Bogus Headlines Prove That AOL Is Pimping for Trump

According to the lead article on AOL today, “Trump surges in latest polling as Clinton’s lead shrinks,” but the article under this catchy headline fails to deliver the goods. The article, credited to “AOL.COM Editors,” claims that Real Clear Politics (RCP) reports that Trump has gained 2.3 points in recent weeks. This is what the AOL version of the Real Clear Politics chart of the election chart looks like:

AOL version of RCP chart\

Note that this is an exact copy of the chart that appears on the AOL story, but it is also clear that the chart has been compressed to the point where the race now looks much closer than it does in the original version of the chart (see below.)

I haven’t yet contacted AOL for comment, but I can assure you that they will tell me that the chart was inadvertently compressed when it was copied from the Real Clear Politics website. Since I just did exactly the same thing, it is obvious that AOL.COM’S editors manipulated the chart to reflect their preference and to conform to their reporting.

Here is what Real Clear Politics chart actually looks like:

Clinton v Trump Chart

As you can clearly see (go here to see the original chart but remember to scroll down to the middle of the page), Trump has consistently trailed Clinton in all of the major polls, with three exceptions. On December 3, 2015, Trump came within a point of Clinton. On May 25, 2016, Trump bested Clinton by two-tenths of a point. On July 27, 2016, one week after the Republican Convention and right in the middle of the Democratic Convention week, Trump “surged” to a 1.2 point lead over Clinton….but the AOL chart doesn’t really look anything like the RCP chart, even though the data points on the AOL chart are actually accurate. The proportions, however, are not.

The reason the two charts look so different is that the AOL chart was compressed vertically, while the other (more accurate) one wasn’t Interesting, isn’t it?

Yes, Trump did “surge” from 40.6 points on July 18th up to 45.7 points on September 28th but, since then, his stock has fallen again to 42.3 points on August 29th while Hillary Clinton’s stock has risen from 43.7 points on July 30 to 48.4 points on August 29th giving her a 6.1 point advantage over Trump.

According to the 16 polls collected by Real Clear Politics during the month of August, Clinton has maintained a nationwide average lead of 6.5 points over her Republican rival. In fact, out of 180 polls taken over the past 18 months or so, Trump has led in just 20 matchups against Clinton. In short, the Trump surge apparently exists only in the imaginations of AOL’s editors.

Here’s the table on which the Real Clear Politics chart is based:

Clinton vs Trump August

(To view this list on the original website.go back to the same Real Clear Politics page and scroll further down for a complete list of the polls in question.)

So, here’s a question for AOL to answer: Where in the world did you get your statistics?

Well, as luck would have it, they tell us exactly where their data comes from.

The AOL article goes on to tell us that Trump trails Clinton by just two points in North Carolina according to a Monmouth University Poll but Real Clear Politics only lists two Monmouth Polls, one from March that shows Clinton ahead by 10 point, and one from June that shows Clinton ahead by eight points.

Finally, the AOL article reports that a national poll from the Morning Consult polling organization shows Trump behind Clinton by just three points, half of the six point margin that Real Clear Politics is reporting. The AOL article also suggests that Trump is gaining on Clinton. Real Clear Politics reports that in the month from July 27 to August 27, Hillary Clinton, who was 1.1 point behind Trump on July 27, improved to 6.1 points over Trump by August 27th, an improvement of 7 points. So, in point of fact, it has been Hillary Clinton who has been surging, not Donald Trump.

Morning Consult is a rather shadowy organization which does not report any information about its ownership or management on its website. A Wikipedia listing for Morning Consult shows four people associated with the company, CEO Michael Ramlet, Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp, Editor-in-Chief Meghan McCarthy, and General Counsel Paul Cenoz. None of the listed principals of the firm have Wikipedia listings of their own (although three of them are listed on LinkedIn) and the Wikipedia listing for Morning Consult itself is a stub without any cross references. (There is a Wikipedia listing for Meghan McCarthy, but that Meghan McCarthy is apparently the screenwriter and lyricist who produced My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I am assuming this is not the same person as the Meghan McCarthy at Morning Consult….but I am prepared to be surprised.)

In other words, Morning Consult dropped out of the sky in 2013, has no documentary verification of their origin, orientation, or track record, but they are being quoted as a source by a major news organization if, indeed, you consider AOL a major news organization. Real Clear Politics does not list any of Morning Consult’s poll results and since Real Clear Politics poll of polls includes some pretty obscure polls, the absence of any reference to Morning Consult on a list of polls that goes back two years raises more questions about the reliability of Morning Consult’s findings.

A few days ago, I wrote an article called New Poll Indicates Turning Point for Johnson Campaign and the Nation for Bindlesnitch in which I suggested that a poll conducted by BindleSnitch indicated that Gary Johnson’s campaign had reached a turning point and was surging toward victory. It was a complete fabrication, as I indicated at the end of the article.

My purpose then was to heap scorn on the practice of quoting obscure polls from ill-defined sources, and to show how easy it would be to hoodwink the news media. Of course no one paid any attention. Now, Morning Consult has proven once again that reality always trumps fiction (I think I have used that phrase before) by presenting questionable data from a questionable source and getting their stories picked up by supposedly responsible journalists.

You might not think that AOL qualifies as a responsible news organization, but here’s the problem: They think they are, and so do millions of other Americans who don’t know better. They say so themselves, right here. They might want to reconsider this slogan;

 aol snip

The Really Bad News

But, wait, as the saying goes, there’s more: The really bad news is that the two third-party candidates are having an effect.

In a four-way matchup between Clinton, Trump, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Clinton still wins by a 4.4 point margin, but it is clear that Johnson and Stein are having an effect on the polls. Since Jill Stein has only improved her market penetration from 2.5 points on June 1 to 3.1 points on August 29th, it appears that Johnson, who has improved from 4.5 points on June 1 to 8 points on August 29 is the would-be king-maker.

With Johnson and Stein in the race, Clinton deteriorates from a 48.4 share to a 42.5 share of the electorate, a loss of 5.9 points. Trump deteriorates from 42.3 share to a 38.1 share, a loss of 4.2 points, so it is clear that Clinton is suffering more third-party erosion than Trump is.  Most of this movement is probably coming from voters shifting from both Clinton and Trump to the Libertarian candidate, because Johnson has improved by 3.5 points while Stein has only improved by a mere .6 of one point.

Right now, the Real Clear Politics Electoral College map shows Clinton ahead of Trump by 118 votes,with 112 votes still up for grabs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Clinton is currently at 272 projected electoral college votes, two more than needed to win outright victory. If Johnson and Stein continue to suck votes away from Clinton, we might end up with the Republican House of Representatives deciding the fate of the nation if no candidate racks up the required electoral college votes.

So, the next time someone tells you that they are voting for Jill Stein because they want to vote their conscience, ask them how their conscience is going to feel if their vote costs Clinton their state, and their state costs Clinton the election and we then end up with Donald Trump in the White House. If someone tells you they are voting for Gary Johnson, ask the same question. Neither Johnson nor Stein have any chance at winning the requisite number of electoral college votes required to win the election, because Hillary Clinton already own those votes. All they can do is push the election into the House of Representatives, where neither third-party candidate has any support.

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