Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pollster Bias News coverage of the Iowa caucuses read like it was written in advance. Might you have foreseen that evangelicals would be credited for a Huckabee win and that an Obama victory would be spun as a Clarion Call For Change?

There's a large hole in this conventional wisdom, though: Faith was effectively barred from consideration as a factor in Obama's victory. The CNN entrance and NBC exit polls both asked Republican caucus-goers if they were "born-again or evangelical," and neither one asked that question of Democratic caucusers. Democrats instead were instead asked if they were union members.

Thirty three percent of Iowa evangelicals voted for Kerry in 2004. The Religion Newswriters' Association named "Democrats court people of faith" the #2 religion story of 2007. Winner Barack Obama is well known for thoughtful discussion of his faith.

So why are CNN and NBC still treating evangelicals as the Republicans' property? Their polls don't even account for the possibility that evangelicals can play a significant role in the Democratic caucus. That's some serious institutional bias. (Ditto for the flipside - not accounting for union members' role in the Republican caucus.) Reporters and pundits cannot produce accurate stories and commentary if all they have to work with is such hidebound data.

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