I pose to you that there is a different kind of voter suppression occurring, and it's conducted by the media. First, an outline: I often discuss the concept of rhetoric... or, as I like to put it, "rhetoricing." Rhetoricing is the process the media uses to sway people's minds. If the media constantly headlines pro-Obama or anti-Mitt Romney headlines/articles, people will be swayed. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC News, USA Today, and major print publications should be reporting news and not opinion. But that's not the way it is. Just take a look at cnn.com's front page from September 18th. If you visited the site, you instantly encountered the five following headlines:
"Mitt Romney backing away from message caught on tape..."
"What's wrong with Mitt Romney?"
"Mitt Romney back on defense..."
"Bad timing for Romney."
None of these headlines paint a rosy picture for the former governor, and ALL use negatively connotative words to tell the "news" story. Of course, cnn.com did not balance this by providing five anti-Obama headlines, but this is now the M.O. for major news outlets.
So what do polls have to do with it? Well, this is the new form of rhetoricing. If you notice, most major polls are conducted by these same news outlets. They're released frequently, and realclearpolitics.com keeps track of them here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/
The problem: Often times these polls claim "Obama is winning," or "Obama has the lead in," and so forth. The media headlines these "results" constantly, and it is making the case that the election is "unwinnable" or "out of reach" for Mitt Romney (in general, this is more pro-Obama, anti-Romney stuff, too). If an independent, on-the-fence Mitt Romney supporter was blasted daily with headlines making it clear the race was out of reach for the candidate he was potentially going to vote for, that voter would be encouraged to abstain (this tactic was used in Maryland by a rogue campaign manager for republican governor candidate Bob Ehrlich's campaign: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02/16/maryland-gop-campaign-operative-sentenced-for-robocalls/).
Voila! Voter suppression!
The truth is: The vast majority of these polls unrealistically over-sample democratic voters. For individual states like California, for example, sure, polls conducted here might comprise a more realistic spread of its voting populace. But nationwide, and especially in swing states, the mix of democrats and republicans is much more even. The media, again, the ones conducting the polls, heavily over-samples democrat voters so that the desired result of an Obama lead is produced. This same media can then put on the front page of www.leftleaningnewssite.com that "Obama is winning" (as we saw with a recent Washington Post poll), and the process is complete. The conservative-leaning Fox News has inexplicably done this too, and the fact remains that democrats are still over-sampled in their polls as well (maybe Fox truly is more balanced than people think).
If you don't believe me, fine... but let's take a look at some recent polls. I went ahead and balanced out the poll's voting split by party affiliation. I created a spreadsheet that uses actual voting demographics to show how the polls would really turn out if the sample of voters more evenly represented the country. You might ask, "well, how is the country really divided; what 'spread' did you use?" Don't worry; I have the answer for that. I used two different voting demographic spreads:
1. A 10-day rolling average measured by Gallup:http://www.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx
2. A national average by Rasmussen: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/partisan_trends
Gallup shows a slight democratic lean for the country; Rasmussen shows a slight GOP lean. For my experiment, in order to paint a more accurate, balanced picture, I used both. I took 5 recent polls and put them through a calculation using these voter demographics. Additionally, it should be known that I can only use this spreadsheet/method if the poll provides the breakdown for how each party voted for each candidate. Here are the 5 polls used (the page numbers where the demographic breakdown can be found are in parenthesis in the chart):
1. A nationwide Pew Research poll claiming Obama has an 8-point lead: http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/09-19-12%20Political%20release.pdf
2. A CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll showing Obama has a 4-point lead in Virginia (this was heavily broadcast by the media): http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57515519/poll-obama-leads-in-virginia-wisconsin-tight-in-colorado/?pageNum=4&tag=contentMain;contentBody
3. A CNN/ORC poll showing Obama has an 8-point lead in Michigan: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2012/images/09/19/topgenstate3mi.pdf
4. A Washington Post poll showing Obama has an 8-point lead in Virginia (this was heavily broadcast by the media): http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/post-poll-obama-up-8-points-over-romney-in-virginia/2012/09/18/ca691d9a-0193-11e2-9367-4e1bafb958db_story.html
5. A Morning Call poll showing Obama has a 9-point lead in Pennsylvania: http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/blog_pennsylvania_ave/mc-document-pa-presidential-poll-20120918,0,4409695.htmlstory
Please see the following results:
Click the image for an expanded view
As you can see, the original polls show a very large over-sampling of democratic voters. Of course, when CNN.com headlines "Obama is up by 4 in Virginia," it doesn't say "democrats out-sampled republicans 35% to 24%" (poll #2 in the chart). Using the Gallup voter spread, Obama would still lead in 4 of the 5 polls, but the margins are much thinner. His lead in Michigan, for example, drops from 8 percentage points to 1.4. Using the Rasmussen voter spread, Romney is winning handily.
So is this voter suppression? I think so. I do think the media does this intentionally. I think they over-sample intentionally, and I think they don't report that key bit of information intentionally. I think they headline these results intentionally, and I think they're trying to get people to give up on Mitt Romney.
What can we do? We can be skeptical. We can question. We can look into the make-up of these polls to see the truth. Since the media won't do it, we can do it. We can share this kind of information on Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc. I will do my best to publish the non-skewed poll results for major polls when they come out. I believe that people should see the truth, and I will do my best to put it on this blog.
What's your take? Do you agree with my analysis? Is my method off? Please feel free to check the numbers, and please share any opinions, comments, and questions below. Thank you.