Do Rasmussen Polls Lean Right? Nate Silver (Sorta) Defends


According to a Politico feature, Scott Rasmussen‘s polling firm Rasmussen Reports has come under increasing fire from liberal bloggers and pundits, many of whom see it as a conservative front and talking point factory. Surprisingly, liberal polling and statistics maven Nate Silver came to Rasmussen’s (qualified) defense:

According to Silver, Rasmussen’s “lean” towards Republicans is a defensible sign of polling methodology, and their election polling “has tended to be quite accurate in the past.” Some of the concerns raised by Rasmussen’s liberal critics in the Politico article — for instance, that Rasmussen polls tend to assume smaller numbers of young and minority voters than other polls based on their “likely voter” model — could ring hollow if Rasmussen’s older, less diverse snapshot of the electorate turns out to be accurate in the 2010 midterm elections.

Of greater concern, says Silver, is Rasmussen’s subject matter — “they have a knack for issuing polls at times which tend to dovetail with conservative media narratives” — and wording:

I’m not saying that Rasmussen’s question wording is always biased. It isn’t. And I’m sure you could find a couple of cases where the wording tend to portray the liberal argument more favorably. But cases like these happen consistently enough with Rasmussen that I’d say it’s a concern. And when they do use unorthodox question wording, nine times out of ten it favors the conservative argument.

In a blogosphere obsessed with black-and-white dichotomies and competitions towards hyperbole, it’s refreshing to read nuanced, decidedly non-shouty takes like Silver’s.

Also: here is a video, circa July, of Jimmy Fallon “slow jamming” Rasmussen Reports and calling them an “outlier;” this apparently amused Scott Rasmussen.

(h/t FiveThirtyEight. image via Washington Independent)

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