Tuesday, October 16, 2018

102 Jean Circle, Jacksonville, NC 28540

1. Heating system, now more than 20 years old, doesn't work at all.

2.  A/C system, now more than 20 years old, stopped working. Temporary replacement fan and capacitor allow the system to run but it makes a good bit of noise.

3. Outside stairwell drain has not drained properly in the five years of our tenancy. Consequently, it is easily overwhelmed during heavy rains and hurricanes. Hurricane Florence gave us just at 2 inches of standing water in the basement.

4. Mold? Yes. Visible on the outside of the walls. What about on the inside?

5. The roof is 20+ years old. Has been patched at least twice. Flashing around the chimney is shot. Heavy rains mean flooding in "man cave" unless chimney is kept covered by tarp/plastic. Nice look, though.

6. Hot water heater works, although also 20+ years old.

7. Main sewer line has a bow in it. This causes sewage to back up into the house. The first time was January 2015. Has happened 8-10 times since then. When it happens, expect to have Roto-Rooter drill in from street due to the deformity in the sewer line. That, by the way, was caused by:

8. 60-80 pine tree compromising sewer line in the front yard. Thankfully, Hurricane Florence knocked the tree down. Sadly, that tree continues to lay on the front lawn.

9.  Numerous windows have not worked properly during our tenancy. Counterweights were busted or their cords are broken. Watch your fingers at all times.

10. Soil erosion under driveway and carport revealed in a series of serious cracks and breaks in carport and driveway.

11. No basement waterproofing. As a consequent, three separate instances of rain or groundwater intrusion into the home, along the front wall, one side wall, and the back wall of the basement.

12. Kitchen circuits are under-amped and underpowered. Have some coffee, or have some toast, or use your electric skillet. But never do all three at once.

13.  Ceilings in the dining room and living room are water-stained and cracked due to rainwater exposure from roof leaks.

14.  Leaking water from all sources have completely compromised sheetrock in the downstairs bathroom, which crumbles without anyone touching it.

15. With each major flooding, including sewer and rain/groundwater, basement tiles have been undermined by water beneath.  In one room, this has also caused press-and-stick tiles to become detached. In the main room, tiles squish for weeks after such intrusions. In another basement room, the composite wood flooring is swollen due to absorbing moisture.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Words ... Weapons of War … for the Heart and the Mind

The book was simply titled. "Propaganda and the American Revolution." Published by UNC Chapel Hill Press, it was, I think, a student's doctoral dissertation on the topic, researched and written in the 1940s. My mom bought it for me from a used book bin at a library book sale. It was paperback and about 400 pages.

I read and re-read that book. It stayed with me through the end of our anti-abortion picketing days here in Jacksonville, through my law school years, through my years as Staff Counsel with @FreeSpeechAdvocates, Litigation Counsel with @ChristianAdvocatesServingEvangelism, Senior Counsel with @ACLJ, and through the eight years that I directed the Washington DC Semester Program of the Regent University School of Law.

It was not a rip-roaring spy thriller.

Rather, it was a fairly interesting, academic examination of how propaganda was used by both Loyalists and Revolutionaries in the period leading to America’s independence from Great Britain. Unless and until you dig below the surface of what is taught in public school history classes, you will miss a singular fact, namely, what a rabble America’s founding generation was. “Propaganda and the American Revolution” serves well as a scuba tank for a dive into a deeper examination of one topic, propaganda, in the context of the revolution.

Surface examinations of subjects like the conditions animating revolution are the best that can be expected in typical classroom studies. That approach may suffice for passing achievement tests, but it won’t necessarily provide an adequate basis, of either information or evaluation, to put contemporary protests in a historical framework.

For example, if you are offended by flag burning by Black Lives Matters protesters or anti-war activists, if the street marches (setting aside those that involve destroying property and visiting violence on others) that have followed America’s selection of Donald Trump as the 45th President represent a deeply anti-American endeavor, then you probably don't know about, or don’t fully comprehend, the particular pains taken to convince the great middle of colonial America to treat themselves as having suffered horrendous abuses at the hands of the Crown and the Parliament, driving them, if they would, to rise up and throw off the colonial yoke.

