Voices of the Voters, Not the Polls
On Sept. 27 CBS Evening News dedicated five whole minutes to the “Voices of Voters.” The ratio of Trump to Clinton voters was noticeably unbalanced.
CBS correspondents went to debate-watch parties in three different cities.
In Los Angeles, all attendees were Latino and none supported Donald Trump. CBS aired three sound bites criticizing Trump for his position on immigration.
“Donald Trump again, you know, attacked the immigrants even though he didn’t really say it too bluntly as he usually does,” said one attendee of the watch party. “He still made a comment that the reason why a lot of crimes are still happening is because immigrants have guns.”
In Philadelphia, the majority of the crowd were conservative voters. CBS aired only one sound bite from a Trump supporter, while two were from a “diehard Democrat” and an undecided voter.
When pressed on her thoughts about Trump and Clinton post-debate, the undecided voter said, “Trump had no facts, and no plans. No facts, no plans. Hillary delivered, and that’s someone who would get my vote.”
In Dallas, CBS went to a World Affairs Council debate-watch party and aired a sound bite from an undecided voter who praised Clinton. They also aired sound bites from a Clinton supporter and a Trump supporter.
According to the Real Clear Politics average poll, Clinton had a slight lead over Trump going into the presidential debate. Why then, if CBS wanted viewers to hear “Voices of Voters,” did they provide seven pro-Clinton sound bites and only two pro-Trump sound bites?
Should the networks be including segments like “Voices of Voters” in their coverage?
If so, can they ensure that public opinion is not misrepresented?
Carol Marin, a political editor at NBC Chicago, said that it is important for the networks “to take the temperature of the voters,” and that “people are ultimately a lot more interesting than a series of figures.”
However, she did have a suggestion that would ensure the public is not misrepresented.
“I personally would marry some of the poll outcomes with some of what we found down on the ground,” Marin said. “Say what we found doesn’t necessarily mirror the polls, but also that our experiment wasn’t a scientific sample.”
Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik agreed with Marin.
“This is not a representative snapshot of the electorate,” he said. “In no way is this a scientific sample.”
Zurawik did not stop there.
“This is lazy, lazy reporting by CBS News,” he said. “CBS News should get off its butt and do a much better job of sampling the electorate and they should make it clear to the audience what the larger quantitative picture we have of the vote right now looks like.”
More from our panel:
- Marin: “If you have already decided you want to mirror the polls, you mind as well just give them the polls.”
- Zurawik: “I wish they had not made this simple calculus in a way. That if you’re a person of color you’re against Trump and you’re for Hillary.”
- Zurawik: “When you go inside those reports that they’re doing, is it a good thing to be doing that kind of coverage if there’s no real effort made to be representative? If you’re ultimately, possibly contributing to a distorted picture of the electorate?”