Conservatives Hunt for 'Bias' in Health Care Polling Data Armed With Complete and Total Ignorance

Working at NewsBusters must be one of the cushier gigs out there. If a NewsBuster spies a bit of news that he or she doesn't like, all they have to do is write the equivalent of "OMG TEH BIAS" stretched out to a couple of hundred words. And they certainly don't need facts to form the basis of an argument, they just start from the premise that the media is liberally biased and let the conjecture flow from there. The entire enterprise is one big logical fallacy -- they start at the conclusion and work backwards.

Take, for instance, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing strong support for a health care reform bill that contains a public option. Clearly, a conservative outfit like NewsBusters wouldn't care for such a dataset, so they set out to discredit the poll with -- you guessed it -- accusations of liberal bias. NewsBuster Tim Graham noted that the poll sample was 33 percent Democrat compared to 20 percent Republican, and accused the Washington Post (but not ABC, for some reason) of "stuffing its poll sample with a few extra Democrats" to get the result they wanted. Mind you, he has no actual evidence that the Washington Post did this, he's just using the following logic, if it can be called that:

1) The Washington Post/ABC News poll sampled more liberal Democrats.

2) The Washington Post is part of the liberal media.

3) The liberal Washington Post rigged their liberal poll to get the liberal result they wanted. Liberal.

Accusing a polling outfit of cooking its data to achieve a predetermined outcome is a pretty serious charge. It's also fairly outlandish and can be easily dismissed with just a basic understanding of one of the fundamental aspects of opinion polling -- the random sample. Polling guru Nate Silver gave an excellent rundown of this very topic last fall when liberals complained about a Fox News poll that oversampled Republicans:

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