In the realm of the imaginative and nonviolent, colonial officials watched as colonists hung their images in effigy in town squares, from "Liberty Trees" and the like. In the world of the painful and violent, colonial officials were, on a few known occasions, painted with tar, dusted with feathers, and literally "ridden out of town on a rail."

(In case you miss the meaning of it, there were no trains in the late mid-18th century. A rail then was a single, extended, member of a rail and picket fence. In other words, being ridden out of town on a rail meant being set, legs splayed and wood rising, on a fence rail, and being carried out of town, with the rail constantly rising in that tenderest location on the human body.)

Sure, we heard about, perhaps studied, the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, the Townsend Acts, the quartering of troops in colonists’ homes, and King George’s decision to hire Hessian mercenaries to suppress revolutionary sentiment in the colonies by show of brute force. But the fact remains: colonists who lived in those times, experienced those exactions, those impositions, and those threats were apparently content to live under the rough and weighting hand of England.

And that is where the work of propagandists came in. And that is the topic of the book mentioned at the beginning of this post.

So, when you take the closer in look that someone's labors in the colonial historical collections and libraries of New England, the Atlantic seaboard, and the colonial South allows, you begin to understand how the revolution was stood up from the midst of a sleepy young people.

While comparisons to Occupy Wall Street, or Black Lives Matter, or the current round of anti-Trump protests would overstate the case, there was a role in the propaganda campaign for very public demonstrations and protests. Moreover, there are, in today’s blogging, social networking, and tweeting, historical antecedents that were part of the foment for revolution and independence.


In September 2012, I traveled to New York City on the Acela Express.

I went to the Big Apple to argue before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. My argument would defend a victory I (and the team I supervised) obtained in a federal trial court in New York. This argument would be my last as Senior Counsel with the ACLJ.

The case involved a New York City ordinance coercing Pregnancy Resource Centers to communicate a set of messages chosen for them by the Democratic Party-controlled City Council. The targeting of Pregnancy Resource Centers was a coordinated effort that came to light as select, Democratic Party controlled jurisdictions began devoting precious government resources to the investigation of proposed ordinances and the subsequent enactment of them, and the inevitable expenses of defending them in courts. Jurisdictions that participated in the effort included the Montgomery County, Maryland County Commission, the New York City Council, the Baltimore City Council, and, subsequently, the Austin, Texas, City Council and, most recently, the State of California.

The targeting began in the aftermath of an investigative series by James O’Keefe and Lila Rose in which the willingness of Planned Parenthood facilities around the Nation to ignore evidence of statutory rape of minor females became broadly exposed. That expose led to calls to defund Planned Parenthood – a call that preceded the more recent round resulting from revelations about Planned Parenthood’s ghoulery of infant body parts sales.

In any event, with Planned Parenthood under the hot lamps and Congress being pressed to act, Planned Parenthood’s guardian angels began a counter offensive against what, apparently, Planned Parenthood considers its opposite number, volunteer run, not for profit, often religiously affiliated, pregnancy resource centers. The upshot of those efforts, in New York City, was the regressive, First Amendment contrary, compulsory speech ordinance imposed there. We obtained an injunction against the enforcement of the ordinance, and sustained that victory on appeal.

But, as I said, I traveled to New York City to argue in defense of our trial court win.

When I arrived in Penn Station, I witnessed a beautiful and rising chorus of singing. It was a flash mob that had been drawn to the Station by messages on social media, texts, etc. They slowly gathered, one voice, joined by one, and then two, three, five, twelve. By the time their performance ended, I suppose there were about 30 singing.

