Democrats believe that Rasmussen, who is acknowledged as one of the more accurate political pollsters, is either inaccurate or the purposely biased. They whine that Rasmussen's polls constantly report numbers that are about 5% lower than other polls,which is generally true because Rasmussen measures likely voters, other pollsters measure all adults.
Democrats are turning their fire on Scott Rasmussen, the prolific independent pollster whose surveys on elections, President Obama’s popularity and a host of other issues are surfacing in the media with increasing frequency.
The pointed attacks reflect a hardening conventional wisdom among prominent liberal bloggers and many Democrats that Rasmussen Reports polls are, at best, the result of a flawed polling model and, at worst, designed to undermine Democratic politicians and the party’s national agenda.
After all no sane human being could have a poor opinion of President Obama and his policies. This is Political Hubris at its worst. The Democrats refuse to admit that the US remains a center-right country, and the POTUS and his friends are ruling from the far left. Its much easier to blame the pollster than listen to the voters.
On progressive-oriented websites, anti-Rasmussen sentiment is an article of faith. “Rasmussen Caught With Their Thumb on the Scale,” blared the Daily Kos this summer. “Rasmussen Reports, You Decide,” the blog Swing State Project recently headlined in a play on the Fox News motto.
“I don’t think there are Republican polling firms that get as good a result as Rasmussen does,” said Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow with Media Matters, a progressive research center. “His data looks like it all comes out of the RNC [Republican National Committee].”Media Matter is President Obama's personal Media Attack team. Its role is to attack public figures, talking heads, politicians, bloggers, just about anybody who says anything bad about the President or his policies.
“Whether intended or not, Rasmussen polls have been used by conservative voices as talking points, and when that happens on one side it inevitably produces a reaction from the other,” explained Mark Blumenthal, a polling analyst and the editor and publisher of Pollster.com. “Rasmussen produces a lot of data that appear to produce narratives conservatives are promoting, and that causes a reaction.”
While Scott Rasmussen, the firm’s president, contends that he has no ax to grind — his bio notes that he has been “an independent pollster for more than a decade” and “has never been a campaign pollster or consultant for candidates seeking office” — his opponents on the left insist he is the hand that feeds conservative talkers a daily trove of negative numbers that provides grist for attacks on Obama and the Democratic Party.
Nothing, however, sets off liberal teeth gnashing more than Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking polls, which throughout the year have consistently placed Obama’s approval numbers around 5 percentage points lower than“He polls less favorably for Democrats, and that’s why he’s become a lightning rod,” said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who studies polling. “It’s clear that his results are typically more Republican than the other person’s results.”
That's because there is no way "the other guy's" results are more Democratic Party oriented.
On Saturday, Dec. 26, for example, Rasmussen’s daily tracking had Obama’s approval at 44 percent, with a disapproval figure of 56 percent. A Real Clear Politics compilation of other pollsters, meanwhile, showed Obama with an average approval figure of 49.5 percent and disapproval of 45.1 percent.
“He’s been underpolling Obama all year,” said Boehlert. “People start thinking, ‘There’s something going on here.’”
It’s not just the data that Rasmussen’s critics object to — they also have a problem with the way the firm frames questions in its automated polls, which are the staple of its work.
In August, for example, Rasmussen asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “It’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.”
“Why stop there, Rasmussen? Why not add a parenthetical phrase about how tax cuts regrow hair, whiten teeth, and ensure that your favorite team will win the Super Bowl this year?” responded Daily Kos blogger Steve Singiser, who frequently writes about polls.
Democratic pollster Mark Mellman believes Rasmussen designs its polling questions to elicit negative responses about Obama and Democrats — a sentiment that is widely shared in the liberal blogosphere.
“I think they write their questions in a way that supports a conservative interpretation of the world,” said Mellman. “In general, they tend to be among the worst polls for Democrats, and they phrase questions in ways that elicit less support for the Democratic point of view.”
