Sunday, January 02, 2005

Yo Nagourney, Check Your Fly

Kara e-mailed this morning about the Week in Review and a piece on the Democrats. She wanted to know if I'd read it. I hadn't. But I e-mailed back that I would read it right before I went to sleep. I'd assumed it was an op-ed and though they can be infuritating, I don't waste a great deal of time on them.

It's not an op-ed. It's Adam Nagourney weighing in on the election cycle or, rather, the post-election cycle.

You'll groan as you read the first sentence: "With the exception of a few Democratic outliers in Ohio, few people dispute that the election for president is done and decided . . ."

Really now? I don't like reporters who play gatekeepers. I don't like reporters who reduce many to "few." I don't like reporters who think they know everything. And I'm really starting to not like Nagourney.

His article ("So What Happened in That Election, Anyhow?") isn't worth reading. For a variety of reasons. The general thrust is that national security and terrorism were the deciding factors in the November election. After all that ink wasted on "values?"

But here's why I tossed the paper onto the floor in disgust and finally decided to get back on and blog: who spread that "values" talk?

According to Nagourney, one of the culprits is fairly obvious:

The confusion, in part, is a result of the hasty -- and often flawed -- analyses that have come to mark politics in the age of the Internet and nonstop news cycles.

In part? Gee Nagourney, why don't you grab a part of that blame yourself?

[For problems with Nagourney and Janet Elder's polling "summary" see:,,,,, and in that order.]

Or maybe he's forgotten Nov. 23rd when the article he and Janet Elder wrote was printed? "Americans Show Clear Concerns on Bush Agenda" was an embarrassment to the paper and the front page -- one that they are apparently never going to address. Maybe Nagourney thinks he can will it away?

Grabbing the poll data (yes, I kept a copy), I see something interesting that I didn't notice before.

Yes, Nagourney & Elder bungled their reporting -- and remember that Daniel Okrent's informed us that Elder is "one of the editors who supervise The Times's polling operation,"
see ( We noted that on the 23rd.

Nagorney's willing to slime that hasty Internet and the "nonstop news cycle." (I'm assuming that he means "cable" and that he's not so dense that he fails to realize the news cycle is always nonstop.) But he's not carving out any blame for himself (or for Elder -- slice her a piece, Adam, she's earned it.).

Who was hasty? Nagourney's fingers point outward.

Front page of the polling data tells us that the poll was conducted from November 18th to November 21st. Why does that matter?

The article is in the Nov. 23rd New York Times. Point? The poll was completed on Nov. 21st and Nagourney and Elder glanced (term used intentionally) at the results and wrote about it on the 22nd. Thirty-five pages of polling data are available to readers, I wouldn't be surprised
if the data Nagourney & Elder could have access to (if they'd wanted to do some work) would have included many more pages. Who's hasty again, Nagourney?

You filed an article one day after the poll was completed. Who's hasty?

Your reporting on that poll was hasty and that may explain why it was so flawed and so far from what the actual results.

From "One more item from the New York Times polling report and replies to frequent questions via e-mail"(

Issues such as confusing questions (scroll down to "Problems with the New York Times/CBS News poll"); declaring that "now" there is "some good news" when in fact you're commenting on a trend that can be traced back within the report itself and didn't develop in this latest poll is a problem (scroll down to "Where's the NOW in the poll as reported by Nagourney & Elder?"); using "evenly divided" when one side has a slight lead or combining some similar categories to increase some numbers some of the time, but not all, is a problem (scroll down to "2 is still greater than zero, right? Not in Nagourney & Elder's World"); and citing the response to only one question when there are two similar questions (data cited in print is the larger number) is a problem (scroll down "Nagourney & Elder see 55% & 54% but overlook 44% and 39%").
Those are the four troubling things I've cited and, sadly, I could go on with additional items.But hopefully the point that there is a problem with the polling and with the summarization that appeared in print form as a story/article has been demonstrated.

There were problems with two questions in that poll. More importantly, there were problems with Nagourney and Elder's conclusions on the poll.

Who was hasty again, Nagourney?

He wasn't the only one at the Times pushing this nonsense about values, but he's the only one foolish enough to write today that the people were confused (by that evil Internet and those nonstop news cycles!) into thinking that "values" was the deciding factor in the election.