Such flash mobs might seem a creature of the 21st century, but the American colonists knew their revolutionary antecedent:

One of the more common events in the pre-Revolutionary Period was a "funeral for liberty." "Liberty" was carried on a bier, decked with solemn and funereal colors. The crowds mourned as dead dear Liberty passed. The procession would end in the town square or other central location. At the last second, before the pretended interment of expired Liberty, she would rise from the bier, revived, reinvigorated, and rousing the crowd against depredations by Crown and Parliament.
In addition to funerals for Liberty, more than a few protests involved the display of colonial governors or other representatives of the Crown being hung in effigy.


You are, perhaps to your great pain, reading a post on my blog.

As you do, literally billions of additional words are being poured onto the World Wide Web as blog posts. The topics are nearly innumerable, from whether Kirk or Piccard was the better captain, to whether cats or dogs are the better pet, to whether Bush or Obama were the cause of the rise of ISIS and the decline of the American economy.

These postings, and the sites and services that make them available to us, I call the “internet of words.”

(I would have claimed credit here for that phrase. Unfortunately for me, before I claim a neologism or a neophraseologism, I usually perform a Bing search. In this case, I learned that a book review in the Chronicle of Higher Education, back in 2014, bore the title, “The Internet of Words.” Here, however, I will kidnap the phrase and put it to work for me to identify a subset of internet communications: those that communicate the intended meanings of the creator through writing, rather than images (accompanying images permitted but not as a substitute in the communication of essential ideas)).

Of course, the principal means of communication – aside from the spoken word – at the time of the revolution in America was the printed word. Pamphlets, like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense are well known down to this day, and even studied in civics classes. Another widely spread and effective tool of communication, to which I've at least alluded here before, was the kind of printed publication called a “broadside.” These were printed single sided and were as large as posters popular in the bedrooms of teenagers today.

Broadsides proved effective tools for stirring the slightest embers of discontent into the raging flame of revolution. Such broadsides were numerous. Broadsides included news stories, calls to arms, and warnings of doom. The Continental Congress that issued the Declaration of Independence had it printed in broadside format to distribute widely in the colonies.


Vine is gone. Snapchat is a young American’s medium. YouTube, however, cuts across generations. Sure, it carries videos from the latest contemporary musical artists and trailers for coming attractions. But YouTube also carries wonderful products, shorter and longer, of thought and imagination, as well as lessons in history and economics, mathematics, science, and technology. It is on YouTube that we hear the many voices of Anonymous, wearing the mysterious mask from the movie, V for Vendetta. We also hear careful and thorough messages illuminating broadly scattered subject matter.

Muhlenberg's decloaking in the pulpit
In the revolutionary era, the closest things to YouTube were pulpit addresses by ministers and public addresses by speakers. One chapter of “Propaganda and The American Revolution” explored the role of the black-robed brigade. These were pastors and preachers, pounding pulpits, for revolution or for fidelity to the crown.  Probably the most emblematic and readily recognized pulpit revolutionary was the German Lutheran, Peter Muhlenberg.

Whether the Muhlenberg story is apocryphal or true, it is said that Reverend Muhlenberg, after preaching a solemn sermon on the cause of the Revolution, stripped off his clerical garb, revealing a colonial uniform. What is known to be true is that he preached the sermon, delivered men and arms to the cause of revolution, and acquitted himself well in the War for Independence.

But Muhlenberg’s preaching for separation from the Crown was not singular even if it has become iconic. In fact, “Political Sermons of the Founding Era,” evidences the role of the black-robed brigade in fomenting support or opposition to revolution through expository preaching. Edited by Ellis Sandoz, “Political Sermons” gathers hundreds of such sermons, as well as so-called “Election Day” sermons, which were messages delivered prior to the taking of the vote on Election Day. From those sermons, and from the many of them subsequently published as pamphlets that survive in colonial and historical libraries, we can see the profound role of the pulpit in the revolutionary era.


“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The saying is a truism and a truth.

