I was at Pizza Hut while the Veep Debate was unfolding (unraveling?), and the establishment was playing the event on a muted television. I commented to my fellow diners, “The media will NEVER let Biden lose this debate. If nothing else, it’ll be a tie.”
Okay, so maybe being correct in that prediction doesn’t do much to confirm my gift for prophecy; but I was correct, nonetheless.
I didn’t bother watching the debate. I’ll probably watch snippets eventually. What really interested me was the news coverage of the debate. And the major media outlets surely did not fail to deliver.
I’ve rarely seen a network try this hard to pretend that the facts it is about to report are not the facts it is about to report. CNN spun that debate like a top.
In this article, CNN reported on post-debate polling conducted by the network. The article is entitled, “CNN Poll: Debate watchers split on who won VP debate.” This is nothing short of shameless, and one sees the depth of the headline’s deception if one actually reads the article.
“But Nathan,” you may contend, “It’s true! The debate watchers WERE split on who won!” Yes, that’s correct. The poll did not show that 100% of debate watchers thought Ryan won (though I would truly LOVE to see THAT debate). But that’s not news! The news is who the viewers thought won! And the poll showed that viewers thought RYAN WON THE DEBATE. CNN simply couldn’t bear to acknowledge it.
The more one reads the article, the more obvious CNN’s spin becomes:
- The poll said 48% thought Ryan won, while 44% thought Biden won. CNN made sure to remind readers that this 4% difference fell within the poll’s margin of error. In other words: “Joe coulda won it!”
- CNN also informed readers that Republicans were oversampled in the poll. At the end of the article, we discover that Republicans comprised 33% of those polled, Democrats comprised 31%, and Independents comprised 34%. Somehow, this means that Independents were NOT oversampled, and Republicans were. Let’s imagine that for a poll to be “correctly” sampled, it would consist of 33% Republicans, 33% Democrats, and 34% Independents. So we give 2% in CNN’s poll from the Republican side to the Democrat side. RYAN STILL WINS. But the biggest problem is that Republicans weren’t OVERsampled in this poll, they were UNDERsampled. According to Rasmussen Reports, in August of this year, 37.6% of Americans considered themselves Republicans. 33.3% said they were Democrats. The discrepancy undervalued Republicans and Democrats in favor of Independents, but it undervalued Republicans MORE than it undervalued Democrats. In other words, assuming most of those polled voted along party lines, Ryan should really have been shown by this poll to be the CLEAR WINNER of the debate, if the sampling had been conducted correctly.
- CNN’s polling director was quick to cast doubt on the entire poll, saying, “This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate and by definition cannot be an indication of how the entire American public will react to Wednesday’s debate in the coming days.” What is that about? Why is that true of only THIS poll? Shouldn’t such a “disclaimer” be placed at the beginning of every single article about a new poll? Even the ones that show Obama ahead of Romney, or the job market recovering?
- CNN begrudgingly presented the rest of the poll’s numbers, all of which were damning for Biden:
- 28% of those polled said the VP debate made them more likely to vote for Romney; 21% said the same about Obama
- 55% of people said Biden did better than they expected he would; 51% said Ryan did better than they expected. In other words, expectations of Biden were pretty low, and he pleasantly surprised a few more people. Not exactly a complimentary assessment, but probably the closest thing he got to an accolade.
- 50% of people said Ryan expressed himself better than Biden. 41% thought it was the other way around.
- And a WHOPPING 70% said Biden spent more time attacking Ryan. That didn’t bode well for Biden, clearly: 53% said Ryan was more likeable, while only 43% said that of Biden. Biden would need TWO margins of error to make up for that deficit.
So CNN can take its rock-bottom ratings and its wishful-thinking poll reporting to its own dream world where Obama and Biden are President and Vice President for four more years, where the duo debates deftly and is loved by Americans far and wide.
As for me, when I read CNN’s poll, no amount of trying can drown out logic’s clear cry: “Ryan won!”