Why Doesn’t Ethics Alarms Trust Breitbart? This Is Why…

banned

Here is a headline that popped up on Breitbart, the conservative propaganda and opinion website:

“CNN Poll: Democrats’ Hold over Congress Has Grown Increasingly Fragile”

What would you assume that a poll justifying such a headline would show? You would think that it polled likely voters, and that it showed a majority of them currently planning on voting Republican in the upcoming 2022 elections, right?

“By far-left CNN’s estimates, congressional Democrats are not in very good standing for the 2022 midterm elections,” the article begins. Then we learn that “When asked, ‘If the elections for Congress were being held today, which party’s candidate would you vote for in your Congressional district?’ 45 percent of registered voters chose a Democrat candidate and 44 percent chose a Republican candidate.” The current partisan divide on Capital Hill has both the House and the Senate divided almost 50-50, with Democrats and Republicans being evenly divided in the Senate, and only holding a margin of 10 in the House, which has 435 seats. That’s a margin of 2.2%.

You can play with the figures, but essentially the poll shows exactly the same partisan split that currently exists.

Another shameless right-wing site, Citizen Free Daily, describes the same poll with this clickbait: “CNN poll is horrible for democrats…” I’d say that any poll that doesn’t show Democrats rushing to beg the forgiveness of their neighbors for inflicting Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi on the nation is a wonderful poll for Democrats. Obviously, they just don’t care that the people they elected are incompetent and untrustworthy: as long as they aren’t Republicans, Democratic candidates could shoot people in broad daylight in Times Square, and registered Democrats would still vote for them, to paraphrase what the man they despise has said about his own supporters in a description that was widely mocked as indicating that Trump supporters were mindless morons.

Another poll mentioned in the same article justifies the headline even less convincingly. Breitbart writes, “An August Punchbowl News poll found that less than half of Democrat senior Capitol Hill aides, 48 percent, believe Democrats can keep the House in the 2022 midterms — the first time a majority of Democrat aides felt this way.”

What is the probative value of what Democrat senior Capitol Hill aides think will happen? I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and say “none whatsoever.” The fact that anyone thinks anything will happen doesn’t make the likelihood that it will happen greater or lesser. This isn’t evidence, it’s opinion. Hilariously, the political right has been mocking the Left’s slavish reliance on “experts” regarding the environment, the economy, law, health care and public policy, and yet Breitbart cites the opinions of Democratic experts as significant—because they seem to support what the conservative site’s staff wishes were true in this case.

I banned Breitbart as an Ethics Alarms source in 2016, and I regret not having done so earlier. It is the Right’s equivalent of Media Matters on the Left: intellectually dishonest, deceitful, exploiting confirmation bias to advance an ideological agenda.

11 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t Ethics Alarms Trust Breitbart? This Is Why…

  1. Seems to me that this could apply to virtually any print or broadcast media. I am not limiting it to the usual suspects: NYT’s, WAPO. The Gannett publication of our local paper as well as the Baltimore Sunpapers uses deceit and editorial bias to keep the progressive propaganda mill humming. The conservatives too have their outlets of bias confirming information albeit on a more limited scale. That is why I no longer put my faith in getting objective information.

  2. To be fair, those articles are pointing at the swing in those percentages from last year. “Just last year from October 23-26, a CNN poll found that 54 percent would vote for a Democrat candidate and 42 percent would vote for a Republican” 45-44 is a lot closer together than 54-42.

    That being said, all of the media is one flavor of propaganda or another these days, in my opinion. Those headlines are definitely clickbait.

  3. Since the people at Breitbart assume that any polls quoted in mainstream press sources are canted 10 or more points toward the Democrat end of the spectrum, a poll that says things are neck-and-neck would be good news indeed in their view.

  4. To amplify Null Pointer’s point:
    CNN poll just before 2020 election was D 54 R 42 = 12% gap
    Election 2020 was D 220 R 212 seats in HoR = 2% gap
    CNN poll just now D 45 R 44
    I think it is quite reasonable to say an election now would be pretty much a dead heat in HoR or maybe an R majority. It just depends how you extrapolate from the two polls to the election results. Do CNN polls overstate D by 10%, or do they overstate the gap x 6? We can’t tell, but either way the D grip looks less firm.

