Saturday, September 30, 2006

Jim Kent, where are the results you promised?

The following email was sent to Jim Kent, news director for WDBJ7 in Roanoke this afternoon:

I wrote you in July about the fact that I found your SurveyUSA poll to be skewed in its analysis. In case you lost/deleted the email from July 28, 2006, I’ve copied it for you below:

To Whom It May Concern:

Not only are links in this WDBJ7 article not working (both the ones for email and survey details), but your report fails to identify 45% of the likely voters as being Republicans and 44% of the respondents as saying they are Conservative. Checking the crosstabs for the survey shows the actual data involved. Had the numbers been fairly distributed rather than skewed, I would consider the SUSA survey and your analysis valid. As it stands, I find both to be highly suspect and your coverage misleading. If we can’t trust our local media to provide accurate and detailed information, we might as well be listening and looking elsewhere. I hope in the future you will research more completely by looking at the make-up of a survey, rather than skimming the analysis for sensationalism.

Lisa Blanton
Cumberland VA

Your response was:

Ms. Blanton,

Thank you for your email. I looked this morning and found no problems with any of the links on our survey story. We haven't heard from anyone else who had trouble. The "Survey Details" is how you get to the cross-tabs, which you apparently saw, so I'm not sure what is not working for you.

The SurveyUSA poll is a random survey. The numbers are not skewed. A link to a complete explanation of the pollster's methodology can be found on the same page where you saw the cross-tabs.

Incidentally, we'll be doing these polls monthly during the campaign.

Thank you again for taking the time to write--and I'm sorry you had trouble with some of the links.


Jim Kent
News Director

I am now writing to ask: Where are the monthly polls you told me would be done during the campaign?

I have checked the SurveyUSA site very carefully. In their 2006 Election Polls list, I find that you have done surveys for the Senatorial races on 9/29/06, 9/27/06, 9/13/06, and on 8/21/06. You have even done polls on the Virginia marriage amendment on 9/29/06, 9/13/06, and 8/21/06. But on no date since the July 26, 2006, original poll that I questioned have you provided any results of a survey regarding the Goode/Weed contest.

I can only assume that the results were not to your liking, the sensationalism I referred to in my original email was lacking, or that, as I intimated in my original email, you can’t be trusted to provide accurate and detailed information. Perhaps you can direct me to the results—but then, I doubt it.


Lisa Blanton
Cumberland VA

P.S. Incidentally, I will be posting a copy of this email on my blog Honesty Counts and it will be picked up by the Virginia Blog Aggregator about 5 P.M. today.

I did respond back to his original email with the following:

Thanks for your reply.

Since your links did not work using my Mozilla Firefox browser, I actually had to go out to the original source—SUSA—to look at the crosstabs. In addition, I had to use your “Contact” link on the sidebar in order to send my email.

Most of the reports I have seen discussing this article are only looking at your coverage and passing on your information. They aren’t interested in the crosstabs or the methodology behind the survey. They are simply saying that Weed is being beaten by over 20 points. I still consider failure to mention that almost half of the respondents were Republican (even in a random survey) a bias. Unless the analysis in your article mentions this fact, people assume (no matter how wrong it is) that those participating were evenly distributed among the various parties being represented.

Thanks for the update about monthly polls. I’ll be interested in seeing if the numbers change with Virgil’s recent statement about the Department of the Defense no longer needing MZM/Athena’s services in Martinsville. In addition, if next month’s survey is primarily Democrats, I hope that you will maintain your silence about the makeup of the respondents and let the chips fall where they may. Anything other than that could definitely be considered biased reporting.

This all has me wondering: Does the sound of silence about any poll being taken indicate a definite bias in their coverage of this 5th Congressional District race? I certainly think so. Does their silence mean that the numbers aren't good for Virgil? Only WDBJ can tell us that answer and I don't think we'll be hearing from them any time soon.


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