The Washington Post has a story today that focuses on the rise of Scott Rasmussen as a force in American politics, for two reasons. One is that he may be the most prolific pollster in the country. The other is that he is suspected (by Democrats) of being in the tank for Republicans. I have posted information about this controversy in recent weeks. Here is an excerpt from the Post’s story:
Rasmussen has become a driving force in American politics. As cash-strapped newspapers and television networks struggle to meet the growing demand for polls, Rasmussen, 54, is supplying reams of cheap, automated surveys that will measure – and maybe move – opinion, especially as primary season gives way to the November midterm elections. A co-founder of the sports network ESPN and former play-by-play broadcaster, Rasmussen is an articulate and frequent guest on Fox News and other outlets, where his nominally nonpartisan data is often cited to support Republican talking points. In October, he hired his own communications director to handle the daily deluge of press calls. He has a mini-TV studio in his office.
“I have seen a ratcheting-up,” Rasmussen said on the sleepy Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend. A team of young employees worked busily at desks in an adjacent suite while Rasmussen, wearing a striped polo shirt, dad jeans and a Bluetooth device clipped to his right ear, showed off a high-tech television camera, aimed at a blue backdrop dotted with the Rasmussen Reports logo. A whiteboard nearby listed results from an oil spill-themed poll. (“Should digging be allowed?” “Obama handling incident?” “Memorial Day: Participate? Parade? Cookout?”)
Rasmussen said he is simply a “scorekeeper,” but his spike in clout has sharpened skepticism about how he tracks the dip in Democratic fortunes. Frustrated liberals suspect sorcery. Markos Moulitsas, the creator of the Daily Kos blog, has accused the pollster of “setting the narrative that Democrats are doomed” with numbers that fuel hours of Republican-boosting on talk radio and cable.
The old guard of the polling industry charges that Rasmussen merely makes educated guesses, like a market-savvy contestant on a political “The Price Is Right,” and considers him a threat to the standards of an industry already facing existential challenges. Those traditional peers fear Rasmussen’s rise signals the fall of the in-depth probing that politicians, policymakers and reporters have turned to for more than half a century.
The story ends with Rasmussen saying that the in-depth polling is not what the public is interested; they care only about who is winning and who is losing.
- 1 week