A significant portion of the American electorate did not get its way in the 2016 presidential election, just as many of us did not get our way in 2012, 2008, 1996, 1992, and 1976. The resort of the disaffected to public protests, and obloquy directed at the victor is entirely American. Violence as a form of protest, however, is neither peculiar to America, nor tolerable nor lawful.

Our colonial experience with despotism still needed a febrile brew to bring us to revolution. Many today, and on all sides, sense the need for revolutionary changes. For some, the revolution leads to localism and downscaled government. For others, the nanny plantation will not be large enough until everyone is on it and everyone agrees with it. I hope that as we face the protests – not lawful, nonviolent ones – we will remember that, however silly or unwarranted we might think their cause, they are exercising a right that we are bound to maintain and respect, if we want it respected in our turn.

Friday, November 4, 2016

A Dinner Invitation That Lifted the Skirts of Main Stream News Reporting

I do not know whether enough hay has yet been made of certain email exchanges that have come to light as Wikileaks conducts a successful campaign of turning some parts of the Obama Administration into the most transparent (involuntarily) one in history. Amongst the trove of treasure found in the John Podesta Wikileaks database is a series of emails showing an unwholesome, and, frankly, deliberately hidden political, incestuous relationship between journalists and the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign and its staff.

I welcome the work of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The effort of the man and the site to bring openness to government – to maximize the power of individuals to understand and to act – can only benefit our Republic. And now, as part of that effort, we should take a closer look at Wikileaks’ unmasking of news media as partisan hacks for their preferred causes.

It is time that folks stopped thinking that Lester Holt or Chris Wallace or Chris Cuomo or Katie Couric or Norah O'Donnell, or any other one of the crew are neutral presenters of the news. Ditto for the writers who publish the "hard" news of the day in papers like the NY Times and the Washington Post, or the Jacksonville Daily News right here in my town.

It was ALWAYS a farce that was sustained by a "willing suspension of disbelief" that news in print and news on television was unbiased. The choice of the story to tell, the choice of when to tell the story, the choice of verb and adverb, noun and adjective, these are not the products of some soulless Artificial Intelligence.

What goes on paper, or onto the teleprompter to be read to us, is not, "just what came out" when a sanitarily attired lab worker fed the bias-free ingredients of who, what, where, when, why, and how. It never has been. And we are all better off for the Wikileaks  insights that the John Podesta emails have given us into the intimate relations between major elements of the LAP DANCE MEDIA and the Clinton campaign.

In my junior high school, high school, and college history classes we learned bits and scraps about things like America and its wars. We learned “Remember the Maine” as the successor war cry to Texas battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” The Maine, a US warship, exploded and was lost in Havana harbor, Cuba, in 1898. A Naval Board of Inquiry determined that the cause of its explosion and loss was likely a submarine mine. The Board of Inquiry was unable to determine the party responsible for the attack.
Frederic Remington's Illustration of a Claimed Strip Search
of an American Woman Aboard a Steamship
The Shameful Behavior of Newspaper Magnates: It Seems As Likely As Not
That Competition Between Pulitzer and Hearst Was the Fount That Birthed
The Spanish American War

Today we have to ask ourselves, however, would we tolerate naked aggression such as we did in the 1898 Spanish American War, on the flimsiest threads of profitable propaganda. Unfortunately, the answer is likely “yes” as our 2003 excursion into Iraq suggests. One contributor to the comfortable collapse of American opinion against what would otherwise be seen as naked acts of colonial aggression is the constant refrain of interest journalism disguised as, or at least confused for, objective reporting.

The language of formal dinner invitations often goes like this: “The favor of your attendance at dinner is requested.” And, among the hundreds of political reporters, news producers, and opinion leaders, why are you accepting the special treatment of an early access ticket to the front seat of a campaign’s “brain trust”? 
Compromise integrity? Well, let’s see what your writing and reporting looks like? No doubt that your credibility has been raped by this revelation, though, since you consented, is it really reputational rape?

