Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Attacks on Charles Franklin are Baseless and Need to Stop

The recent attacks against Charles Franklin's poll for Marquette Law School are beyond idiotic. They're so stupid that I'm actually embarrassed for the people making them as they have revealed themselves to be so filled with rage at Scott Walker that any deviation from their own worldview appears to be reason enough to lash out at the messenger.

Perhaps the silliest attack is that Franklin is himself a conservative, and thus has a motive to skew his polls as such, based solely on two pieces of evidence: he conducted the poll for Marquette Law School (an institution so conservative that it employs noted reactionary Russ Feingold) and that he once conducted a poll for WPRI. If this were true, then Franklin would also be a flaming liberal because he sold, of which he was a co-founder, to the Huffington Post. He can't be both.

The second criticism has been about the ideological weights of the sample used for the poll, which runs something like this:

Conservative = 41.6%
Moderate = 32.5%
Liberal = 20.7%

Liberals are whining -- and there really is no other word for it -- that this weighing system is unfair. It's not just fair, it's reality. The most recent Gallup poll of American ideological identity ran this way:

Conservative = 41%
Moderate = 36%
Liberal = 21%

Which looks an awful lot like the sample Franklin took. Last October, when Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, surveyed the state it used the following sample:

Very/Somewhat Conservative = 42%
Moderate = 30%
Very/Somewhat Liberal = 19%

There was no outcry then. You can find four other recent polls conducted by PPP in Wisconsin with the exact same weights here, here, here, and here. In fact, it appears that PPP always uses those weights when polling Wisconsin. I would post the ideological breakdown of the St. Norbert's poll from November that concluded 58% of Wisconsinites wanted to recall Walker, but they didn't even publish how they weighed their sample. We could go on and on and on like this, pulling out examples from just about every pollster whose done work in Wisconsin in recent years, but the the weights really aren't going to change all that much because they're consistent with industry practice.

Charles Franklin's academic credentials are damn near unimpeachable. He's one of the world's foremost authorities on polling and he didn't get that reputation by being a partisan hack -- he earned it by being a scientist and as such he's all about the data. In recent years he's gone out of his way to explain the science in terms the public can understand. Franklin is exactly what the creators of the Wisconsin Idea had in mind when they came up with the concept. Accusing him of slanting his polls to conform with the supposed ideology of his temporary employer strain credulity and betrays the fact that the accuser doesn't understand much about polling.

Polls are both tools and weapons. The folks who are criticizing Franklin only seem to understand the latter. It's one thing to rip on a poll like Rasumussen for it's consistent "house effect," but to essentially accuse Charles Franklin of fraud -- which is exactly what his detractors are doing -- is asinine. If Wisconsin progressives want any prayer of recalling Scott Walker they are going to have accept uncomfortable realities on occasion. Franklin's poll has one simple findings: there's still a lot of work to do. If the left is going to attack any messenger who brings them this news in the future, they should give up right now because they will fail.

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