Free Press CREATING Michigan news?

Submitted by Section 1 on June 10th, 2010 at 11:55 AM

I need some assistance on this one; perhaps somebody in the business of polling and/or political reporting can help out here.

What we have today is the Free Press, reporting sans byline, about a "poll" indicating a lack of support for Head Coach Rich Rodriguez.  The story gets this snappy headline:  "Poll asks Michigan voters to rate their feelings on Rich Rod."

Here's the lede:

Only 20% of Michigan voters who describe themselves as U-M fans have a favorable opinion of coach Rich Rodriguez, according to a recent survey by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. Also: 26% have an unfavorable opinion and 54% have no opinion one way or another.

Um, okay.  So I Google "Public Policy Polling."  I go to their website.  As far as I can tell, it is two guys in an office in North Carolina, with an assistant.  And they do telephone polls.  And they are a lot of social/political kinds of things.  And an odd number of them are (State of) Michigan-specific polls.

I e-mail them:  "Who commissioned this poll?  Are the complete results available anywhere?"

One of the guys responds:  "No one commissioned the poll."  And he gives me a link to the complete results.  I submit the link, and the results, for, uh, your perusal, here:

So can anyone who is in that business explain?  How does "Public Policy Polling" get paid?  What is their angle?  Any explanation for the odd mixture of party politics and college football?  What is the deal?  (Don't bother with the Free Press story; there's no explanatory information there at all.)

[EDIT. - Member "jedilow" points out below that Brian had made the same observation in a blog post, earlier.  No one quite understands what was behind this poll, but it was not, apparently, a case of the Detroit Free Press 'creating' a poll for their sports pages.  Indeed, Brian and were on it before the Free Press brought up the rear...]



June 10th, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

"I was bored in NC so I decided to poll people from Michigan about their football coach. That's just how my company rolls."



June 10th, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

is actually a conspiracy group formed by a myriad of anti-RR heads of state, so to speak, including Rosenberg, Carr, the dude who owns the IHOP near 23 South and a variety of other "heavy hitters." they fund this company through illicit backroom deals of rare, exotic birds. they are the "them" or "they" you hear of. they are the shadows of every corner.


or it's some random startup that is looking to get its name out there by polling on hot topics in hope it will turn into a legitimate business through commissioned efforts in the future.


either or.


June 10th, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^ ran a similar story that was discussed a few days ago.…

It had a little more explanation.

<blockquote>In the process of polling the Michigan governor's race, polling company Public Policy Polling added another question.

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of (Michigan football coach) Rich Rodriguez?

"We do add fun stuff to states where it seems appropriate," said Tom Jensen, the Director of Public Policy Polling and an Ann Arbor native. "We've polled on (John) Calipari and (Rick) Pitino in Kentucky and Roy (Williams) and Coach K in North Carolina."</blockquote>

Section 1

June 10th, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

+1 for you seems inadequate.

Thanks for the heads-up; I missed Brian's link, which of course was faster and a better report (link included) than what the Freep did.

Still, as Brian observed (unbeknownst to me), and as I did in the OP, "What the hell?"  "What was that all about?"


June 10th, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

So they didn't poll out of state (presummably many Michigan fans are out of state. Why else would State fans seem to be running all the MSM outlets.) And it clearly says only 29% want to see him go, while 51% want him to stay.

This means there are a large number of people who are waiting to see before they make their mind up on Rich, but they accept that him continiung on is the best thing at this point.

Freep is just spinning as usual.

Tom_Harmon 2.0

June 10th, 2010 at 12:17 PM ^

Notes on the poll:

  • The poll respondents are 40% conservative, 41% moderate, and 19% liberal.  Despite this, they preferred Barack Obama to John McCain, 48-46 (with 6% ''Someone Else/Don't Remember").
  • The poll respondents are 83%(!!) "White", 14% "African American", and 3% "Other".
  • People aged 46 to 65 were the biggest bloc surveyed with 42%.  30 to 45 was the next biggest demographic with 26%.  People aged 18-29 (who I'm assuming makes up a pretty big chunk of this blog's base) were a measly 8%.
  • Conclusion:  Since the demographics of the telephone poll were so skewed, we can conclude that it is not representative of the state of Michigan as a whole.  I would want to see a list of which communities they surveyed before I drew any more conclusions then that.


June 10th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

Polls like this have virtually no meaning other than to draw attention to the people doing the polling or advancing someone else's agenda.  What a surprise this shows up in the freep.  For starters there is no context within which the questions were posed...and that is just for starters...really this isn't worth spending much time on.

If the freep ran this by someone who actually did credible scientific polling they would laugh them out of the room.

RR goes 5-0 and this is all history.


