Bernie Won All the Focus Groups & Online Polls, So Why Is the Media Saying Hillary Won the Debate?
By Adam Johnson/Alternet.org/October 14, 2015
Who “won” a debate is inherently subjective. The idea of winning a debate necessarily entails a goal to be achieved. What this goal is, therefore, says as much about the person judging its achievement as the goal itself. Pundits are ostensibly supposed to judge whether or not a candidate said what “the voters” want to hear. But what ends up happening, invariably, is they end up judging whether or not the candidate said what they think voters wanted to hear. This, after all, is why pundits exist, to act as a clergy class charged with interpreting people’s own inscrutable opinions for them. The chasm between what the pundits saw and what the public saw was quite big last night.
Bernie Sanders by all objective measures “won” the debate. Hands down. I don’t say this as a personal analysis of the debate; the very idea of winning a debate is silly to me. I say this because based on the only relatively objective metric we have, online polls and focus groups, he did win. And it’s not even close.
Sanders won the CNN focus group,  the Fusion focus group , and the Fox News focus group ; in the latter, he even converted several Hillary supporters. He won the Slate online poll , CNN/Time online poll , 9News Colorado , The Street online poll , Fox5 poll,  the conservative Drudge online poll  and the liberal Daily Kos online poll . There wasn’t, to this writer’s knowledge, a poll he didn’t win by at least an 18-point margin. But you wouldn’t know this from reading the “establishment” press. The New York Times , the New Yorker , CNN , Politico , Slate , New York Magazine , and Vox  all unanimously say Hillary Clinton cleaned house. What gives?
Firstly, it’s important to point out that online polls, and to a lesser extent focus groups, are obviously not scientific. But it’s also important to point out that the echo chamber musings of establishment liberal pundits is far, far less scientific. It wasn’t that the online polls and focus groups had Sanders winning, it’s that they had him winning by a lot. And it wasn’t just that the pundit class has Clinton winning, it’s that they had her winning by a lot. This gap speaks to a larger gap we’ve seen since the beginning of the Sanders campaign. The mainstream media writes off Bernie and is constantly shocked  when his polls numbers go up. What explains this phenomenon? Freddie DeBoer had this to say :
This morning, I’ve been pointing out on Twitter that the unanimity of pro-Hillary Clinton journalism coming from the mouthpieces of establishment Democratic politics — Slate, Vox, New York Magazine, etc. — is entirely predictable and has no meaningful relationship to her actual performance at the debate last night. That’s because, one, the Democrats are a centrist party that is interested in maintaining the stranglehold of the DNC establishment on their presidential politics, and these publications toe that line. And second, because Clinton has long been assumed to be the heavy favorite to win the presidency, these publications are in a heated battle to produce the most sympathetic coverage, in order to gain access. That is a tried-and-true method of career advancement in political journalism. Ezra Klein was a well-regarded blogger and journalist. He became the most influential journalist in DC (and someone, I can tell you with great confidence, that young political journalists are terrified of crossing) through his rabid defense of Obamacare, and subsequent access to the President. That people would try and play the same role with Clinton is as natural and unsurprising as I can imagine.
Many establishment journalists were in a hurry to declare Clinton not just the winner of the debate, but of the election. One fairly creepy exchange between Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker and Alec MacGillis summed it up nicely:
“Pretend” there’s a race? Isn’t that sort of the whole point of democracy? To have as much debate and vetting as possible before nominating a potential leader of the free world? Matt Yglesias at Vox also dismissed this entire primary process out of hand:
It’s unclear what the rush is. The first primary is months away, yet they’re ready to call it based entirely on an ad hoc analysis of one debate. This tweet by Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe perfectly sums up mainstream media’s cluelessness:
A “protest candidate”? If Cohen hasn’t noticed, the electorate is full of piss and vinegar and rancor , which is precisely why an otherwise obscure, self-described Socialist has risen in the polls the way he has.
But the question still remains: why the rush to write off Sanders? Why the constant gap between how the public perceives Sanders and how the mainstream media does? Why, most of all, would anyone listen to the very same pundit class that was wrong in ’08 and continues to be wrong in 2015.
Pingback: 10.14.2015 Daily Links | Daily Links & News
Online polls and focus groups are unscientific, and pundits’ opinions are just opinions. What matters at this point are the polls of prospective voters, and only if these polls go up for Sanders we can tell he won the debate.
