The AP’s Ron Fournier: Racial Arsonist and Unethical Journalist

By Al Giordano


Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks - many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

- Ron Fournier, Associated Press, September 20, 2008


Theorem: The amount of time conservatives spend talking about the Bradley Effect is inversely proportional to the fortunes of their candidate.

-       Nate Silver, September 19, 2008

Today's AP story wasn't exactly about the so-called "Bradley Effect" or "Wilder Effect," a popular theory in the 1980s and 1990s that posited that some white Americans lie to pollsters claiming they will support African-American candidates but vote then against them in the secrecy of the ballot box.

The theory - if it was true back then - has been very thoroughly disproved in recent years, and today we'll walk you through all the documentation you need to debunk it when asked about it by others.

But with the McCain-Palin ticket sinking in the polls, and the financial crisis sucking the oxygen out of the culture war "issues" on all sides, with the economy now front and center as the dominant campaign issue, we're hearing increasing mention of the so-called "Bradley Effect," the so-called "Wilder Effect," the so-called "Bradley-Wilder Effect" (all names for the same 20th century theory).

And now, the Associated Press and its unethical reporter Ron Fournier are transparently attempting to turn the November election (and, if their attempted arson is successful, its aftermath for years to come) into a wedge to divide, polarize and set back race relations in the United States of America more than four decades.

Everybody take a deep breath and repeat after me: The race card is not working. It's not going to work. And we're not going to take the bait being dangled out in front of us by racially prejudiced provocateurs like Fournier: he wants us to spread his gasoline to make his arson fire bigger; we're going to hose water on it - and on him - instead.

This weekend, we have two sets of homework assignments for Field Hands, the first outlined in this post.

Step One: To arm and educate yourselves with the true facts demonstrating that the AP poll disproves Fournier's racially incendiary claims.

Step Two: To similarly arm yourself to be able to demonstrate that the so-called "Bradley Effect" (in all its names) has not been a serious factor for 15 years or more.

You will develop the talking points to explain the true facts to your neighbors, family and friends whenever it comes up. The "white Americans won't vote for a black man" canard is bogus, and, frankly, even if it were to be a factor, there is an equal and opposite force at play that is the Obama grassroots organization.

If "concern" about such claims need an outlet they will be in this assignment and the one to come later on today (to get the AP Managing Editors Association to fire Ron Fournier for his conflicts of interest and violation of the APME's Statement of Ethical Principles, or "ethics code").

Fournier's article claims:

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 - about two and one-half percentage points...

40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents...

More than a third of all white Democrats and independents - voters Obama can't win the White House without - agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks...

Among white Democrats, one third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.

Let's think about that last sentence carefully. One third of white Democrats agreed with a negative adjective about African-Americans. But 58 percent of those supposed "racists" - a majority of them - are still voting for a particular African-American in specific. And that's supposed to be "bad news" for Obama's candidacy?

In fact, if we review the actual poll - rather than Fournier's spin - it provides very good news for those that want Obama to win.

In the real data from the AP poll, Obama's favorable-to-negative rating (54 percent favorable to 41 negative, or 13+) is better than McCain's (50 to 42, or 8+). And Obama towers over McCain among those that have a "very favorable" opinion of each candidate, with 30 percent to just 13 for McCain.

Obama leads this poll (which casts a net much wider than "likely voters" or even "registered voters"): Obama 40 percent to 35 for McCain. Bob Barr receives one percent support and Ralph Nader, 2 percent.

If you take away the undecideds, that's Obama 51.2 percent to McCain 44.8 percent with third party candidates getting the remaining four percent.

The poll also "pushes" the 18 percent of undecided voters and gets only teenaged numbers of them to declare. Factoring in those numbers, here are the poll's results, adjusted to included those pushed:

Obama: 42.9 percent

McCain: 38.2 percent

Barr: 1 percent

Nader: 2 percent.

Don't Know: 16.9 percent

Isn't that interesting? That even in the poll that Ron Fournier of AP spins to try and demonstrate that Americans are too racist to vote for Obama, the African-American is ahead by greater than the poll's claimed 2.1 percent margin of error!

See, kind readers: The poll itself - in its most important finding (the voter preferences for president) - doesn't back up Fournier's spin, and in fact refutes it.

Here's another question: How much time will each candidate spend "working on the issues you would want him to work on the most"?

The percent of those who said "moderate," "a lot" or "a great deal" is:

Obama: 66 percent

McCain: 59 percent

Strip it down to "a lot" or "a great deal" and it's:

Obama: 40

McCain: 27

In other words, far from the term Fournier bandies about - "lazy" - voters see Obama as the more hard-working problem-solver for the issues they most care about.

Here's another interesting question from the poll:

After the presidential election in November, which of the following would you prefer?

Barack Obama as president and Democrats controlling the Congress 45

Barack Obama as president and Republicans controlling the Congress 5

John McCain as president and Democrats controlling the Congress 13

John McCain as president and Republicans controlling the Congress 33

Refused / Not Answered 4

Got it? 50 percent would prefer Obama (nine out of ten of them also want a Democratic Congress), whereas just 40 percent want McCain, and more than a third of them still want a Democratic Congress.)

Let's extrapolate: 53 percent want a Democratic Congress to just 38 percent wanting a Republican Congress. That means that Obama is running about 3 points behind the Democratic Congress, and McCain is running about 2 points ahead of a Republican Congress. That's pretty close on both ends.

