Internet Goes to War as Daily Kos Renounces Its Long-Time Polling Firm

When polls go bad

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For a year and a half, liberal website Daily Kos commissioned Research 2000 to conduct political polling that was well respected and used by everyone from political operatives to mainstream media outlets to The Atlantic Wire. Daily Kos chief Markos Moutlitsas recently announced he was dropping Research 2000, sometimes called R2K, in search of a new polling firm. Now he's explained why.

He wrote on Tuesday, "I have just published a report by three statistics wizards showing, quite convincingly, that the weekly Research 2000 State of the Nation poll we ran the past year and a half was likely bunk." Moulitsas promised a lawsuit, adding, "We were defrauded by Research 2000, and while we don't know if some or all of the data was fabricated or manipulated beyond recognition, we know we can't trust it." What does this mean for Daily Kos, the statistics world, and the polling that drives so much of politics?

  • A 'Bombshell' for Political World  Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall writes, "To say that this is a bombshell in the polling and politics geek world is no overstatement. And remember, R2K didn't start out as Kos's pollster. They've been around for some time and had developed a pretty solid reputation." Yahoo News' John Cook adds, "Research2000's polls are widely cited; the prospect that they might be 'bunk,' as Moulitsas calls them, means that a significant amount of bad data could have been entering the political pipeline."
  • The Evidence of R2K Fraud  The Atlantic's Megan McArdle explains, "To summarize crudely, there doesn't seem to be any random statistical noise in the data; there are no outliers, and there's an extremely odd tendency for the male and female crosstabs to both end in either an odd, or an even number; since these numbers vary pretty randomly, there's no reason that they should consistently be both odd or both even." Pollster's Mark Blumenthal adds, "the most damning information for the layperson about Research 2000 provided in today's announcement -- and is certainly most troubling to me -- is their apparent reluctance to share raw data with their own client." Nate Silver explains his own long-held objections to R2K.
  • This Blog War Won't End Soon  CBS News' Charles Cooper writes, "For the record, Research 2000's president denied Moulitsas' allegations. Until the facts get sorted out, we're left with a he-said, she-said scenario. ... But with the story already taking on a life of its own, this much is clear: the Kos folks are going to eat a fair amount of public crow for an indeterminate period."
  • R2K Owner Has Shady Financial Record  Yahoo News' John Cook reports, "Del Ali, the firms's president, has been sued numerous times in his home state of Maryland for nonpayment of debt and has been hit with several tax liens, according to court records." Cook details the debts and charges.
  • R2K Threatens Lawsuits Against Critical Blogs  FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver writes that he received a cease and desist letter, which also threatens a lawsuit, alleging "a campaign to discredit and damage R2K by posting negative comments regarding Mr. Ali, the Company, and its work products on the Daily Kos blog."
  • Will This Scuttle Kos's Forthcoming Book?  National Review's Jonah Goldberg notes, "A friend points out that Research 2000 was behind the 'Republicans are crazy wingnuts' poll of not too long ago. Here's Markos writing about it." Goldberg quotes a February post where Moulitsas links the thesis of his soon-to-be-released book to some high-profile R2K polling.
  • Controversial R2K Poll on GOP Still Looks Reliable  The Washington Post's Garance Franke-Ruta writes, "One of the most provocative findings of the firm was that a substantial portion of Republicans did not believe President Obama was born in the United States. A July 2009 poll for Daily Kos found that 28 percent of Republicans were 'birthers,' as those who question Obama's birth place are frequently called. Washington Post polling in April 2010 found similar results, with 31 percent of Republicans saying Obama was born in another country." Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen concurs:
I'm seeing a lot of conservatives, referring to the emerging possibility that Research 2000's polls for Daily Kos were fradulent, say that means all of the findings from the infamous poll about crazy things Republicans think are bogus. While I'd agree that Research 2000's poll may have been bogus, I would not agree it means Republicans don't think those things. We have polled on many of the same issue over the last year and in some cases found even more Republicans buying into some of those conspiracy theories.
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