Polling Company Gets Federal Contract, Produces Flawed Analysis Of Obama Political Health

The Media Accountability ProjectNational Investigative Media has uncovered an unusual financial relationship between the newswire service, Associated Press, and the federal government – and evidence that that relationship may have influenced the AP’s reporting on the Obama administration.

NIM first uncovered the financial relationship after a May 11, AP report that promoted the idea that President Obama’s re-election was a foregone conclusion based on a poll conducted by its partner firm GfK. NIM discovered that in March, GfK had announced that it had received clearance for federal government contracts to do marketing and research for US government agencies.  Closer examination by NIM revealed that the May 11th AP report based its conclusions on a severely flawed polling model that provided a significant advantage to President Obama in calculating his favorability ratings on a number of issues from national security to the economy.

The flawed polling data influenced other media including ABC NewsTimeThe Washington Post and Yahoo News which ran the AP’s reportage without scrutiny.

The following is from the May 11 Associated Press news report that was not labeled commentary:

President Barack Obama’s approval rating has hit its highest point in two years – 60 percent—and more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll taken after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden…

Comfortable majorities of the public now call Obama a strong leader who will keep America safe. Nearly three-fourths – 73 percent – also now say they are confident that Obama can effectively handle terrorist threats.

There was no downside for Obama mentioned in the “news” story authored by Lis Sidoti and Jennifer Agiesta. Neither is there any mention that GfK, the Associated Press partner and the polling firm that conducted this survey, had been approved, two months prior, for a major contract with the federal government. In a press release dated March 1, GfK revealed the following:

GfK Custom Research North America, an industry leader in innovative market research tools and services, today announced that it has been awarded the General Services Administration (GSA) Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services contract (MOBIS). Having this contract allows GfK to directly and seamlessly serve public sector clients.

As the primary purchasing agent for most US governmental agencies, having the GSA validation signifies that GfK meets the high standards to enable government agencies to easily do business with GfK through various contract vehicles.

According to the AP, “The Associated Press and GfK launched a polling partnership in September 2008.”

According to an analysis by Tom Blumer at Pajamas Media, “AP reporters didn’t … tell readers how “skewed” May’s poll was. Forty-six percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Democrats, 29% as Republicans, and 4% as independents (after classifying leaners); 20% didn’t know. By contrast, the latest available party identification results from Rasmussen as of April have the GOP at 34.8%, Dems at 33.5%, and 31.7% as not affiliated. Gallup, in an aggregate of 21 separate polls conducted last year, shows a Democrat-Republican split of 45%-44%.”

Since all major polling firms consider the Democrat to Republican ratio of voters to be virtually even in number, AP/GfK’s statistical model of 46% sampling of Democrats and 29% Republican would give the appearance of significant advantage in the outcome to a Democrat, in this case Barak Obama.

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