If the local media reported that there was a real life T-rex at the county zoo, and you went down there and found out that the media had made the whole thing up, you wouldn’t walk away saying “That’s why I don’t trust zoos.” You’d walk away muttering about the fact that the media had lied to you for the sake of ratings.
This just seems obvious, right? If you figure out you’re being lied to, you’re angry at the people who lied to you, right? That’s why it’s always so confusing to me when I point out that the media is lying to us about what the polls even say, and most of the replies are “That’s why I don’t trust the polls!”
The polls, as we keep seeing, have their own problems. When you omit junk polls and average all of the legitimately conducted polls together, it can give you an accurate and strategically valuable picture of what’s going on.
Take, for instance, the current polls between President Joe Biden and criminal defendant Donald Trump. Out of the eighteen most recent polls listed on RealClearPolitics, Biden is ahead in fourteen of them, Trump is ahead in two of them, and two of them are tied. Okay, that feels like a pretty accurate summation of where things stand. Biden hasn’t really done any reelection campaigning yet, Trump’s trials haven’t even begun, and yet Biden is already doing well enough that Trump is only head in two out of eighteen polls.
But throughout the holiday weekend, the entire mainstream media (on both sides) endlessly hyped just the scant polls that have Trump ahead, while omitting the numerous polls that have Biden ahead. There’s a word for this: lying. Imagine if the sports media pulled this kind of crap. Imagine if ESPN “covered” a football game by showing the red team scoring two touchdowns, while leaving out the four touchdowns that the blue team scored, and then launched into a narrative about how shocking it is that the red team is dominating. When you found out later that the blue team actually won the game 28-14, you’d conclude that ESPN simply lied to you about the football game. You wouldn’t say “That’s why I don’t trust football games.”
Of course ESPN doesn’t do that kind of thing, because too many audience members would just look up the real score, see that they’d been lied to as part of some weird attempt at drumming up ratings, and never watch ESPN again. Yet the political media tells precisely these kinds of lies about the polls every single day. They tell you about just the handful of outlier polls that show an unlikely and shocking outcome, while lying to you about the fact that most of the polls show the opposite outcome. And yes, that kind of lie of omission is a lie. MSNBC lies to you about the polls. CNN lies to you about the polls. Every major media outlet lies to you, constantly, about the polls.
It doesn’t matter if you think pollsters know what they’re doing or not. It doesn’t matter if you think polling is useful or not. The story here is that the media is lying to you about what the polls even say. And not just this past weekend. The entire media lies to you about the polls all the god damn time.
When you hear the media quoting the polls, the proper response is to remind yourself that the media constantly lies about what the polls even say, and look them up for yourself. Once you look at a polling aggregation site and you see what the polls actually say, only then should you react to the polls. And when you see that the media has once again lied to you about what the polls even say, you should then go nuclear on those media outlets and reporters for trying so hard to mislead you.
The most maddening part about trying to discuss the polls is that, even before getting to the worthiness and accuracy and value of the polls themselves, far too many people can’t get past the fact that the media is always lying about what the polls even say. If you figured out that the sports channel was always lying to you about what the game scores even were, you wouldn’t sit there and have a reaction based on those fake scores. You’d look up the real scores and have a reaction to that – and then you’d never watch that sports channel again. The same should go for the media’s disgusting habit of simply lying to you, all day, every day, about what the polls even say. Instead of giving up on the polls, try giving up on the media outlets who lie to you about the polls.