Thursday, September 22, 2005

Zogby is in Rove's Pocket

update: Raw Story has published the story

update: Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post, too.

update: zogby says that he would 'consider' asking the impeachment question if he was paid - ive sent them an email asking what it would take. let me know what questions we should ask - and if you'd be prepared to contribute. its probably only a few thousand dollars.


Ok - so I finally got a real answer from Zogby about that impeachment question that I've been hounding them about for weeks.


Seriously. WTF?

Here's the background:

In a Zogby Poll, released June 30, 2005, we learnt that:
"...more than two-in-five (42%) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment."
The 'interiors' of the poll say that 59% of dems, 43% of Independents and 25% of repugs "would favor impeaching the President under these circumstances."

On June 30, the day the poll was released, Keith Olbermann interviewed John Zogby on Countdown and they discussed the impeachment question and Keith asked him when he would ask the impeachment question again - Zogby replied:
"we'll test it periodically, probably in a month from now. Again, no-one is really talking about it, but it is a good barometric reading" (crooks and liars has the video)
A week later, on July 6, Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post wrote:
"But you wouldn't know (that 42% want to impeach) from following the news. Only three mainstream outlets that I can find made even cursory mention of the poll last week when it came out.
Nevertheless, could there be anything that 42 percent of Americans agree on that the media care about so little?"
On August 3, when a new Zogby poll was released which didn't include the impeachment question, I sent Zogby an email asking "when you plan to ask that question again?"

On August 10, I got a response - they tried kicking the can down the road, apparently hoping that I'd forget:
"We'll skip the summer and get back to it in September. John Zogby"

On August 28, I emailed Zogby again, trying to tease a commitment out of them:
"when will you be asking this question? early in september? or later in the month?"

At the same time, I wrote a post saying:
"my sense is that they are nervous about this question for one reason or other. and its tempting to think that they are nervous because of some pressure from the egadministration - and if the egadmin is nervous, then lets shine the light on em."

Anyway, I hadn't received a response from that Aug 28 email, so I sent the same question to another person at Zogby on Sep 12, and I promptly received this reply (see above):
We have decided to not to ask the impeachment question again unless it is raised in Congress. We aim to remain as impartial as possible with our questions. Thank you.
Christopher Conroy"
E tu Zogby? E tu.

It's not apparent whether the 'impartiality' (sic) rule is a new rule - or whether they already broke their own rule when they asked the question in the June30 poll, and also when John Zogby was on national TV saying that he'd ask the question regularly.

With remarkable restraint, I replied to Chris' email:
"thats an odd trigger point. i dont understand how 'impartiality' correlates with "unless it is raised in Congress"
could you please explain?"
I'll let you know when/if I hear back from him - although its been a week now already.

Here's what John Zogby says about polling in the "About" section of"
"In a democracy, public opinion must be a factor in any policy discussion. I personally have some trouble when polls drive policy or decisions by our leaders, but the opinion of voters must be somewhere in the mix. Ultimately, we elect our representatives to make decisions on principle and conscience, but we also expect that they not be contemptuous of the people who elected them.
Polls are a good thing. They help connect us -- just like newspaper letters to the editor and talk radio. They let us know if our opinions are in the mainstream or not. They measure values, the ideas we cherish the most. They can also be abused, like anything else. But one thing I have learned in my decade and a half of doing this professionally: those who complain the loudest about polls follow them more closely than anyone else."
On Aug31, in a post titled "MSM Refuses to Poll on Impeachment Question," Bob Fertik at noted that "The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll was published today, and despite record-low approval ratings for Bush (45%), there was no question on impeachment." He wrote a letter to some pollsters asking:
"Can you explain why the Post did not ask a question about impeachment in its latest poll?
Were you asked not to include such a question, either by senior editors or Republican officials?"
Gallup replied thusly (and the Washington Post concurred):
" But the general procedure Gallup uses to determine what to ask about in our surveys is to measure the issues and concerns that are being discussed in the public domain. We will certainly ask Americans about their views on impeaching George W. Bush if, and when, there is some discussion of that possibility by congressional leaders, and/or if commentators begin discussing it in the news media. That has not happened to date."
(note that there's no mention of Zogby's 'impartiality')

