Friday, October 12, 2007

Open Letter to CNBC about Taking Down Post-Debate Poll Won by Ron Paul

To: Allen Wastler
Managing Editor,

From: Paul Levinson, PhD
Professor & Chair, Department of Communication and Media Studies
Fordham University, NYC

re: your An Open Letter to the Ron Paul Faithful of October 11, in which you explain why you took down your poll, conducted after the Michigan Republican Presidential debate, and featured on your web site

1. You invite comments and response to your Open Letter, and provide an e-mail address. Since your action is, in my view, a matter of great public concern, I am not only e-mailing this response to you, but publishing it in my blog.

2. I am not one of the "Ron Paul Faithful". Although I greatly admire many of his positions, especially his support of our Constitution, I have not yet endorsed any candidate, and am indeed on record as urging Americans to support the best candidate in each of our two main parties, so as to give us the best choice in the general election. You are welcome to see my How About We Look for the Best Candidate in =Both= Parties for details.

2a. I am writing to you, therefore, as a professor, scholar, and observer of media and politics, with a keen interest in seeing the press serve our democracy as Thomas Jefferson and our Founding Fathers intended - that is, by providing us with the truth wherever possible.

3. Let me now address the issues you raise in your Open Letter:

You write that "these Internet polls are admittedly unscientific and subject to hacking".

True, but the "scientific" polls - the ones that rely on random sampling - are subject to error, as well. See, for example, the famous poll that predicted that FDR would lose the 1936 Presidential election.

Also, while the Internet may indeed be subject to hacking, do you have any proof that hacking took place in this case? You further say that your "poll was either hacked or the target of a campaign". Again, your proof?

You further say that "[t]he next day, our email basked was flooded with Ron Paul support messages. And the computer logs showed the poll had been hit with traffic from Ron Paul chat sites. I learned other Internet polls that night had been hit in similar fashion."

None of the above actions are "hacking". You owe Ron Paul's supporters and the American people an apology.

Indeed, the fact that the polls reflected votes "from Ron Paul chat sites" does not even support your conclusion that your poll was "the target of a campaign" - conceivably some of the votes that came from the sites could have come from people who had come to the sites, impressed by what they saw of Ron Paul in the debate, and then went on to cast their votes in your poll. Does that sound to you like "a campaign"?

You further say that Ron Paul's supporters, presumably including anyone who voted for Ron Paul in your poll, "also ruined the purpose of the poll. It was no longer an honest 'show of hands' -- it suddenly was a platform for beating the Ron Paul drum."

What do you suppose influences public opinion in any election campaign? What is your definition of an "honest show of hands"? Is a potential voter who expresses support for a candidate, because that potential voter already liked that candidate prior to a given debate, somehow not "honest"? If what you wanted to measure in your poll was how previously undecided people felt about the performance of candidates in the debate, why did you not say so in your poll, and devise some way of measuring this? (For example, trying to identify a sample of undecided voters beforehand, and then asking them for their preferences after the debate?)

Instead, you conclude your Open Letter with the following: "When a well-organized and committed 'few' can throw the results of a system meant to reflect the sentiments of 'the many,' I get a little worried. I'd take it down again."

Again, you offer no evidence whatsoever that anything in the poll was "thrown," and you similarly offer no evidence about how "few" of the "many" were composed of Ron Paul supporters.

Indeed, you offer no evidence of anything, really - just supposition and innuendo - and that gets me more than a little worried, about your competence and capacity to be Managing Editor of's website.

If something needs to be "taken down," it may well be your position as Managing Editor. I call upon you to either apologize to the American people, or step down.
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