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The Opinion Makers

An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls

Author: David W. Moore

A former senior editor at the Gallup Poll exposes how pollsters don’t report public opinion, they manufacture it

On January 8, 2008, the date of the New Hampshire primary, media pollsters made their biggest prediction gaffe since dubbing Thomas Dewey a shoo-in to beat incumbent president Harry S. Truman. Eleven different polls forecast a solid win by Barack Obama; instead, Hillary Clinton took New Hampshire and recharged her candidacy. The months that followed only brought more dismal performances and contradictory results-undeniable evidence that something is terribly wrong with the polling industry today.

It’s easy to spot the election polls that get it wrong. Equally misleading and often far more disastrous are polls misrepresenting public opinion on government policy. For instance, in the period leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, every major media poll showed substantial public support for a preemptive strike. In truth, there was no majority of Americans calling for war.

For the first time, David W. Moore praised as a “scholarly crusader” by the New York Times reveals that pollsters don’t report public opinion, they manufacture it. And they do so at the peril of our democratic process. While critics cry foul over partisan favoritism in the mainstream media, what’s really at work is a power bias that polls legitimate by providing the stamp of public approval.

Drawing on over a decade’s experience at the Gallup Poll and a distinguished academic career in survey research, Moore describes the questionable tactics pollsters use to create poll-driven news stories-including force-feeding respondents, slanting question wording, and ignoring public ignorance on even the most arcane issues. More than proof that the numbers do lie, The Opinion Makers clearly and convincingly spells out how urgent it is that we make polls deliver on their promise to monitor, not manipulate, the pulse of democracy.
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“You will never regard political polls the same after reading David W. Moore’s devastating inside account of their severe limitations and misapplications. This book should be required reading for journalists, political junkies, students, scholars and citizens.” —Robert W. McChesney, author of The Political Economy of Media

“The next time your phone rings with questions from a pollster, beware. David Moore rings an alarm bell that democracy is endangered by the way the news media use public opinion polls. In chapter and verse, he exposes how false and misleading polling practices actually create public opinion and this, in turn, influences what government does. The Opinion Makers demonstrates what James Madison said two hundred years ago-a misinformed public becomes a threat to democracy.” —Ben H. Bagdikian, author of The New Media Monopoly

“The account of how news stories drive polls should make us stop and ask whether the close relationship between the newsroom and polling operations is perhaps a bit too close. A must read.” —W. Lance Bennett, director, Center for Communication and Civic Engagement University of Washington, Seattle

“We all know that the corporate press conducts its own opinion polls and keeps headlining the results as if such stuff were news. What we don’t know is just how sloppy-and misleading-most of that work really is. In this important book, veteran pollster David Moore uses many harrowing examples from the recent past to meticulously note the many defects in such polling.” —Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform


Review by: Katie Delahaye Paine, The Measurement Standard - September 1, 2008
The Opinion Makers is one of those books that changes your entire view of the world. Seriously. Once you read it, you'll define your life in BTOM (Before The Opinion Makers) and ATOM (After The Opinion Makers).”
Review: Publisher's Weekly - July 8, 2008
"[S]uccinct and damning critique . . . Keen and witty throughout."

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The Opinion Makers

ISBN: 978-080704232-8
Publication Date: 9/1/2008
Pages: 208
Size: x Inches (US)
Price:  $23.95
Format: Cloth
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