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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Robinson, a radio and television commentator, probes the increasing media reliance on polls to measure the trajectory of public opinions and political careers. The author examines how political reporters, pundits, and handlers use polling data to suit their purposes, make their point, and support their spin. Results are often skewed by the wording of polling questions; typically, Americans favor ideas that sound good but will hesitate when the cost of implementing the good idea is mentioned. Robinson examines several polls taken by media outlets and how the results affected reporting. "Polling has become the high-octane fuel of American political debate," with pollsters gaining celebrity and press coverage of elections that increasingly are driven by polls rather than issues. Robinson cites evidence that polls, said to be objective measures of public sentiment, actually cut off political debate and undermine new ideas. Premature reporting on the 2000 presidential election results, based on polls, has fueled calls for change. Robinson includes some suggestions for reform in a book that will appeal to readers interested in media and politics. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved