Thursday, January 21, 2010

Media and The Manipulation of Public Opinion

I have been trying to make some sense of the polls that have come out since the announcement of parliament being prorogued. I found out that polls can indeed be manipulated to get a certain result to manipulate the public. We should always take polls with a grain of salt. They can be so easily manipulated. Here's what I found.


"Canadians might well ask what is going on. What are these polls about? Unfortunately, in some cases polls have become instruments of propaganda, with questions designed to generate a preferential outcome in order to manipulate public opinion, with "favourable" polls advancing a particular bias being reported. In effect, the polling results become insidious lies masquerading as news. The objective of such manipulation is to influence public opinion and undermine our democracy.

How the Manipulation is Done

Polls designed to manipulate public opinion are carried out using the following methodology:

  1. Readers or viewers are saturated with "reporting" that reflects a particular bias;

  2. Public opinion polls are activated in concert with like-minded organizations on social issue campaigns which reflect the bias;

  3. Viewers and readers are proselytized (manipulated) into espousing the bias when these poll results are treated as "news";

  4. Promoting the "bandwagon" psychology (the banal tendency of those who do not have a strong ideological foundation to aspire to the side perceived to be in the majority) is then put in place.

Examples of troubling polls include those leading up to the November 2002 US elections. None of the left-wing media in the US reported polls showing Mr. Bush winning control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which, in fact, he did Rather, the Democratic Party was reported as having the advantage in that election.

In regards to polling on the Canadian political scene, the EKOS Polling Company, which is the number one supplier of the polling data for the federal government, recently concluded a poll commissioned by the CBC showing that the Alliance has fallen to fourth place among the political parties. Competitors, Ipsos-Reid and Environics, found that the Alliance support was in second place between 19% and 20%. Which is right? Which is pushing an agenda?

Canadians should be forewarned - don't always believe the polls and treat their results with extreme caution."


Opinion Polls: Getting the results you want

Here are a few interesting tidbits from a paper I found.
The Exercise of Power Round Table:
Vox Publica: Media as Arbiter, Interpreter, and Educator
May 14, 1997
In Attendance: round table participants; E. Alboim, C. Dornan (guests); J. Graham, C. McQuillan, J.
Walker (IOG).

"What role does media take on in the political process? Mr. Alboim argued that the media's primary
political role is to "prime" public opinion. Media emphasis -- both tonnage and display -- order
importance of information, creating a hierarchy for readers and viewers. In priming, the media
establishes an agenda with permissible limits for public discourse. Rather than "shaping" public
opinion, media creates a precondition for shaping. It is society's opinion leaders (talking heads on
television as well as friends, neighbours, and relatives who are interested in political issues) who do
the shaping. Media does, however, influence the public view of leadership, by assigning causality to
leadership for societal problems (often irrespective of government influence over causes or

and here

"Another participant disagreed, claiming that not only is the political agenda set by media, political
opinions are often shaped by media. This participant noted that pollsters actually wait three days
after debates to poll the public, until the public has time to take in the assessments of media pundits.
Given this apparent deference to media's interpretation of issues, a seeming paradox was raised.
Media leaders are perceived as "elites" by citizens, yet they do not appear to endure the same public
derision as political leaders and public servants often do."



  1. The time has come for REFERENDUMS.
    It's exciting to see Canadians engaged in politics, and we need an avenue to express ourselves.
    A real poll would be a referendum.

  2. Not a pollster but retired stats agency guy with lots of surveying experience who is happy to see this type of comment as we all need to be reminded periodically that poll results depend upon both the sample selected and the instrument used. I just completed an Angus Reid poll on proroguing parliament that was so biased in its structure that their conclusion (in their January Newsflash) is only surprising in that the disagreement was not higher. I commented to them that I was not interested in completing surveys with such a blatent bias. They, of course, have not responded. It was a classic example of what you have outlined.


    So all summer and fall, the pollsters have been giving us accurate results, because they showed Harper gaining and almost with a majority, but the moment they reflect a bad result, asking the exact same question, they have been manipulated because of anti-conservative bias???????????????


    The tinfoil hat's on a little too tight, methinks.

  4. IMHO, if people knew what very likely goes on behind closed doors within the MSM, they'd never buy another newspaper or watch another news broadcast.

    The ability of the modern media to herd public opinion is one of the singularly greatest threats to democracy in the 21st century.

  5. To be honest, I also wonder that the blogosphere is deliberately given more credit by the MSM than it's due in order to generate a false sense of security.

    As for the CPC's previous run up mentioned above?

    Probably just coincidence that every time Harper enjoys a burst in polling, the MSM et al goes to work putting the screws to 'em...

    And then regale us with endless commentary as to why is it every time Harper gets close to majority territory, voters start backing away, specifically because "they don't seem to trust him".

    Wag the dog and all that rot.

    Just sayin'...

    Man, do we need a Canadian version of Fox in this country or what!

    Which is to say, if we're going to tolerate the Liberal Left MSM directing public opinion, and thereby public policy, in the very least we should have some sort of balance.