Those emails include: “heads up” emails from Donna Brazile (a CNN contributor), advancing to the Clinton campaign questions that would be asked in Town Hall and debate events during the Democratic Primaries; an endless trail of emails back and forth from Brent Budowsky, who writes for The Hill, the Huffington Post, the LA Progressive, among other outlets, offering helpful hints on how Hillary should handle Bernie Sanders so as not to alienate his supporters in the coming general election; and, the “off the record” dinners for selected, sympathetic news reporters and producers at the homes of John Podesta in Washington, and Joel Berenson in Manhattan.

People who get involved in journalism are opinionated folks. And they have the right to be opinionated.

Of course, there are schools of journalism and courses in journalistic ethics. The School of Journalism at Columbia University is probably the most well-regarded (and is also the knock down winner of the best books on bad headlines ever, "Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim"). In fact, a code of ethics exists for journalists, which you can find here.

In the imagined world in which the great newspapers, and small, of America serve, essentially, as an exterior, fourth, branch of American governance, this independence is essential to honesty in government and news coverage of it. A couple of examples show why this independence is essential, one out of the relatively recent history of the Bush Administration, one out of the longer history of the American press.

If No Child Left Behind Was Such A Great Idea, Why Did the Government Hire A Cheerleader in the Press?

Early in the administration of George W. Bush, the would-be centerpiece of the President's domestic agenda was "No Child Left Behind." To gin up support for the legislation, the Department of Education spent $ 1,000,000.00, that many, when they learned of the expenditures, called propaganda spending. In just one instance, the Dep't of Education paid a noted African American news commentator, Armstrong Williams, nearly $250,000 to promote the NCLB Act in his television program, and to encourage other African American opinion leaders to do likewise.

Now, suppose everything about No Child Left Behind was objectively sound, sensible policy. Why would the government want or need to spend money buying a talking head to promote its agenda? More importantly, why would the Department of Education and the talking head keep that pay for play hush hush? One reason might be the distrust of bureaucrats by Congress. It is clear that, when Congress authorized the Smith Mundt Act, under which programs like Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America began broadcasting American-sourced news and information programming to the Communist Bloc, Congress specifically prohibited internal dissemination of such programming in the United States. While the terms of the anti-propaganda law have been updated, the basics for distrust continue, and, frankly, seem healthy to this observer. When all the organs of government line up to set the tone and policy of government, skepticism serves like a natural tonic to less thoughtful resolutions.

In any event, with NCLB, Armstrong Williams claimed to support strongly the goals and methods of the law. In fact, had Williams had strong feelings about the program GWBush was pushing, it just seems that his feelings would be more validated by his voluntary use of his time and resources to promote the program, rather than needing a big bucks infusion to do so. Perhaps the concern was that, if we knew Williams’ advocacy came at the tip of a check for $241,000, it might have colored our perceptions of his arguments?

The Spanish American War, The Bastard Child of Yellow Journalism’s Bedding with Uncle Sam

The lack of evidence of a responsible party did not stop American newspaper owners from beating the war drums. An oft repeated anecdote illustrates the drum beat and its suspect justification. William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher, hired Frederic Remington, the artist, to travel to Cuba, there to provide illustrations to cover Hearst’s newspapers’ stories from Cuba. Remington sought to be relieved of the task because Cuba was not the hotbed of protest, revolution, or repression that it was portrayed by Hearst in his publications. 

He wrote, “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return.” Hearst’s telling and terse response speaks to the intentions of the newspaperman, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.”

Ultimately, with the Sinking of the Maine, Hearst got the impetus he required, and the entry of the United States into a state of war with Spain boosted Hearst’s newspaper circulation (and wealth) accordingly. Now, what was undeniable then and now is that Hearst’s yearning for a good war to cover with words and illustrations matched well with a long-expressed desire of the USA to have Cuba (and other Spanish territories, including the Philippines). 