In the June30 interview on Olbermann's COuntdown , Zogby said:
"Its mainly a testimonial to just how polarized this nation is - the fact that, at this point in time, in the middle of a war, after a re-election, that this many people would even think about impeachment - when no-one else is even talking about it... and so it's troublesome for this administration
Again, no-one is really talking about it, but it is a good barometric reading"
Of course, when Zogby says "no-one", he means that the punditocracy isn't talking about it. That is to say, 42% of the American people are seriously thinking about the impeachment of the President despite the apparent media lockdown

So we can see what happened: Zogby was a naughty pollster and he asked the public what they thought without getting permission from the administration - and he did one interview with the apparently-independent Olbermann. A week later, Dan Froomkin had presumably been reading the blogs, and he wrote that the media had barely mentioned the news - this despite both Olbermann and Zogby calling the results "extraordinary".

Fast forward 2 months, and the pollster-gatekeepers are arguing that they won't ask Americans the impeachment question, because the pundits won't mention impeachment. The only occasion that the story got any media coverage was when Zogby did the poll in June.

Zogby has now 'decided' not to ask the impeachment question again, which ensures that there won't be any media discussion, which means that the pollsters won't ask Americans whether they'd prefer to get rid of their President, which in turn results in the media silence.

It's a lovely little closed loop they've created. It's impenetrable, and it's dangerous.

The purpose of the lockdown is obviously to suppress the consideration of impeachment - if 42% of the population are already of the opinion that the president (and presumably others) should be impeached, then we can safely assume that a much higher percentage of the population would be calling for impeachment if we had a free press.

If any of the polling firms ever actually asks about impeachment, they should ask the following questions:
1) Do you think President Blinky should be impeached?
2) Which other "high officials" do you think should be impeached? Dick Cheney? Tom DeLay? Karl Rove? Condi Rice? Donald Rumsfeld? any others? (remember, someone has to be president)
3) Which other Mission Accomplices should be sacked or indicted? (open question)

It is clear that the administration is, or should be, concerned about the possibility of impeachment. It is also clear that Zogby's concern about the 'impartiality' of questions is absurd on its face. As John Zogby himself says: "those who complain the loudest about polls follow them more closely than anyone else" - which necessarily raises the distinct possibility that the administration was sufficiently concerned about the mere mention of impeachment that they asked, bribed, or otherwise threatened Zogby into not repeating the poll about impeachment.

(update: Dan Rather just gave a speech at the Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan where he said that there is an "atmosphere of fear in newsrooms" which comes from politicians "applying pressure" (link))

Of course, it's conceivable that Zogby's decision not to poll the impeachment question is an act of self-censorship. That scenario seems unlikely however, given that Zogby appears to have changed its 'policy' in the week or two after his appearance on Keith Olbermann's Countdown.

We should make some noise about this. The maladministration is concerned about impeachment, and the polling firms are in the pocket of the Rovian machine. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

(from Get Your War On)

(this episode reminds me of another zogby poll which got buried by the media)

(i also happened to notice that this sort of behavior is starting to venture suspiciously close to RICO territory)

update - heres Norman Solomon:
" By avoiding even the hint that President Bush and Vice President Cheney should be ousted from office, major news outlets are circumscribing public discourse and limiting the prospective remedies. Meanwhile, we hear about low-level resignations, official investigations and proposals for blue-ribbon commissions.

What happened to thousands of people in the path of the hurricane was the horrific result of criminal negligence that came from the top of the US government. Is it too outlandish to suggest that the news media begin to discuss what kind of punishment would truly fit the crime?"
update: in the process of writing this story, rawstory asked me to respond to zogby's comments - i assume that his comments are therefore part of the public record. the rawstory article didnt publish zogby's comments in full - therefore my response to them may seem a little bit weird. I'm not sure what Zogby was asked, but his response ( in full, as sent to me by rawstory) was:
"I asked a question myself in one of my own polls and I appeared on Keith Olbermann and he asked were you going to track this.

