Bill Frist Doctors the Numbers
November 14, 2003 7:05 AM   Subscribe

On the internet, everyone knows you're a dog.
posted by jpoulos at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2003

posted by i_cola at 7:23 AM on November 14, 2003

Do you think Frist had any knowledge or more importantly any comprehension of these machinations?
posted by machaus at 7:29 AM on November 14, 2003

I think he does now. Where will the buck stop, I wonder?
posted by rushmc at 7:32 AM on November 14, 2003


nah, you're right, he's an idiot.
posted by hackly_fracture at 7:32 AM on November 14, 2003

Some are saying "So what? It's a web poll! It's meaningless!"

So that leads me to wonder, if it's so meaningless, why is it being manipulated?
posted by rocketman at 7:38 AM on November 14, 2003

He should no about it. Atrios has pointed out his flip flopping on his site several times. This isn't the first time.
posted by McBain at 7:40 AM on November 14, 2003

Update: Reuters has the story.
By early evening, over 9,000 people had responded, with some 60 percent voting 'No.' That wasn't lost on Democrats, who took to the Senate floor to bait Republicans.


Frist's spokesman, Bob Stevenson, denied on Thursday the poll had been changed to try to ensure any particular result, attributing the initial back-and-forth to efforts to foil the automatic voting programs that were being used.

"They are up there to allow people to give their honest feedback. Wherever the chips may fall, that's fine," he said.

"However, after going through last night's experience, we've recommitted ourselves to the 'Do not spam' law," he said, referring to efforts to ban automated Internet junk mail.
That last bit about the spam law indicates to me that Stevenson, at least, is totally clueless.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2003

ack... know

rocketman- good point.
posted by McBain at 7:42 AM on November 14, 2003

Why is this any differnt from the franking letters sent out by all pols that ask questions clearly tageted for a desired answer? Yes, it's bullshit - move on....
posted by Pressed Rat at 7:48 AM on November 14, 2003

An excellent idea, Pressed Rat. Politicians like Bill Frist should move on and accomplish something rather than wasting the public's time and money whining when their opponents steal a play from the 1990s Republican playbook.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2003

Why is this any differnt from the franking letters sent out by all pols that ask questions clearly tageted for a desired answer?

Um, because the question was changed after the answers were given. This isn't just about influencing future poll answers, it's about actively changing the meaning of the answers already given. I'd say that's quite a bit different than just asking a loaded question.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2003

Every form of the question tried to continue a misunderstanding (which suites the Republicans now, it hasn't in the past) of what power the Senate has under the Constitution in terms of approving judicial nominees. What the Constitution really is that "[The President] shall have Power . . . by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States". It is strictly up to Senate rules how they give "Advice and Consent". The current rules are a simple majority, but there's other rules that allow Senators to filibuster nominees. For any one to accuse Senators of "block[ing] the body's Constitutional duty", is wrong.
posted by skynxnex at 8:12 AM on November 14, 2003

This never would've happened if they had put Diebold in charge of the poll.
posted by nickmark at 8:16 AM on November 14, 2003

Also notable is Atrios' observation that the Frist Privacy Policy, which states: "This site does not use 'cookies' or other means to track your visit to our site in any way" is wholly untrue. (I found the comments section of the above link especially interesting...) I think blatantly violating a stated privacy policy is even more problematic than the poll language games.
posted by limitedpie at 8:19 AM on November 14, 2003

Dirty and underhanded lies and deceit need to be exposed, regardless of whether the polling technique itself is rubbish. Online polls are referenced in the media, they're referenced by politicians and referenced by friends and coworkers. I can understand gaming polls, as usually happens when a third party posts "horrors, we must make it appear that the general public disapproves of pasta on Wednesdays, to the online polls friends!". When the pollster itself not only tweaks the wording of the question to influence the outcome but also resorts to inverting the results it needs to be called.
posted by substrate at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2003

limitedpie, cookies can be used for purposes other than tracking. Metafilter sets cookies, I don't think Matt has a hidden agenda where he uses those cookies to track me. So they may be telling the truth, the cookies may only be used to allow log ins. Your linked page is hammered at the moment, so I can't view it to see if there was any actual evidence of violating their own privacy concerns.
posted by substrate at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2003


Point taken, and not trying to sound like the Halleluia chorus - I never give political pols much credence anyway. But you're right - changing the sense of answers after the fact is scullduggery. Let's be honest with ourselves, however - and acknowledge that the vast majority of pols of any ilk are opportunistic slags that it would be well to disbelieve as to any utterance they proffer. Assuming otherwise based on partisan proclivities plays right into their hands.
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2003

substrate: I am woefully lacking in technical understanding of these sorts of things... I took Atrios' comment ("Liar.") and the seemingly more informed comments in the additional link at face value. If this allegation regarding the conflict in the stated privacy policy is unfounded, I stand corrected. And, of course, there are cookies that I deeply appreciate! I have absolutely no idea what my metafilter password is-- if it weren't for Matt's cookie I'd be simply pressing my nose against the glass of this conversation!
posted by limitedpie at 8:41 AM on November 14, 2003

substrate, you don't need a "hidden agenda" to track someone. It doesn't mean you're necessarily following them around the net and seeing what other sites they've been to. If you plant a cookie on their system, and then later look at that cookie, for whatever reason--even just to see if you've voted twice on a poll--you are by defnition (IMO, at least) tracking them.
posted by jpoulos at 8:41 AM on November 14, 2003

limitedpie: if you view the source code of a MeFi page while you're logged on, your password will be visible to you down towards the end of the page (look for the code: input type="hidden" name="user_pass"). I can't remember whether the final consensus on this fact was that it's an egregious violation of our privacy or a harmless coding glitch, but it's still there.

posted by yhbc at 8:46 AM on November 14, 2003

posted by specialk420 at 9:07 AM on November 14, 2003

Background on the issue of whether the Senate has a constitutional duty to give "advice and consent."
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:39 AM on November 14, 2003

Next thing you know, these Republicans will try stealing a presidential election.
posted by digaman at 10:34 AM on November 14, 2003

I'm sure Bill Clinton did this, and it's an evil, disgusting, thing to do, but Bill Clinton did it, so that means republicans can do it now, even though it's evil and disgusting.
posted by 2sheets at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2003

All political polls aren't crap, I think maybe the stupid pseudo-polls that get sent out on the mail are being confused with actual polls. It's likely that most people never were in an actual poll, when I say actual, I mean a poll conducted to see what people actually think, as opposed to one to try and make them think a certain way.

When you conduct a "poll" to make people think a certain way you need a lot of people to see it, because it's not really a poll anymore, it's an ad, so they seem more common. I don't think we have to worry about politicians or companies actually using this data as if it were valid polling data, that's not what it is for.

When you get a letter from the green party or the NRA asking "Don't you agree that we shouldn't disregard the constitution and pass illegal gun laws?" "Rate from 1 to 10 how much you agree with the statement: I respect the Constitution" they don't care about your answers, or if you mail it back, they're asking for money. If a poll comes with a pledge card it is not a poll. When Gallup, or some private pollsters do the real polls they don't mail it out to a billion people, they ask representative samples.

So, don't hate them for using stupid polls, they don't use them as polls, hate them for misrepresenting what the poll is for in an effort to brainwash people into thinking the majority sees things the way they they want you to.
posted by rhyax at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2003

This never would've happened if they had put Diebold in charge of the poll. - nickmark

posted by dejah420 at 1:25 PM on November 14, 2003

monju_bosatsu: more background (from your link).
posted by subgenius at 10:04 PM on November 14, 2003

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