Fox News Hack Offers Wildly Dishonest Attack on AlterNet

Election '16

We're all accustomed to political spin, but on, Media Research Center hack Dan Gainor took it a step further by lying through his teeth to claim that liberals, including yours truly, were attacking a Pew poll released Monday which showed Mitt Romney with a 4-point lead. His motive for doing so is transparent, and I'll get to that in a moment.

After going after Andrew Sullivan – who isn't a liberal but has been inconsolable about the polling – he accuses Nate Silver, who is scrupulously non-partisan and has forgotten more about polling than Dan Gainor will ever know -- of spinning his highly respected 538 model. And then he writes this:

Soros-supported lefty site Alternet, did its part to downplay the poll results with a piece headlined: “10 Things You Should Know About the Post-Debate Polls.” All ten reasons could be summed up in one word: disbelieve!

Here is the piece Gainor's referring to. Of the Pew poll, I say the diametric opposite of what Gainor claims:

Should I Dismiss That Pew Poll Because It “Oversamples” Republicans?

No. That's making the same fundamental error as the “poll truthers” on the right. Partisan ID, unlike demographics such as age, gender or ethnicity, is highly fluid. And that's not because people switch from Democrat to Republican at the drop of a hat, or vice-versa. It's kind of a proxy for voter enthusiasm – when people feel good about a party, they're less likely to tell pollsters that they're independents. Similarly, only about 10 percent of people reached by pollsters participate in their surveys, and when people feel good about their candidate they may be less likely to hang up when that call from Gallup comes in. Good polls using industry standard methodology can and do find wide variation in party ID – leave the trutherism to the nutjobs at Fox News.

None of the other points I made suggest people should “disbelieve” the polls – I acknowledged that Mitt Romney had made significant gains after last week's debate. The rest of the column is just common sense – I pointed out that the public opinion data is noisy at the moment, said one shouldn't get too excited -- or too depressed -- by a single poll and noted that we have to wait for more survey data to determine whether Romney's bounce will hold up. All noncontroversial points, and none of which suggests anyone should “disbelieve” anything.

(Gainor, who hilariously claims to care about accuracy in the media, also picks up that wingnutty Soros conspiracy theory. For the record, AlterNet (and its parent organization, the Independent Media Institute) has received four grants from George Soros' foundation, the most recent of which was eight years ago, and haven't seen a penny of Soros money since. We're hardly “Soros-supported.” But it's an interesting bit of projection coming from the T Boone Pickens Fellow at the Media Research Center, whose donor list, according to Sourcewatch, is a who's-who of right-wing funders with familiar names like Scaife, Bradley and Devos. They've also raked in plenty of dough from ExxonMobile's foundation while decrying supposed media “bias” against climate-change deniers.)

Obviously Gainor had a project and wouldn't let the fact that he couldn't find any liberals engaging in poll trutherism stop him (at least not in a publication – I saw a few on Twitter). He wanted to offer a false equivalence with the widely mocked “unskewed” poll truthers who popped up on the right when public opinion was looking very bad for Mitt Romney.

But it is only false equivalence, because the left and the right do not react similarly to adverse information. If the unemployment rate went up last week, liberals would be despondent. It went down, and conservatives cooked up a conspiracy theory that the numbers were being tampered with. EJ Dionne asked a pollster how people respond to adverse polling, and he replied: “When you give conservatives bad news in your polls, they want to kill you... When you give liberals bad news in your polls, they want to kill themselves.”

Yesterday, Kevin Drum wrote of a “hack gap” between the left and the right:

Put simply, we liberals don't have enough hacks. Conservatives outscore us considerably in the number of bloggers/pundits/columnists/talking heads who are willing to cheerfully say whatever it takes to advance the party line, no matter how ridiculous it is.

This is a pretty good example. I write a column saying that the polls had shifted toward Romney but we'd need more data to see where things stand – and defending the Pew poll – and Dan Gainor comes along and blithely describes that as an “attack” on the pollsters. What a hack.

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