June 10th, 2010 at 12:31 PM ^

I'm looking for some good compost for my garden, in case you'd like to send me your copy of the Freep. I'm told it is also excellent for lining bird cages, house training puppies, etc.

Other than that, entirely useless.


June 10th, 2010 at 12:34 PM ^

... for polls. You can extract any outcome you want by simply manipulating the questions and altering the sample size. 

Let's do a poll of our own. Let's see. What would make a good question...

Question:  Would you prefer that Drew Sharp stop beating his wife, stop visiting child porn websites and stop his unwarranted editorial attacks against the University of Michigan's football program? 

Post survey answer: 98% of Michigan residents surveyed think Drew Sharp should stop his unwarranted attacks against the University of Michigan's football program.


big gay heart

June 10th, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

at least they used sensitive statistical meausres like, you know, crosstabs. i hope no one paid them for this. 

i'd like to see some discussion of their operational procedures; judging from the "high quality" of the results document, i wouldn't be surprised if they simply bought a list of home telephone numbers and went to town.

Section 1

June 10th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

But I like the idea that others are boycotting.

I read the online edition, so I can know what the rest of the region is reading, and what sort of propaganda they are getting from the Free Press.  "Know your enemy" is the phrase that comes to mind.  If anyone decides that that involves too much support for the Free Press, I am fine with that.  Honestly, I really do admire the idea of a boycott.  But I never said that I'd join.

I try to never post any Freep links.  They are too irresistable.  And yet I know for a fact that I have posted some Freep links, sometimes by complete accident (when I yesterday posted the Top Ten list of's tops stories, which had the Demar Dorsey story being more read, and more commented than stories about dual-fatality car crashes, the Detroit city budget, Kilpartick in jail,  etc., for instance).

I think back, years ago, when attorney Geoff Feiger was defending Jack Kevorkian against murder charges in Oakland County.  The Oakland County Prosecutor was Richard Thompson, who was a perfectly good Prosecutor and who ran the office very well (I know several of his very-accomplished former assistants).  Feiger called a Kevorkian news conference, held up a huge photo of Thompson, and placed a big red clown's nose on the picture.  I thought it was a ridiculous stunt.  I have always held Fieger in the lowest regard.  But the image stuck with me.  And (despite my own vote) Thompson was soon thereafter defeated in the primary by Dave Gorcyca.  The image seemed to have worked. 

People want simple.  People want a basic narrative.  Images stick with people.  As far as I am concerened, I want "Free Press jihad" to be the very next sentence in any conversation where someone mentions "Michigan," "Rich Rodriguez," or "NCAA."

Captain Obvious

June 10th, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

I'm a political junkie and follow polls all throughout any sort of major political election.  PPP is considered a legit and very accurate pollster.  Obviously, they are scientific polls and don't use ridiculous new age crap like Zogby's terribad polls.  Most do poll cell phones now, though I can't remember specifically if PPP does.  They always release cross-tabs and are known for polling larger sample sizes than other pollsters to reduce MOE.  They had a good track record for the 2008 primaries/general election.

Like any other pollster, they tend to ask a ton of questions at random.  When you get polled for a seemingly simple "McCain or Obama?" type of poll, the pollster actually asks a ton of other questions as well that are totally unrelated to politics.  it is more or less to report things of interest and to "make" news, e.g., "39% of ____ voters plan to see the new Harry Potter movie!!"  Since PPP releases crosstabs you can see how much value you can place on the findings.  Here, the sample size is so ridiculously small that you cannot place any value on the RR findings, really.  That sub-sample would have a MOE of like 40%.

Section 1

June 10th, 2010 at 2:43 PM ^

...I find it vaguely interesting that so many poll respondents in this case were so neutral about Rodriguez.

Indeed, the majority of respondents semed to have been mostly, "Eh," or else were perhaps in the "Honeslty, I don't know" camp.

"Haters" and "All Ins" were then sort of equally divided.  With all of the press (remember, Sahrp calls this "the most toxic sports story he has ever seen" at the Free Press), one might presuppose that people would be more empassioned. 


June 10th, 2010 at 3:00 PM ^

I'd say the Free Press is not so much creating news as it's creating controversies.  News outlets have been doing it for a long time.  News outlets exist mostly to make money.  They need stories, so they have to create them. 


It seems to go kind of like this.  A news outlet will write a particular story and then say that such and such situation is controversial.  Other news outlets will pick up the story and write the same.  It doesn’t matter necessarily that a very small segment of the population thinks a given thing is controversial.  The outlets throw an accusation out and it gets persons attention, gets them listening or reading.  A number of persons may disagree that a particular item is controversial, but out of shock they read anyway. 


We are in essence played by the media, a lot of the time.