Though the book is essentially correct, the title, "Mobocracy," is not. It's rather odd, but true, that both liberals and conservatives, including the media, have nothing but contempt for real democracy of any sort, unless it works for them, for the moment. A more accurate title for the book might be, "Mediaocracy."
Robinson, managing editor at Human Events magazine and a frequent television and radio commentator, uncovers how the medi…s obsession with polling drives public policy, subverts elections, and decides what we see on television news, and exposes how the questionable science of polls can be manipulated, how poll-driven news leads to shallow coverage, and how elected officials come to serve poll results rather than constituents.
>From the Publisher
... and they're using "public opinion" to keep you misinformed. Welcome to the world of Mobocracy -- a place where opinion polls, wielded by a cynical, ideologically driven press, distort the news and change opinion. It's a place where the fleeting whims of a largely ignorant populace are used to supplant thoughtful, reasonable debate, and where, all too often, pollsters and the art they practice are shrouded behind a cloudy curtain of clever wording, data manipulation, and hidden agendas. This is Mobocracy.
Never before in the history of our nation have public opinion polls played such a central role in the way policy is conceived, molded, and enacted. And at no time has there been a more dangerous and misleading abuse of public opinion than now. In Mobocracy, Matthew Robinson uncovers how the media's obsession with polling drives public policy, subverts elections, and decides what we see on the evening news. He reveals how our country's democratic process has been corrupted by the mob rule of an ill-informed electorate whose opinions are trumpeted at the expense of thoughtful reporting.
Through meticulous research and insightful interviews, this book exposes how the questionable science of polls can be manipulated, how poll-driven news leads to shallow coverage, and how many of our elected officials have come to serve poll results more than they serve their constituents. You will discover the underhanded ways that polls -- not the Constitution or the law -- drove the Clinton impeachment process, the 2000 presidential election, the confirmation hearings of government officials, and other critical events. You will find how coverage of many of the most divisive issues, such as abortion, gun control, and health care, is manipulated by polling that too often seeks to further an agenda, not measure opinion. And you will learn how to see through these ruses in the future. Timely, provocative, and thoughtful, Mobocracy is a wake-up call to those concerned about the health of our republic and our freedom under the Constitution.
>From the Critics
>From Publishers Weekly
Conservative fears of democracy as "mobocracy" and "undermining authority" are as old as democracy itself; political commentator Robinson updates these fears with a highly selective attack on media polling. He addresses serious concerns rising voter ignorance, apathy and alienation, conflict-based horse-race politics, and the increased breakdown of deliberative democracy but does so with little sense of the structural, historical and analytical approaches used by more progressive authors to approach these same problems. He claims inaccurately that voter participation peaked in 1960, rather than 1876, and he connects voter apathy with the welfare state, ignoring the high voter turnout figures in Europe's more robust welfare states. Robinson rightly identifies the methodological sloppiness riddling most media polls and criticizes the media for not discussing their data-gathering procedures, but he's guilty of the same crime he examines polls selected on no apparent basis beyond his agenda of conflating their faults with the media's alleged liberal bias (which he asserts but never tries to prove). By insisting that polls saved Clinton from "the rule of law," Robinson ignores substantive arguments against impeachment by hundreds of constitutional scholars, as well as media calls for impeachment or resignation that contradict his claim that media agendas drove the polls. True believers will find a comforting elaboration of cherished beliefs others will find much heat, but scant light. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
>From Kirkus Reviews
A right-wing pundit rails against the use of polls in journalism today. If the media are obsessed with polling, Robinson is obsessed with their obsession. This ham-fisted study only reinforces what everyone knows about polls and statistics: Anyone can make them say anything. For Robinson, polling shows how the media suffer from an incorrigible liberal slant that can be exorcised only by the cool application of (his) common sense. He informs us that-surprise, surprise!-the question a pollster asks foreordains the answer he or she will be given. In this way, he concludes, liberals saved the presidency of Bill Clinton. The questions the public was asked revealed that most of them thought the president had done wrong in re Lewinsky and that impeachment was a good thing, but that they didn't want him thrown out of office. Although Robinson can't seem to keep these contradictory ideas in mind simultaneously, he does manage a convincing attack on one aspect of polling: Most people, when they answer poll questions, don't even know the personalities concerned or the substance of the questions posed. In this sense, slanted questions are dangerous, as they tip ignorant citizens toward cooked-up responses politicians then use to back up their policy initiatives. Bill Clinton wasn't a president driven by polls but a president whose polls drove the nation. Robinson's rants about George Washington and the first president's views on public education, intended to instruct the reader how to clear the stains polls have left on democracy, come off as amateur revisionist history. His attack on the limp wrists of journalists, however, strikes a chord. Instead of granting the media's risible claim that pollsare objective, he asks, why not encourage a more openly partisan press to express its biases more articulately? A mediocre take on an aspect of politics that deserves more critical attention.
Intelligent, engaging, provocative and educational Matthew Robinson's 'Mobocracy' is a new and fascinating analysis of the media's obsession with opinion polls, and on media bias and manipulation. Robinson demonstrates how the media effectively use polls as a tool of political persuasion. He details the methodology involved and surveys all the major literature in a scholarly--though engaging--fashion. Informed by an exhaustive understanding of our nation's Founders, Robinson insightfully analyzes and demonstrates the major threat that the media's use of polls fundamentally poses to our constitutional democracy, and to our liberty. This book is a must read for any serious student of American politics.
Whoever wrote the Kirkus Review had a serious axe to grind. Robinson has written a hell of a book, and one that deserves attention. Of course, we know that polls are manipulative and outright deceitful--but that doesn't stop them from steering public opinion (two contradictory ideas that the Kirkus reviewer has difficulty keeping in mind). Robinson does an excellent job of disassembling this process, an to his credit he has done it in a way that is accessible to the average voter. Part of the reason that polling falsely retains a 'scientific' aura is that much of the work and criticism on the subject often descends into public policy wonkland. Mobocracy does a great service by finally confirming what any intelligent person knows about polls: much more often than not polls are far from an objective measure of opinion, and they should be dismissed out of hand for poisoning the well of public debate. Also, you have to love a public policy book that that is savvy enough to quote 'The Simpsons.' A title worth considering for anyone
interested in politics.
Table of Contents
1. Media Lifeblood 1
2. The Mirage of Democratic Debate 45
3. Fixing the Game from the Start 107
4. The Definition of "Is:" The Complex Nature of Wording 147
5. Democratizing Ignorance 179
6. The Dangers of Ignorance: Be Afraid, Very Afraid 207
7. Politicians and Polls: Everything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You 245
8. The Politics of Impeachment: If You Don't Have an Opinion, One Will Be Appointed to You 271
9. Accountability, Openness, and Other Absurd Reform Ideas 321
About the Author 378
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