What happened officially was nothing... there was no movement, at least a credible movement pushing for impeachment , and secondly I did not intend or never intend as a pollster to part of a cause celebre, and in that sense I opted to not ask it because its not on the official radar screen and (b) I want to ensure that I'm not used by either side. I've asked the question, I may ask it again, One blogger wrote an sent me an email saying I was part of a conspiracy now, and
another said I have a constitutional duty to perform and this is the sort of thing that I would certainly like to avoid. I asked the question, they should try another question now.

We always do, there are various job performance ratings– in the last poll I did the horse race against every president from Jimmy Carter, I thought that was interesting and revealing, and equally revealing was that I did the horse race again with John Kerry. To me, that was a lot of meat for a lot of interesting conversation and analysis. But I don't see myself playing the role of leading the charge for impeachment. That was not me intent. I thought it was a reasonable
curiosity at that point.

I might ask it again, but I won't be pressured to ask it. If somebody wants to hire us to ask it, I'd consider that.

If there are reasonably explained questions that generate conversation I have no problem doing them, but there is no constitutional duty here."
hopefully that gives my comments (and his position) some more context. its somewhat difficult to ascertain what zogby is saying without knowing exactly which questions he was asked by rawstory.

i will note that rawstory was very generous to zogby in their article to mention the fact that zogby did the carter/bush and kerry/bush horse-races. that issue is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

i'll also note that when zogby was on Olbermann he said that his impeachment polling numbers were "extraordinary" - he now calls those same numbers a "reasonable curiosity." that is categorically intellectually dishonest.

zogby also says that he 'would consider' polling the impeachment question again if someone paid him. the flipside to that is that he might also reject such a proposition. 12 months ago, he accepted $3600 to ask whether the bush administration was involved in 911 - and now he isnt sure if he would ask whether the president should be impeached?

zogby also claims that he wont ask the impeachment question because there is no "credible movement pushing for impeachment" and "its not on the official radar screen" - but he is clutching at straws. his own polling tells him that 42% of americans favour impeachment - and he knows that there is no such thing as an "official" radar screen.

finally, when zogby says "I want to ensure that I'm not used by either side" - i can only assume that he is kidding - or that he only wants to keep asking questions about the Rolling Stones and ice-cream.

(thanks to ron from Why Are We Back In Iraq? for putting me in contact with John at RawStory - and thanks to John for his work putting his story together)


Daniel R. Velasco said...

Since when is such a huge number
(42%) regarding impeachment not worth following up? On what planet does it make sense to ignore the pain and anger that it represents. Childeren are dead because we were mislead.

Where are the honest Americans who would speak to this issue?

profmarcus said...

personally, i'm cool on impeachment although i would support just about anything to get doofus and friends out of washington... for one thing, even if a poll were taken that showed 80% of the american people supported impeachment, i still doubt it would produce congressional action... look at the 80% right now who want an independent katrina investigation and where is THAT going...? nowhere, of course...

even if congress did take up a consideration of impeachment, i believe the likelihood it would pass is very slim... meanwhile, the process would further polarize the country and consume vast amounts of money to boot...

we all have our fantasies and mine is that the bottom will continue to fall out of bush's approval ratings, that ugly, creepie-crawlies will continue to emerge (safavian, plame, rove, etc.), that bushco will continue to shoot itself in the foot, and that, ultimately, bush, cheney and the cabinet will be forced to resign... (remember, i did say it was a fantasy...!)

Roger The Okcitykid said...

Well you know - A Republican Congress isn't going to discuss it unless the people demand it.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Anonymous said...

It seems like a nonevent. Where its at right now is the hurricaines and the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Roberts impending confirmation, and the future justice following shortly. Timing is everything, and the Dems are on the short side of the timing issue. There is only two more years left in Bush II's Presidency, and one of them will be spent on election buzz, hehe.

Simbaud said...


Your Froomkin link is out-of-date. The correct one is here.

To Anonymous (9:44) above: there are three years and four months remaining in Bush II's presidency. If, in the 2006 midterm elections, Senate Democrats can regain the power of subpoena -- an issue they should bloody well run on -- things could get very, very entertaining.

lukery said...

thanks simbaud - link fixed.