"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:
- Readers or viewers are saturated with "reporting" that reflects a particular bias;
- Public opinion polls are activated in concert with like-minded organizations on social issue campaigns which reflect the bias;
- Viewers and readers are proselytized (manipulated) into espousing the bias when these poll results are treated as "news";
- 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.
"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
"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."