In fact, the US government had been rebuffed in an offer of $100 million to the Spanish government for the island of Cuba. But, the Spanish American War not only boosted the circulation of war-mongering papers, it also landed Cuba in America’s “protective custody” and Puerto Rico and two Pacific Ocean possessions, Guam and the Philippines, in America’s colonial collection. Tidy bit that, an American print media conglomerate lining its pockets with sales while endorsing and, provoking, America’s military expansionism.

But let's go back to those ethical precepts for journalists. In particular, I have in mind two adjacent sections addressing journalistic independence and transparency.

Here are those provisions, in full:

Act Independently
The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.

Journalists should:

– Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
– Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
– Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
– Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
– Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.

Be Accountable and Transparent

            Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.

            Journalists should:

– Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
– Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
– Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
– Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
– Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.

What would be the outcome of an introspective examination of these points of journalistic ethics by the news reporters that accepted the dinner invitation to an “off the record” dinner with the top staff of an election campaign? What should it have been?
Well, let’s start with conflicts of interest.

When one develops a close and personal relationship with a subject of one’s journalistic coverage, there is the real risk that a preference may be given for the version of “where, when, who, what, why, and how” that spares your friend pain and embarrassment. Now your friendship or relationship threatens candor in your reporting.

Then there’s the straightforward, “Refuse … favors … and special treatment, and avoid … activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.

How about this precept? “Deny favored treatment to … any other special interests, and resist … external pressure to influence coverage.” You gave the Clinton campaign the undisclosed favor or your time and agreed to an off the record gathering of decidedly progressive left-leaning news gatherers and reporters. Did you resist the external pressure that such access must have applied to you? Did your reporting of primary and general election news suffer tilting as a result?

Given what seems to be an unseemly gaming of the news reporting industry by the Hillary for America campaign, did you take the time to let your readers know that your thirty pieces of silver was an evening dinner of early access to the top guns of the Clinton campaign? Was there disclosure of the relationship?

That leads, of course, to responsibility and transparency.

Now that we all have learned of your dinner date with Hillary for America, that it was an off-the-record affair, and that the coterie was a hard-left progressive slant seemingly designed to position natural allies of a Hillary Candidacy as early foot soldiers for her run, it is time and past it to own what you did.

Have you admitted the truth of the events?

Have you acknowledged how the events could cause uncertainty, confusion, and distrust in those who read your news reporting?

Have you acknowledged that you went too far? That your close alignment with the Clinton campaign was a mistake in judgment, leading to a betrayal of the trust of your readers?

These questions are all provoked by the confluence of the Code of Journalistic Ethics and the real-world activities of politicians and journalists. Unlike some, I have no sense of betrayal directed to the Lester Holts or Candy Crawleys, the Katie Courics or the Brian Williamses. All along, what they have done is what folks have the absolute right to do … exercise their liberty of association, even association with the failed programs and premises of Progressivism, and exercise their freedom of speech and press, even when engaged in a dark demagoguery designed to crown their preferred candidate.

If you have felt betrayed by the newsreaders and LAP DANCE MEDIA, I am sorry that you misunderstood reality. It is time for every one of us to take responsibility for what we know, and how we know it, from whom we hear and what we hear. The informed electorate is one that searches and sees what things are, or are not, true.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The ABC/Washington Post Poll of People Not Likely to Vote

Noto Bene: The duty of candor requires that I mention that the October 23, 2016, poll included 874 LIKELY voters. But it also included 517 NOT LIKELY TO VOTE participants.

