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Liberal Websites Embarrass Themselves With Faulty Polling to Attack GOP

Do you believe that almost two-thirds of Republicans think that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to inhabit the White House?

You might if you read the article on the Salon.com site entitled “Poll: 64 Percent of Republicans Are Birthers,” which was written by Alex Seitz-Wald on Thursday to slam members of the GOP using data derived from a recent survey of registered voters by the PublicMind project of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

That information was also the basis of a similar post at the liberal Gawker.com site, as well as an article on the ThinkProgress website.

As Noah Rothman of Mediaite.com noted, in their eagerness to bash their political opponents, these liberal sites “have successfully embarrassed themselves in an effort to capitalize on these flawed survey results.”

The public polling industry, like so many businesses that rely on the political cycle for their fortunes, suffers when the election cycle is over. Pollsters have to think of new and creative ways to remain relevant, and sometimes this yields embarrassing and worthless results.

Among the articles based on such surveys include a post on the Reuters news website in February of 2012 that showed voters preferred New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow over presidential candidates Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

Other examples of stories based on off-season polling include a survey asking if people believe Santa Claus is a Republican or a Democrat and what percentage of Americans want to annex Canada.

The PublicMind project was based on a curious premise: examining Americans’ belief in political conspiracy theories.

Rothman then listed several reasons the poll was flawed, starting with “the wording of the question, which elicited responses that have tickled the progressive left so.”

“President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life” was the question posed to respondents.

Does this include the debunked and always-baseless notion that President Obama is constitutionally ineligible from serving as the nation’s chief executive due to his place of birth? Sure does. Could this also include his full medical records (Obama only released one-page summaries during his 2008 and 2012 campaigns) or his academic transcripts?

“No other president or presidential candidate has released all of his records and transcripts,” Rothman noted.

However, the people conducting the poll did not qualify their question, he added. “They knew the response that they would get -- in fact, it was probably their goal to get as many self-identified Republicans to agree with this statement as possible.”

The 14 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of independents who agreed with this claim was “probably true” were just a bonus, Rothman said.

Surprisingly, “a plurality of Democrats, 37 percent, believe that President George W. Bush stole the 2004 election by committing voter fraud in Ohio,” Rothman stated. “As a political affiliation, Democrats were most likely to believe that Bush knew about the events of 9/11 before they occurred.”

Later that day, David Frum of The Daily Beast asked the survey's author, Dr. Dan Cassino, what he thought of the reaction to his poll. He responded:

I'm happy to see the media attention that our latest release on belief in political conspiracy theories has received, but I do think it's important to avoid over-interpreting results.

After stating that his use of “birthers” was “a broad definition” of the word, Cassino noted: People “who respond positively to the question are embracing elements of claims made by birther conspiracy theorists.”

“Does it mean that they're embracing all of those claims? Of course not,” he stated. “Do 64 percent of Republicans think Obama was born in Kenya? Almost certainly not. How many believe which elements is a question for a future study: a difficult one to carry out because of respondent reactivity, but a worthwhile one, nonetheless.”

Rothman concluded his piece by stating that the survey results are not the most important part of his article:

The instinct to score a cheap political point from this flawed poll -- indulged predictably by ThinkProgress and lamentably by Salon -- is the real story.