Democratic politicians seem equally leery of Rasmussen polling: At a news conference just prior to the 2008 election, when asked about a poll showing GOP Sen. John Sununu moving ahead of eventual Democratic winner Jeanne Shaheen, then-Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer had a ready answer.
“Yeah, that was a Rasmussen poll,” said a dismissive Schumer.
In an interview, Rasmussen adamantly denied that he is framing his polling to appeal to a conservative audience, saying: “We certainly don’t see it that way.”
“It’s the adage that if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger,” he added.
Rasmussen is quick to point out the accuracy of his surveys — noting how close his firm was to predicting the final outcome in this fall’s New Jersey governor’s race. (Rasmussen’s final survey in the race showed Republican Chris Christie edging out Gov. Jon Corzine 46 percent to 43 percent. Christie beat Corzine 48 percent to 45 percent on Election Day.) And he argues that he was among the first pollsters to show Obama narrowing the gap with Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
Last year, the progressive website FiveThirtyEight.com’s pollster ratings, based on the 2008 presidential primaries, awarded Rasmussen the third-highest mark for its accuracy in predicting the outcome of the contests. And Rasmussen’s final poll of the 2008 general election — showing Obama defeating Arizona Sen. John McCain 52 percent to 46 percent — closely mirrored the election’s outcome.
Rasmussen, for his part, explained that his numbers are trending Republican simply because he is screening for only those voters most likely to head to the polls — a pool of respondents, he argues, that just so happens to bend more conservative this election cycle.
Polling all adults — a method used by Gallup, another polling firm that conducts a daily tracking poll of Obama — Rasmussen acknowledged, is “always going to yield a better result for Democrats.”
But critics note that the practice of screening for only those voters regarded as most likely to head to the polls potentially weeds out younger and minority voters — who would be more likely to favor Democrats than Republicans.
Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist, said there was “huge concern right now” that Rasmussen was polling a universe of largely conservative-minded voters.
“How is Rasmussen selecting likely voters almost a year before the election? And why would you even screen for likely voters in measuring presidential approval?” said Abramowitz. “My guess is that it's heavily skewed toward older, white, Republican voters.”
Others assert Rasmussen is simply reflecting a more GOP-friendly political environment in his polling.
“The way he does polls is that he’s more likely to get high-energy voters,” said Tom Jensen, a pollster for the North Carolina-based Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. “I think Rasmussen favors Republicans this year, but I don’t think he inherently favors Republicans.”
“If I’m looking at public polls that are ABC News, CBS, Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, I’m paying attention to Rasmussen,” said GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio. “As a pollster, I’d much rather look at a pollster who is looking at likely voters than a pollster who is looking at adults.”
Rasmussen, of course, is hardly the only pollster to come under fire this election cycle — just the one who attracts the most sustained criticism.
Last month, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh accused the Gallup polling organization of “doing everything they can — they're upping the sample to black Americans — to keep” Obama’s approval at 50 percent.
And PPP, which has also increased its profile in the past two election cycles, has drawn criticism from Republicans for repeatedly showing North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr with low ratings heading into his 2010 reelection.
“You’d like for people to approach poll data in an intellectually honest way and not just say, ‘I don’t like this pollster because of his numbers. But that’s just the nature of partisan activism,” said Jensen, whose firm, like Rasmussen's, relies on automated polls. “I don’t think that what’s happening with Rasmussen is unusual. It’s just that sometimes when people are unhappy, sometimes you shoot the messenger.”
Franklin, the University of Wisconsin political scientist, argued that the frequency with which Rasmussen produces data makes the firm an inevitable target in the 24/7 media age.
“I really think that if Rasmussen were polling three times a month or one time a month, he wouldn’t be as much of a thorn in the side of Democrats,” said Franklin. “But because he’s polling so much, he stands out every day.”
Rasmussen says the attention that his often buzzworthy polls generate — positive or negative — is good for business.
Proving that he revels in it, Rasmussen recently posted an unusual video clip on his website — late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon deriding the pollster earlier this year in a rap song as an “outlier” whose results were “spastic.”
“We are excited by it,” Rasmussen said of the attention his firm has received.