Dana Blanton, the vice-president of public opinion research at Fox News, sent a memo to the station’s politics team and television producers on September 27 reminding them not to cite unscientific online polls for “they do not meet our editorial standards.”
She went on to explain that “online ‘polls’ like the one on Drudge, Time, etc. where people can opt-in or self-select … are really just for fun.” Such polls are not representative of the electorate. Instead, they represent people who are fans of the website and are online at the time the poll is administered. The participants “self-select” to take part in the poll – and they aren’t always people who can vote in the actual election. In addition, people who take part in polls administered by sites like the Drudge Report are going to be much more conservative than the general public, and the site’s polls will reflect that.
In the memo, Blanton also explained that supporters of various causes or campaigns could plan to flood the polls and thus skew the results. That’s exactly what happened after the Presidential debates on September 26. Members of a pro-Trump community Reddit community called r/The_Donald voted in droves on over 70 on-line polls. The community in question has over 200,000 members – which is more than enough to manipulate poll results. The Russians also got into the act; internet trolls working for Vladimir Putin created a #TrumpWon hashtag to manipulate Twitter trends. Putin heavily favors Trump, since he believes he can manipulate him – and his minions have planted pro-Putin and pro-Trump propaganda in American social media.
Blanton sent out the reminder, because Sean Hannity and at least two other news hosts have been touting the on-line polls as proof that Trump won the debate—even though other sources name Clinton the victor. Hannity gleefully pointed out the online polls favoring Trump immediately after the debates – and disparaged the CNN poll, which named Clinton the victor, as nothing more than the “Clinton News Network” poll. The CNN poll is a scientific poll; all of its 521 respondents are registered voters. It is also administered by phone, so internet trolls can’t flood it and skew the results. Hannity, who is a friend of Trump and has endorsed his candidacy, is still citing the online polls, however. Brian Kilmeade, the host of “Fox & Friends” has also continued using online polls in defiance of the memo.