Okay, Arlen, I’ll bite.Your slam against my perceptions that Hillary has got all kinds of targets painted on her by very very bad people is totally unwarranted.I’ll pick apart Johnson’s crappola for you.Hopefully you weren’t just projecting your own fears of criticism when you accused me of having a thin skin over Hillary.
“The chasm between what the pundits saw and what the public saw was quite big last night. the only relatively objective metric we have, online polls and focus groups, he did win. And it’s not even close.” Who died and made him a better God than the pundits he rightfully slammed in his first paragraph. I don’t know of anybody who would purport that the online polls are even one one thousandth of one percent as accurate as the other polls he referred to in the first paragraph. I don’t care. You cannot find any evidence to support the truth behind any polls. Polls are only polls no matter who takes them and no matter who cites them.
That is such a —– J_O_K_E!!! that he wants to cite FOX network as a meaningful poll when their goal has always been to tear down Hillary in all the ways that they possibly can because they truly fear her. They don’t fear Bernie. You would have to be brain dead to not ask yourself why Bernie is no threat to them. Would you &/or Adam Johnson want us to believe that the current slate of Republicans and Neo-Cons, who have nothing but vitriol for all moderate Democrats should decide that they could live with a left wing Democrat if he actually ascended into power??? PLEASE don’t insult me with a yes on that question.
“it’s important to point out that online polls, and to a lesser extent focus groups, are obviously not scientific. But it’s also important to point out that the echo chamber musings of establishment liberal pundits is far, far less scientific” Johnson leads us with a truism and then follows it with a bald faced lie as if it was just so easy to make word salad.
“This morning, I’ve been pointing out on Twitter that the unanimity of pro-Hillary Clinton journalism coming from the mouthpieces of establishment Democratic politics — Slate, Vox, New York Magazine, etc. — is entirely predictable and has no meaningful relationship to her actual performance” Again, Nothing that Johnson says is anymore than name calling and lies. I have not seen any pro-Hillary journalism, much less any cohesion among any other than the so called moderate journalists who should be talking at least favorably about Hillary doing nothing but demanding that she offer her head up to the Bengassi committees and that she CONFESSSsSSSSS to all kinds of sins that she has never done just to satisfy their need for confession. This was the same with Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinski era. Nobody cares that his affair was one of many millions of affairs that political leaders have had. They just got obsessed on their need for CONFESSION! Fuck them! and Fuck you if you can’t see the truth of that!!!
“(and someone, I can tell you with great confidence, that young political journalists are terrified of crossing) through his rabid defense of Obamacare, and subsequent access to the President. That people would try and play the same role with Clinton is as natural and unsurprising as I can imagine.”
Johnson obviously wants to hysterically equate Hillary with Obama here through equating Ezra with anybody who stands in the way of Johnson’s attempt at character assassination of Hillary through the abortion we know as Obamacare.
“Why, most of all, would anyone listen to the very same pundit class that was wrong in ’08 and continues to be wrong in 2015.”
Johnson may not really HATE Hillary as much as he really really really wants to rub her nose in her defeat at the hands of the Great Betrayer (Obama) and Johnson obviously wants Bernie to be the exact same champion for the Left Wing that they and you believed and followed Obama for. I don’t believe for one minute that Bernie would betray us like Obama. But I don’t believe that Hillary measures to the right of Obama like all the Obamites still want to believe in order to shed the shame that they rightfully deserve for having picked the GREAT BETRAYER over someone who most likely would have worked to try to make things better for all of us like Bernie claims he wants to but will never have the support of other politicians to accomplish.
Yes, Arlen. There were many character assassinations that Adam Johnson did in his article. You just have to recognize that he did them in the most sleazy back handed passive aggressive way that is possible to do. by always referring using his criticisms of her as givens in a proof of some other agenda that he claimed to have regarding other pundits and pollsters.The guy is a low down prevaricating, disengenuous bastard who is just trying for a tiny bit of self aggrandizement to be garnered off the supporters of Bernie. Bernie deserves all the support he can get.Don’t mistake me here. Please Please! Don’t be that simplistic like Adam Johnson!
Don’t be so hesitant, Ray. Tell us how you really feel.
Good question and one I’ve been asking myself. It’s good to know I wasn’t the only one a bit confused by the pundits’ rankings.