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'Meet the Press' Goofs

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In the apparent effort to make news on Meet the Press on Sunday, September 10th, the moderator, Tim Russert, reported the results of the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll. "The poll is three-fourths of the way done, but we thought we'd share the results now." The poll showed Gore leading Bush by 44 to 43 percent.

We think this is not an appropriate way to use a poll. A poll is not like a football game where there is a score at the end of the third quarter. An election poll, in its entirety, is a representation of the voting public of the country. It is based on a random selection of adults from among all adult voters in the country. The three-quarters that Russert reported is not necessarily a random part of the whole. The one-quarter not reached were the people who are more difficult to reach on the first call. These people usually are disproportionately younger, include more working people, particularly those who travel or work odd hours, and others who spend less time at home. The final result of that NBC/WSJ Poll, once the whole sample was interviewed, showed Gore with a 3 point lead.

We urge news organizations not to report partial results from a poll. We know it is tempting to make news when a news deadline approaches, but it is bad practice. We hope it does not happen again, particularly after the presidential debates. The results may be misleading. As with other news, poll reports should be as accurate as possible.

For more information about this and other polling issues, contact the NCPP Polling Review Board Members.

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