Friday, March 6, 2015

Headlines and Polls

Allow me a moment to pick on my local paper, at least when it comes to how it reports on polls. To set the scene, the state legislature (I know, I know, stop rolling your eyes) is discussing whether to approve a major transportation plan that could, maybe, possibly, mean tax increases. Or fee increases. Or something. Anyway, there's this tweet from my local paper:

And the headline online is exactly the same:

Poll: Most Voters Oppose
House road-funding plan

Okay, so what Hollander? What's the big deal? Look at the lede:
More Georgia voters oppose the state House’s transportation-funding plan than favor it, according to a poll released Thursday.
See the difference? The hed tells us most voters oppose it, but that's not really true. Forty-five percent aren't fans of the plan, 26 percent favor it, and 29 percent have no opinion. You cannot say most voters oppose it when it's fewer than half, and you especially don't want to say that when it's based on robo-poll that (by law) may only call landline phones. With a computer voice. And think about it. Nearly three out of 10 -- almost a third -- have no opinion at all.

So I ask the overworked and underpaid and underappreciated folks at OnlineAthens (i.e., Athens Banner-Herald) for a couple of things:
  1. Stop reporting robo-polls, and
  2. Stop reporting robo-polls, and (okay, a third)
  3. Stop reporting robo-polls.
I realize that's not gonna happen, that Morris (the paper's owner) has a contract or some relationship with the polling firm. So at least make sure the hed and the lede match.

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