Zogby Numbers Cooked for Clients?
Mark Tapscott points to a Washington Times piece by Joel Mowbray that implies pollster John Zogby’s recent survey showing results unkind to Wal-Mart is suspect because Zogby has done work for anti-Wal-Mart interests. Tapscott observes that, “Zogby developed his survey questions in consultation with Wake Up Wal-Mart and that the advocacy group even wrote the news release announcing the results of the survey.”
I would note, however, that survey research firms often have conflicts of interest but still produce good numbers. My wife works for Public Opinion Strategies, the top Republican polling firm in the country. The company also does polling for several companies. But, while POS has an interest in their clients’ causes, they have an even stronger interest in getting the numbers right. If they don’t, the clients stop soliciting their services and they go out of business.
Zogby gained a reputation for getting the numbers right even while others were getting them wrong. Ironically, it was the likes of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh that helped tout his successes, because they were weighting raw numbers in a way that–correctly–predicted Republican wins in close elections while others were going the wrong way. As Tapscott notes, though, Zogby has been wrong in the opposite direction of late, including predicting Gore and Kerry victories. If he gets it wrong often enough, people will quit paying him any attention.
The partners at POS love this line from Glengarry Glen Ross:
“As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize’s a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.
In polling, you’re only as good as your last set of numbers. Zogby damned well knows that. I can’t imagine he’d put out bad numbers for one client and jeopardize his company.
Update: I do agree with Tapscott and Bill Nienhuis, though, that it’s inexplicable that Zogby didn’t disclose his affiliations. That was stupid.