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The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls

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On January 8, 2008, the date of the New Hampshire primary, media pollsters made their biggest prediction gaffe since dubbing Thomas Dewey a shoo-in to beat incumbent president Harry S....
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On January 8, 2008, the date of the New Hampshire primary, media pollsters made their biggest prediction gaffe since dubbing Thomas Dewey a shoo-in to beat incumbent president Harry S. Truman. Eleven different polls forecast a solid win by Barack Obama; instead, Hillary Clinton took New Hampshire and recharged her candidacy. The months that followed only brought more dismal performances and contradictory results-undeniable evidence that something is terribly wrong with the polling industry today.

It's easy to spot the election polls that get it wrong. Equally misleading and often far more disastrous are polls misrepresenting public opinion on government policy. For instance, in the period leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, every major media poll showed substantial public support for a preemptive strike. In truth, there was no majority of Americans calling for war.

For the first time, David W. Moore—praised as a "scholarly crusader" by the New York Times—reveals that pollsters don't report public opinion, they manufacture it. And they do so at the peril of our democratic process. While critics cry foul over partisan favoritism in the mainstream media, what's really at work is a power bias that polls legitimate by providing the stamp of public approval. 

Drawing on over a decade's experience at the Gallup Poll and a distinguished academic career in survey research, Moore describes the questionable tactics pollsters use to create poll-driven news stories-including force-feeding respondents, slanting question wording, and ignoring public ignorance on even the most arcane issues. More than proof that the numbers do lie, The Opinion Makers clearly and convincingly spells out how urgent it is that we make polls deliver on their promise to monitor, not manipulate, the pulse of democracy.

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