  6. We all know the man who use to run the polls in Canada is now head of the liberal party. Would not this be a good time to have his friends "fudge" the polls in hopes to get a good turn out for his own party on Saturday?... Knowing just who to call to get the numbers you want... calling all liberals - if anyone in Canada thinks for one minute Iffy the American is tied with our own Government of Canada - they have rocks in their head. Did anyone see Iffy at his news conference the other day, stating who he wanted given Canadian citizenship... he was looking to the sky for answers and the liberal media was soon quick to get that cut.....with the liberal media - especially Jane Tabor - which I no longer watch....and the head of the liberal party controlling all the poll results.... bring on the election, we will see!... You notice, he didn't want to change the polls too quickly, he was waiting until a time he thought it would benefit his Saturday..... We will see! You can fool the people some of the time, but the all the time!

  7. So Ted, after you join the hundreds of protestors tomorrow, all booing the government, Harper-haters burning him at the stake and stomping on the Canadian flag....what then?

    Demand an election?
    I sure hope so......

  8. p.s.

    the Harper Government begins their 5th year of governing, tomorrow!!

    Happy Anniversary Prime Minister Harper,
    and thank you Paul Martin, Stephen Dion, Mr Iffy, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe...we couldn't have done it without YOU.!

  9. "Man, do we need a Canadian version of Fox in this country or what!"

    Springer, I'm with ya on that one!

  10. Anyone else recall that, prior to prorogation, when it was the topic of endless debate on Power Play and Power & Politics, pundits and journalists almost unanimously concluded that it would favor Harper to do so, and would be of little consequence for the short duration of parliament ahead of the budget.

    And then within minutes of the declaration, they all mysteriously had an entirely other, and exceedingly negative, opinion.

    I wouldn't trust the MSM in this country with a lousy nickel, forget about their responsibility to deliver truthful and unbiased reporting of the news or anything else.

  11. Ted,
    I think you need to have seen the questions and how they were asked before casting aspersions about tinfoil hats. I have completed a couple of years of Angus Reid polls and have never seen anything as blatant. It ain't about results - I personally do not care - it is about the process. But then if one is biased about the results any question of process is deemed tinfoil related I suspect.

  12. "Man, do we need a Canadian version of Fox in this country or what!"

    Owned in part by the Saudis?

  13. That video was brilliant!

  14. I congratulate Stephen Harper and the conservative party for 4 years of good government. CBC have thrown everything they have into bringing down your government.The better he does the more they punish him.
    I thought after a while they would back off but instead they have tossed all journalist ethics aside.Sad.I was horrified when all three pundits on Power and Politics defended the Toronto terrorist light sentence and reprimanded Stephen Harper for wanting to legthen sentences. I watch CBC with disgust!

  15. What has happened here is that the left have a small issue with traction. Now they are doing what they normally do: blow it out of proportion. The problem is not that they are winning this battle, the issue is our lack of response. (real conservative)

  16. Like I say everywhere, Polls don't mean a thing if they're not done according to individual ridings. National polls are a joke. They're always manipulated. Ted is being pretty naive to think otherwise.

    Is it so hard for a polling company to have enough staff to call a few hundred people a day from a single riding over the course of week then tally up the numbers and start over again only to total it all at some point or other?

    That ought to be the least they could do. A person could easily come up with a tweaked version of that sort of formula thats more precise if they really wanted to.

    In fact, I think I've done so before but can't remember the intricacies.
    Wouldn't be hard to do again and even better than before.

    I mean seriously.... 1000 some odd people from each province or region is enough to determine the political winds of the country?
    bunch of stupid statist... I'm sure someone could ring up a few random people asking each of them to choose one from six numbers out of ten and achieve the same sort of results you get from the "official" national "polling trends".

    Does no one find it funny at all how after all that has happened over the years and all thats been accomplished under a minority conservative government that somehow, despite the worst opposition parties in the history of Canada, the polls still manage to fluctuate (even a little) in favor of the what has possibly been the worst machinations of the Liberal Party ever since confederation?

    How is it that the conservatives have only on occasional surpassed the 40% mark given that they are quite possibly the best federal leadership we've had in ages?

    Given all the available information on the internet and channels like cpac you'd think the numbers would by now reflect the reality that the conservatives are here to stay and with a majority no less since they're only a dozen or so seats away from such, it would be no stretch for them to achieve that in a coming election.

    And where exactly are the opposition parties going to reclaim their ground?

    If polling companies were at all interested in the truth of where the "political winds" are blowing they'd start first at the ridings that were the closest to being changed in the last election... starting with Ujjal Dosanjh's seat or Heddy Fry's.

    I sincerely don't even trust them to do that.

    Ujjal Dosanjh... i shudder even to type the guys name.

    Anyone who is still "scared" of a tory majority has a few screws loose if they'd prefer the company of the "loyal" opposition parties to remain within minority status...

    The opposition parties don't have a chance in hell of forming even a minority government let alone get "into" "power" so why should they even bother since they've clearly proven how ineffectual they've been in opposition. What a joke.

  17. I just read elsewhere some troll said "[...] the polls show the libs would win 121 seats to 110 fro the Tories if an election was held last week. A majority liberal government is possible later this year[...]"

    Which is wrong on so many levels not the least of which has to do with the fact that the liberals are entirely incapable of forming government let alone a minority let alone a successful one, but that also polls don't work according to ridings or in a way that would accurately reflect true voter intentions.

    Especially since if one person votes one way in one riding it doesn't guarantee that even if his or hers preferred candidate wins that his preferred candidate's party forms government.

    Polls as they are are very manipulatable in both bias presentation and the formation of the results. Which all the more renders them pretty useless as in their current forms other accept to provide MSM's "pundits" with fodder.

    So the troll's argument is riddle with even more holes than what may obviously been apparent. . . . er... obviously.


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