And by a significant margin, 45 percent of Americans want Democrats to control the White House and Congress, to just 33 percent that would like a GOP clean sweep.

Some more data from the poll:

More respondents want a politically "moderate" president (47 percent) than those that want him "conservative" (30) or "liberal" (21). Percentage of respondents that consider each candidate to be "moderate"? Obama 24 to McCain 22.

Based on every major preferential piece of data in this poll, Obama wins the November election.

AP's Fournier chose, instead, to airlift the poll's responses on racial questions (often in response to extremely inflammatory statements about African-Americans being "lazy," "violent," "boastful," "complaining" or "irresponsible" and with other "push poll" type questions) and made that the story, even though the overall results of the poll disprove his claim and show a general populace ready to elect Obama president.

Why did Fournier commit that act of journalistic atrocity?

Because - as we will examine in a subsequent post - the combination of his well-documented pro-McCain bias and the fact that his own data shows Obama heading toward victory in November, has him proving Nate Silver's theorem above: "The amount of time conservatives spend talking about the Bradley Effect is inversely proportional to the fortunes of their candidate."

While Fournier isn't talking about "the Bradley effect" per se, certainly claims that a black man can't win pushes the same set of buttons and carries the same basic claim.

So, the rest of this post's homework assignment is this: Educate yourself on the real data that shows that the "Bradley Effect" is unsubstantiated by fifteen years of exhaustive polling data compared to election results:

Mark Blumenthal debunked the "Bradley Effect" on June 19 (his essay is what I've sent those that have been asking me about it all summer long):

In recent years, however, that pattern has not held. As reported by Scott Keeter and Nilanthi Samaranayakeof the Pew Research Center last year, polls in five biracial contests in 2006 were largely accurate. The margins between the candidates predicted the vote, with no evidence of hidden support for the white candidates. "The accuracy of the polling in these five biracial elections," they wrote, "suggests that the problems that bedeviled polling in the 1980s and early 1990s may no longer be so serious."

Also, this year's primary results did not systematically understate support for Hillary Rodham Clinton. If anything, polls tended to underestimate support for the winner in each state, a trend that worked in Obama's favor as often as Clinton's.

Nate Silver, wrote about it on August 11:

polling numbers from the primaries suggested no presence of a Bradley Effect. On the contrary, it was Barack Obama -- not Hillary Clinton -- who somewhat outperformed his polls on Election Day...

The table below reflects 31 states in which at least three separate polls were released within 14 days of that state's primary or caucus. We compare the final trendline estimate from against the actual results from that state:


Yesterday, Silver added this counsel:

Sean Oxendine at The Next Right purports to find evidence of a Bradley Effect in the Democratic primaries, something which I also looked for and did not find. The difference between my study and his is that I include all the states, whereas he excludes those which do not fit his argument.

An academic paper published on August 4 by Daniel Hopkins at Harvard University documents the same point.

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic explains what that Harvard paper says:

Hopkins looked at all senatorial and gubernatorial races that featured a woman or an African-American candidate from 1989 to 2006 -- a total of 133 races. For each, he found at least one poll released within a month of Election Day, enabling him to measure the gap between a candidate's polling and performance.

Hopkins finds some evidence that African-American candidates suffered from something resembling a Wilder effect before 1996, but since then, the effect seems to have disappeared.

This becomes the key finding of Hopkins's study: The Wilder effect is not a durable phenomenon. Rather, it is dependent on particular political conditions.

His theory is that when racially charged issues like welfare and crime dominated the political rhetoric, racial factors affected voting behavior and the Wilder effect asserted itself. But once welfare disappeared as a salient issue in 1996, political discourse was deracialized and race was less of a factor in voters' mind.

Here's the deal, Field Hands: Before worrying aloud about the "Bradley Effect," or other Fournier-type arguments that claim that America is too racist to elect Barack Obama president, study and rehearse talking about these points: Those I have just raised about what the AP poll really says (as opposed to Fournier's race-baiting spin), and read the five links debunking the Bradley Effect:

Mark Blumenthal (June 19)

Nate Silver (August 11)

Nate Silver (September 19)

Marc Ambinder (September 19)

Daniel Hopkins (August 4)

Copy and save that list of links. If commenters come here or on other blogs or websites you frequent that express "concern" or questions about the AP poll or the so-called "Bradley Effect," I am assigning each of you the job of testing your talking points on them - citing any of those five links above - rather than waiting for me to explain it over and over again. I may weigh in from time to time, comment or coach on which arguments I find most effective, but from here on out it will be your job to correct the record.

(And frankly, anonymous comments expressing "concern" about such matters - if they do not demonstrate that they've read at least one of those documents - are not likely to make the cut for being posted here. That said, I'll be more than happy to discuss in detail with those that demonstrate that you've read those documents and have informed questions or comments based on them.)

Ron Fournier is gambling that racism will win the day. It's the last card available to him and his ilk. By informing and arming yourself with the true facts, that's how you will prove him wrong.

In a subsequent post, coming up, I will outline the strategy, tactics and action plan through which we will persuade the Associated Press Managing Editors Association to remove Fournier from the presidential campaign beat. The path of action we will propose will be stylistically different than efforts made on other blogs that got buried under the news cycles of the two political conventions. Simply put, we will force AP - through its board of directors in the AP Managing Editors Association - to play by its own claimed rules and ethics code.

Meanwhile, study up and pump the water under which we will snuff out the malevolent torches of racial arsonists like Ron Fournier of the Associated Press.


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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