The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

MSM specialty: Spinning the polls until they get the results they want

They just can't help themselves. And that's why their influence shrivels more and more each passing year.

The mainstream media---in this case the hapless Winnipeg Free Press and the CBC ---are so anxious to see Sam Katz defeated as mayor, and their own bias on taxes adopted as policy, that they're madly spinning the latest poll results to create a version of the truth that satisfies their fantasies.

That in itself is bizarre since the poll, conducted on their behalf by Leger Marketing, is already so slanted it wouldn't pass a first year statistics class.

The poll finds that Sam Katz is the voters' preferred candidate to be mayor by 6 percentage points, 38 to 32 for his chief opponent Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

And yet the Winnipeg Free Press reported the results this way:

"Mayor Sam Katz has a six-point lead on Judy Wasylycia-Leis as Winnipeg's mayoral race enters the home stretch, but a more committed core of support for the challenger suggests election night may be a nail-biter."

CBC had its own spin:

"Winnipeg's two leading mayoral candidates are heading for a photo finish in the Oct. 27 election race."

Neither mainstream news outlet mentioned that a previous poll, by Probe Research three weeks ago, found JustJudy (as she wants to be called) had 50 percent of the professed vote. In short, she's lost more than a third of her support in 3 weeks of campaigning.

Nor did they include the fact that her support now (32 percent) is lower than the combined support for Katz's two main opponents in the 2006 election (35.7 percent).

The FP and CBC are quick to say JustJudy's supporters are more committed than Katz's, and so are more likely to actually go to the polling station and cast their ballots in the event of a hurricane or blizzard that might deter others.

They ignore the corollary of that argument -- -that the six percent of polled voters who refused to give their preference for mayor are more likely to support Sam Katz, because if they were the committed Wasylycia-Leis supporters they would proudly declare so instead of being cagey.

And that would boost Katz's support to 44 percent, or just about unchanged from the Probe Research poll.

At the time, the Free Press was using JustJudy's support at 50 percent in the Probe poll as proof that the electorate embraced her promise to raise property taxes every year of her term.

Probe president Scott MacKay said, "She made her position clear: Vote for me and I'll raise taxes...As counterintui­tive as that sounds, it's very possible that has resonated with the electorate."

Or, maybe not. You would think a six point decline in support might be seen as a repudiation of her tax pledge. No sirree, Bob. The MSM had Leger Maketing carefully "prove" the opposite.

Leger asked the voter for their views on taxes. Or, rather, they asked carefully slanted questions to get the public to agree to the Free Press/CBC view on taxes.

The question

"Thinking about property taxes in Winnipeg, which of the following statements best reflects your opinion?

The result

Property taxes should increase based on inflation in order to maintain public services at current level: 56 per cent

Property taxes should be frozen at current levels even if it means cutting back on spending for some services in the city: 38 per cent

Don't know/refuse to answer: Six per cent

-- Source: Leger Marketing poll of 800 Winnipeg adults in October 2010

Note how Leger stacks the questions, putting the positive terms (based on inflation, maintain public services) in the answer they want to get, and the negative terms (frozen, cutting back) on the answer they don't want.
This sort of slanted polling on behalf of the Free Press and CBC underlines the bias in reporting we have to put up with.

Leger deliberately did not ask whether voters supported Katz's tax plan. How about....
Winnipeg has two-thirds of Manitoba's population but only receives 7 percent of all the taxes collected in province to fund its operations. Is that fair?

If the province only dedicated one percent of PST to Winnipeg, we would have $130 million more to provide services to citizens. Should Manitoba give Winnipeg 1 percent of PST?

But then that wouldn't guarantee the answers the Free Press and CBC wanted, namely:

Winnipeg property tax hike favoured (CBC, Wednesday, October 20, 2010)
The MSM isn't above twisting the facts to support the bias, either.

"Wasylycia-Leis said the increase would cost homeowners $27 a year on average on a home assessed by the city at $90,000." (CBC, Oct. 20, 2010)

" Saying it's time to show leadership and be honest about the city's finances, Judy Wasylycia-Leis is promising a two per cent property tax hike every year of her administration. That's an extra $27 a year on a $200,000 home." (Wasylycia-Leis promises 2% yearly tax hikes, By: Mary Agnes Welch, 17/09/2010)

What they carefully don't say is that the promised tax increase is cumulative. They hope readers fixate on the figure $27 a year and think," that's not so much."

They don't explain that the increase is $27 only the first year, then $55.05 the second year, and so on until its $110 the fourth year. And that's not counting any possible increase in mill rates.

Nor have they explored the alleged support for a hike in property taxes "based on inflation". That's not what Judy Wasylycia-Leis promised, so where does that option come from?

In 2009 the inflation rate was 0.28 percent. So a 2 percent tax increase would have been SEVEN TIMES inflation for that year.

And its running well below 2 percent this year so far.

It looks like linking tax increases to the rate of inflation was yet another concoction of the Free Press and CBC to spin the story their way.

They can't help themselves

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