Where's the finger pointing at Nagourney? (Not mine or your's*, we'll happily flip him the middle finger. I'm asking where is Nagourney's own finger pointing at himself.) Nagourney can try to rewrite this anyway he wants but it's not very convincing for him to cite others when a heavy dose of the blame should be served up on a plate to him.

Is he hoping we won't remember that he's the one who co-wrote this paragraph:

The poll found that 55 percent of Mr. Kerry's voters said that Mr. Bush's voters did not share their views and morals; 54 percent of Mr. Bush's voters said the same thing of those who voted for Mr. Kerry.

Or this one:

That said there is little question that Americans have grown increasingly unhappy with the influence of popular culture on daily life, and that was a significant dynamic in this election. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that Hollywood was lowering the standard of popular culture. And 70 percent said that all popular culture -- music, movies, and television -- was lowering moral standards in America.The poll also found, though, that Americans were evenly divided on whether television, movies and books were including too many gay themes and characters.

[Note, Elder and Nagourney got it wrong. The actual results, from the polling data, of that question were "42% said too many; 6% said not enough; 44% said the right amount; 7% said they didn't know or had no answer." 42% say that there are too many; 7% don't know and 50% do not feel there are too many. That includes the 6% who say not enough. 42% to 50% isn't an even divide. For a discussion on margin of error, see]

Who wrote that nonsense? The internet? The nonstop news cycle? No, Janet Elder and Adam Nagourney wrote it and today he wants to pretend like it never happened.

I've got a friend who's never wrong. She's never wrong because she always changes her story.
It could be something as simple as the weather. Yesterday she would say, "It's going to rain today." Sunday, she'd show up at the door all excited about the sunshine and how "I told you yesterday it was going to be sunny!"

That's my problem with Nagourney. He's being dishonest. Instead of admitting to his own part of the blame, he's acting as though he had no part in pushing this "values" nonsense and that it was that wacky Internet and cable TV news.

Yes, he does note that:

The urge to explain immediately why Mr. Kerry lost was aggravated by what many pollsters viewed as flawed exit polling that led analysists initially to overstate factors like the role of values and the number of Hispanic voters who fled Mr. Kerry for Mr. Bush.

But so what? Those analysists included Elder & Nagourney. They analyzed polling data (in one day) and wrote it up for the next day's paper. A more honest sentence would include this phrase: " . . . that led analysists such as this reporter and Janet Elder to overstate factors like the role of values . . ."

I don't know what more to say. We're on the "Internet" here at The Common Ills.
Nagourney's only comment of value revolves around "values" and the misreporting on the Hispanic vote. We dealt with both of those long ago. As did everyone else worth reading who writes online and many others whose work is in print but available online. Any casual net surfer knew long before today that the "values" nonsense was media hype.

Days late and dollars short, Nagourney decides to start the new year by finally addressing the "values" nonsense but he's not willing to cop to his own part (or the paper's) in inflating that into a popular narrative. There was never even factual basis for it. It was a good "sound byte" and reporters went with it. It's why people like James Dobson now delude themselves into thinking that they have real influence.

The mainstream media popularized it. And we don't have to look to "cable." I don't watch cable news. I don't watch TV (last thing I saw was Bill Moyer's last episode of NOW and before that you have to go back months). So who tried to popularize this nonsense to people like me? The New York Times. Reporters like Adam Nagourney who now want to point the finger at the internet and at cable news.

(Frank Rich was noted in our discussion on the "red" states as being one of the reporters who pointed out, in real time, that there was nothing to back up this "values" myth. We'll note him again for that. But Rich stood alone at the New York Times when it came to "values" myth.)

When he writes articles like this, Nagourney exposes himself in ways he never imagined. Yo Nagourney, check your fly.

[*"Mine or your's" does not include Frank in Orlando unless he states otherwise. Frank in Orlando has repeatedly e-mailed to state that we are too hard on Adam Nagourney. It may also not include others who do not partake of the gesture that's grown almost as important as a car horn when driving today.]
[Note: The post has been corrected in terms of bold print, two words were added, and a sentence that was too small to read has been enlarged.]