John Zogby's Creative Polls: And a Closer Look at His Methods

By Mooney, Chris | The American Prospect, February 2003 | Go to article overview

John Zogby's Creative Polls: And a Closer Look at His Methods


Mooney, Chris, The American Prospect


IN A RECENT NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE COVER STORY about animal rights, journalist Michael Pollan reported that 51 percent of Americans believe that "primates are entitled to the same rights as human children." It was a surprising finding, but one that Pollan simply attributed to a "recent Zogby Poll." When Pollan's article came out, you can only imagine the celebration at the Doris Day Animal League, a group dedicated to establishing legal rights for chimpanzees. The league's role in commissioning the survey went entirely unmentioned in the Times story. By hiring the renowned pollster John Zogby, the group had essentially purchased an objective fact, one that entered into the conventional wisdom via the nation's leading Sunday magazine.

Whomever you blame for this small propaganda coup, it's hardly unique. Media coverage of polling results often neglects to mention the self-interestedness of the sponsor, and John Zogby is a leading enabler. Today, Zogby International's polling reputation may be second only to that of. the hallowed Gallup Organization, which makes having a Zogby Poll extremely desirable for advocacy groups across the political spectrum. Animal rights is a lefty cause, but one recent Zogby Poll conducted for the libertarian Cato Institute found that "two-thirds of likely voters support personal Social Security accounts"--i.e., partial privatization. Another, conducted in 1997 for the anti-tort group New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform, found that Empire State citizens "overwhelmingly believe that the cost of lawsuit awards is too high." And a Newsmax.com/Zogby International Poll, conducted for the right-wing Newsmax Web site, found in late 1999 that two-thirds of Americans wanted Congress to consider a second impeachment proceeding against then-President Clinton. It helped that the poll primed respondents with speculative allegations that the president traded nuclear technology to the Chinese in exchange for campaign cash.

What these polls have in common is that they reveal "findings" that their sponsors wish the public to believe as facts. And Zogby's standing as a reputable pollster buys instant credibility.

There's nothing new about dubious surveys: An infamous Roper Poll released in 1992 came to the wild conclusion that 3.7 million Americans had likely been abducted by aliens. And Zogby International isn't the only firm available for advocacy groups, candidates and corporations in need of creatively framed findings and message testing. But among high-profile pollsters, Zogby is unusual in the extent to which he has blended partisan and interest-group polling with credibility-enhancing contracts for media outlets such as Reuters, NBC News, MSNBC, and numerous newspapers and television stations.

As Zogby himself acknowledges, the repute he derives from media polling helps him sell his services to more self-interested clients. The lucky groups end up with the Zogby brand name attached to findings that advance their agendas. "Media organizations should have people who absolutely aren't polling for interest groups," observes Robert Blendon, who directs Harvard University's Program on Public Opinion and Health and Social Policy. Blendon notes that most major media polling conglomerates, such as the ABC News/Washington Post Poll, maintain firewalls between their work and outside interests.

Frequent Zogby collaborator John K. White of The Catholic University of America believes the pollster does his best to divine what the public really thinks, but, as Zogby himself concedes, the ultimate decision on whether to make public a particular poll rests with his clients. By contrast, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press notes that when he was president of the Gallup Organization, clients who sought surveys for public-relations purposes had to release the results no matter what they showed.

Gallup likewise doesn't work for political candidates. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

John Zogby's Creative Polls: And a Closer Look at His Methods
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.