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Zogby Again Polls on Misleading Question, This Time with Racial Tinge

As reported by FAIR, a new poll issued by Zogby Interactive on behalf of the conservative website The O’Leary Report poses the following question:

Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd wants the FCC to force good white people in positions of power in the broadcast industry to step down to make room for more African-Americans and gays to fill those positions. Do you agree or disagree that this presents a threat to free speech?

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The question, obviously, is somewhat self-evidently incendiary, although it doesn’t come completely out of the blue. Rather, the question refers to a set of remarks made in 2005 by Lloyd, the FEC’s Chief Diversity Officer:

“There’s nothing more difficult than this because we have really truly, good, white people in important positions, and the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions,” he said.

“And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. But we’re in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power.”

I’m not going to do anyone a favor by linking to their write-up of Lloyd’s remarks, since none of the publications that refer to them make an honest effort to provide the full context, such as the question to which Lloyd was responding. But obviously, even based on these clipped remarks, there is a large gap between Lloyd’s somewhat amorphous response and Zogby’s uncritical and unattributed statement of fact that “Lloyd wants the FCC to force good white people in positions of power in the broadcast industry to step down to make room for more African-Americans and gays to fill those positions.”

In November, Zogby polled on a series of misleading statements about Barack Obama and Joe Biden on behalf of conservative media personality John Ziegler. In the face of criticism at FiveThirtyEight and other websites, Zogby issued a partial apology, implying that their quality control process had broken down, and declined to do further polling for the client.

It seems clear, however, in light of this new poll, that Zogby has made a decision to become the bottom-feeders of the polling marketplace, a one-stop-shop for wingnuts of all stripes, who will make no particular distinction between fact and innuendo in the questions they poll. To be clear about the issue at hand, there is a distinction between a merely leading question — merely couching a statement of fact in favorable terminology — and a misleading one — reporting a highly questionable statement as fact to the respondent. To imply from Lloyd’s statements that the FCC is considering pursing a policy of forced resignation for white broadcast personalities seems pretty far over the line. That the question as posed is highly racially charged is somewhat tangential to the ethical issue at hand, although it arguably raises the stakes and may certainly further indict John Zogby’s judgement.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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