel was putting out polls supporting the Worldnutdaily’s obsession with the birther issue, the kind of tactics they use in framing questions to reach a desired result:

Getting a result that favored WND’s position on the issue of whether Obama should release a long-form birth certificate (despite the fact that he’s already released a copy of his birth certificate and Hawaiian officials have said he was born there) involved a little sleight of hand.

The result trumpeted by WND is that 41.5 percent of respondents said “Obama should release all records, including long-form birth certificate,” essentially the “yes” answer WND was looking for. An additional 7.8 percent said they “are troubled by these questions,” which the site has been lumping in with the yes answer. The “no” answer, though, they split up into five different responses — “I am not concerned,” ”questions not valid,” “Obama has met requirements,” “Obama has answered all questions” and “requirements outdated — should be ignored.”

It’s a neat trick, and a fairly common one; by doing that, you can avoid providing a real reflection of the size of your opposition. In this case, the total of those five answers adds up to a majority of respondents, 50.6 percent.

But it isn’t just that Wenzel is a bad pollster who skews his polls to match what his paymaster wants, it’s also that Farah is being incredibly dishonest in his handling of that bad data. Here’s how he portrays the results of the poll on Muslims:

Nearly half of those polled, a scientific sampling of 600, said parodies of Muhammad should be criminally prosecuted with offenders given punishments as severe as the death penalty;

40 percent of Muslims believe they should not be judged by U.S. law and the Constitution, but by Shariah standards and Islamic judges;

Only 30 percent believe Christians have a right to evangelize Muslims;

20 percent say Muslim men should be allowed to have more than one wife;

58 percent said any criticism of their religion should not be allowed under the Constitution – even while nine of 10 said they support the First Amendment;

One in three said Israel has no right to exist or were uncertain about it;

72 percent said they would definitely be voting for Barack Obama, while another 8.5 percent were leaning in that direction;

Only 11 percent were supporting Mitt Romney at the time – just days before the November vote;

About 55 percent said the U.S. is generally on the right track.

But look at how he tries to establish the credibility of this study:

Now, maybe you question the authenticity or reliability of this survey. Maybe you think it was biased. Maybe you think the sampling of Muslims, 98 percent of whom have U.S. citizenship, wasn’t large enough.

Well, shortly after WND commissioned this survey by respected pollster Fritz Wenzel, another similar survey was commissioned by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which bills itself as a Muslim civil-rights organization but which in fact is a Muslim Brotherhood front group.

The results were strikingly similar – at least on the questions asked in both surveys. This CAIR survey, conducted on a smaller sampling of 500, received extensive coverage by the media.

The CAIR survey found:

68 percent of Muslim-Americans planned to vote for vote for Obama with 7 percent going for Romney;

66 percent said they identify with the Democratic Party, while only 9 percent affiliated as Republicans.

In other words, the CAIR survey validates the Wenzel poll – even though it didn’t seek answers on some of the more troubling issues of the law and constitutional liberties.

Yes, he’s that dishonest. But like so many of Wenzel’s election-related polls, these results are in stark contrast to the results of surveys taken by non-partisan and non-ideological groups. A major poll by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that American Muslims are predominately moderate, mainstream and well assimilated into American culture, and that levels of religious and political extremism are quite low.

This is why you should not trust polls with a clear ideological purpose — and you should never trust the Worldnutdaily when they say almost anything.

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