  5. I’ve been beating this drum for years… If the polls say 50/50, the Republican is ahead. For whatever reason polls, even “conservative leaning” polls like Rasmussen, always seem to undercut conservative support for one reason or another. Sure, there are exceptions, only one that springs to mind is Romney, but I’m sure there are more.

    Why is that? I have theories;

    Outdated or out of touch polling methods: If you make phone calls between 9-5, you’ll miss a whole lot of people who work for a living, if you only call landlines, you miss people that only have cell phones, if you only do online polls, you miss people who aren’t plugged in.

    A Variation of The Bradley Effect: After years of being told that Republicans are racist sexist ne’er do wells, people are lying to the pollsters because they’re concerned about what the pollsters will think of them.

    A disparity in voter excitement: For whatever reason, conservatives disproportionately show up. Even if the polls are completely accurate of the electorate, voting blocs that tend to vote conservative (wealth/old/white/men) generally present to vote at higher rates than voting blocs that tend to vote progressive (poor/young/minority/women).

    While it might seem counterintuitive, and perhaps not well understood or easily digestible, Breitbart is absolutely correct in this case. Despite how obvious this issue is, pollsters seem either unwilling or unable to deal with it; It’s getting worse. There were races off by 15-20 points in 2019. We were told we were getting a blue wave, Democrat blowout, that it was going to be a bloodbath, and instead the Republicans picked up seats in the house, and almost maintained the senate.

    • But the polls don’t show what Brietbart claimed they showed. Your analysis might indicate that, but the story doesn’t include any such analysis. The polls show the same divide currently represented in the Congressional split. If the message is that this is an indication of something else, then that should be the headline.

      • I think a little context is needed here. Because I don’t think the complain is that what they’ve said is wrong, or that the information they used was incorrect or misinterpreted, it’s that they weren’t clear enough. You quoted them as saying:

        “When asked, “If the elections for Congress were being held today, which party’s candidate would you vote for in your Congressional district?” 45 percent of registered voters chose a Democrat candidate and 44 percent chose a Republican candidate.”

        Which you said matches the electorate, but we’re all aware that America isn’t a national democracy, right? That a 50/50 national poll split doesn’t mean that California is actually in contention? I mean, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the electoral college, and how the popular vote obviously isn’t dispositive.

        And the thing is, the next sentence was:

        “Just last year from October 23-26, a CNN poll found that 54 percent would vote for a Democrat candidate and 42 percent would vote for a Republican.”

        I figure that we might also understand that when you apply a 12 point gain across the board, a whole lot of blue seats turn red. I don’t know… I don’t think anyone is particularly confused by this, but I might just be too familiar with the process.

        • 1. No, I said it matches the split in Congress, so if the voting follows the poll, the poll doesn’t show Democratic grip loosening.

          2. I don’t view the earlier polls as relevant to the headline, but I accept a contrary view. The “grip” being referenced in the headline is what it is, not what a now obsolete poll suggested it was. A poll closer to the election is better information, that’s all. Is the story about polls changing, or about polls suggesting that the electorate is now pointing to a new majority? If the latter, the numbers just don’t say that. If its the former—so what? Polls are like New England weather: if you don’t like them, wait a minute…

          • “No, I said it matches the split in Congress, so if the voting follows the poll, the poll doesn’t show Democratic grip loosening.”

            “The “grip” being referenced in the headline is what it is, not what a now obsolete poll suggested it was.”

            This seems like a very semantic argument. The article said, “this poll shows where they are now” and “this poll shows where they were before”, highlighting a 12 point difference. By what standard is that not a loosened grip? Are you saying that every poll should be examined entirely in a vacuum and nothing can be gleaned by trends?

            • No, I’m saying that words matter, and if the story is just that polls have changed, then a headline should say so. If it’s saying that a poll indicates that the current “grip” is endangered, the poll being references has to back that up. It didn’t. Yeah, I agree that its a technical complaint. But so many people just read the headlines, it’s important.

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