Here's another example of using oversampling to steer the outcome of a poll.
ABC News Washington Post Tracking Poll today is being reported to show that Clinton has opened a 12 point lead over Trump. Fascinating stuff. Odd, too, considering that less than two weeks ago, a similar poll reported by ABC/WaPo showed Clinton leading by 6 points.
Let's call today's poll the "new poll" and the other poll the "old poll."
The old poll was conducted by interviewing fewer than 800 "LIKELY VOTERS."
The new poll was conducted by interviewing just over 1300 subjects, of whom 874 were LIKELY VOTERS.
The results of the new poll, however, are not the results of just those 874 likely voters. That poll interviewed 1391 people. Nearly 500 people were interviewed and their responses included in the results of the poll despite the fact that they were NOT LIKELY TO VOTE.
Say What?
The total result of the poll included 874 folks that are likely to vote and FIVE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN respondents who ARE NOT LIKELY TO VOTE.
Think about the meaning of that phrase and how it connects to the matter with which we tend to ASSUME news organizational polling is concerned. Maybe that is the place to start.
Why do you look at news reports of polling?
Is it a search for confirmation? Sort of an internal dialog, "See, the majority of folks agree with me" kind of thing?
Is it an effort to see into the future? Sort of a "Well, let's see how this is going to turn out? kind of thing?
I think these are two of the most common responses to expect when you get honest responses from folks as to why they are interested in such polls.
But suppose what you are looking for in polling is not what campaigns and/or news agencies are seeking?
You realize that "push polling" exists. Those polls that, rather than gauging the temper of the people seek to put fire under them or dump cold water on them.
Let's not jump to any conclusions yet. But, suppose a polling agency and its partners wanted to steer the outcome of a poll. If they did, which approach do you think might be more effective. I'll give you two choices.
Choice A.
After confirming that the interview subject fits poll requirements (likely voter or not; party affiliation or not; racial and cultural demographic or not), ask one question:
"In a two way race between Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, for whom would you vote?"
Choice B.
Again, after confirming that the interview subject fits poll requirements (likely voter or not; party affiliation or not; racial and cultural demographic or not), ask three questions:
"First, Donald Trump says the election may be rigged through election fraud. Do you think he is expressing a legitimate concern or that he is making excuses for a possible unfavorable outcome?"
"Second, Donald Trump refuses to say if he will accept the outcome of the election. Do you approve or disapprove of his remark?"
"Third, In a two way race between Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, for whom would you vote?"
Now, you make your own judgment. But for me, asking a couple of good ground penetrating bomb blast questions might just be the kind of thing that deforms outcomes that might otherwise be gotten by simply asking for whom the likely voter is likely to vote.
But Choice A above is not what Langer Associates did in its polling for ABC News and the Washington Post. Instead, it took Choice B, peppering participants with those questions.
The ABC/WaPo poll also engaged in modeling. This approach looks at some past election, determines participation percentages by party and then skews its sampling according to those numbers.
Here, the Langer agency skewed its sample. Here's how they described their skew: "Partisan divisions are 36-27-31 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents." In other words, the agency set itself a quota task: 36% of those interviewed must be Democrats, 27% must be Republicans, 31% must be Independents. These kinds of partisan divisions are included in most polls. The exact percentages change. For example, why 36-27-31 when the Pew Center says that, currently, the breakdown in partisanship is 33-29-34?
You can see, I'm sure, then, that the specific, formulaic breakdown used in selecting polling participants can skew the numbers, and it becomes important, if polls are something you have to deal with or choose to deal with, to KNOW what the pollster is using for partisan division, and to know WHY they are using any particular spread.
I'm going to wrap here by returning to that 517 number.
Remember, this poll was one conducted by interviewing 517 people, according to the polling methodology, who were not likely to vote and 874 who were likely to vote. I've read the poll. I've read the research methodology. No other information appears on the polling agency's page to explain who those 517 folks were (I mean demographically, rather than personal identity) or WHY their responses are a part of the survey.
The questions not answered in the survey or its methodology include whether, and to what extent, the inclusion of those NOT LIKELY TO VOTE in the survey, skewed the outcome. But given the substantial shift from ABC/WaPo's survey of two weeks ago, which was of LIKELY VOTERS ONLY, it seems reasonable to ask about that group, and in the absence of a forthright explanation, it seems reasonable to conclude that was the purpose of the group’s inclusion in the poll.