Here's the background:
In a Zogby Poll, released June 30, 2005, we learned that:
"...more than two-in-five (42%) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment."
The 'interiors' of the poll say that 59% of dems, 43% of Independents and 25% of repugs "would favor impeaching the President under these circumstances."
On June 30, the day the poll was released, Keith Olbermann interviewed John Zogby on Countdown and they discussed the impeachment question and Keith asked him when he would ask the impeachment question again - Zogby replied:
"We'll test it periodically, probably in a month from now. Again, no-one is really talking about it, but it is a good barometric reading." (Crooks and Liars has the video)
A week later, on July 6, Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post wrote:
"But you wouldn't know (that 42% want to impeach) from following the news. Only three mainstream outlets that I can find made even cursory mention of the poll last week when it came out.
Nevertheless, could there be anything that 42% of Americans agree on that the media care about so little?"
On August 3, when a new Zogby poll was released which didn't include the impeachment question, I sent Zogby an email asking, "When [do] you plan to ask that question again?"
On August 10, I got a response - they tried kicking the can down the road, apparently hoping that I'd forget:
"We'll skip the summer and get back to it in September. John Zogby"
On August 28, I emailed Zogby again, trying to tease a commitment out of them:
"When will you be asking this question? Early in september? Or later in the month?"
At the same time, I wrote a post saying:
"My sense is that they are nervous about this question for one reason or other. And it's tempting to think that they are nervous because of some pressure from the egadministration - and if the egadmin is nervous, then lets shine the light on 'em."Anyway, I hadn't received a response from that Aug 28 email, so I sent the same question to another person at Zogby on Sep 12, and I promptly received this reply (see above):
We have decided to not to ask the impeachment question again unless it is raised in Congress. We aim to remain as impartial as possible with our questions. Thank you.
E tu Zogby? E tu.
It's not apparent whether the 'impartiality' (sic) rule is a new rule - or whether they already broke their own rule when they asked the question in the June 30 poll, and also when John Zogby was on national TV saying that he'd ask the question regularly.
With remarkable restraint, I replied to Chris' email:
"That's an odd trigger point. I don't understand how 'impartiality' correlates with "unless it is raised in Congress"
Could you please explain?"
I'll let you know when/if I hear back from him - although it's been a week now already.
Here's what John Zogby says about polling in the "About" section of Zogby.com":
"In a democracy, public opinion must be a factor in any policy discussion. I personally have some trouble when polls drive policy or decisions by our leaders, but the opinion of voters must be somewhere in the mix. Ultimately, we elect our representatives to make decisions on principle and conscience, but we also expect that they not be contemptuous of the people who elected them.
Polls are a good thing. They help connect us -- just like newspaper letters to the editor and talk radio. They let us know if our opinions are in the mainstream or not. They measure values, the ideas we cherish the most. They can also be abused, like anything else. But one thing I have learned in my decade and a half of doing this professionally: those who complain the loudest about polls follow them more closely than anyone else."
On Aug 31, in a post titled "MSM Refuses to Poll on Impeachment Question," Bob Fertik at Democrats.com (another IBC member)noted that "The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll was published today, and despite record-low approval ratings for Bush (45%), there was no question on impeachment." He wrote a letter to some pollsters asking:
"Can you explain why the Post did not ask a question about impeachment in its latest poll?
Were you asked not to include such a question, either by senior editors or Republican officials?"
Gallup replied thusly (and the Washington Post concurred):
" But the general procedure Gallup uses to determine what to ask about in our surveys is to measure the issues and concerns that are being discussed in the public domain. We will certainly ask Americans about their views on impeaching George W. Bush if, and when, there is some discussion of that possibility by congressional leaders, and/or if commentators begin discussing it in the news media. That has not happened to date."
(note that there's no mention of Zogby's 'impartiality')
In the June 30 interview on Olbermann's Countdown , Zogby said:
"It's mainly a testimonial to just how polarized this nation is - the fact that, at this point in time, in the middle of a war, after a re-election, that this many people would even think about impeachment - when no-one else is even talking about it... and so it's troublesome for this administration
Again, no-one is really talking about it, but it is a good barometric reading"
Of course, when Zogby says "no-one", he means that the punditocracy isn't talking about it. That is to say, 42% of the American people are seriously thinking about the impeachment of the President despite the apparent media lockdown.
So we can see what happened: Zogby was a naughty pollster and he asked the public what they thought without getting permission from the administration - and he did one interview with the apparently-independent Olbermann. A week later, Dan Froomkin had presumably been reading the blogs, and he wrote that the media had barely mentioned the news - this despite both Olbermann and Zogby calling the results "extraordinary".
Fast forward two months, and the pollster-gatekeepers are arguing that they won't ask Americans the impeachment question, because the pundits won't mention impeachment. The only occasion that the story got any media coverage was when Zogby did the poll in June.
Zogby has now 'decided' not to ask the impeachment question again, which ensures that there won't be any media discussion, which means that the pollsters won't ask Americans whether they'd prefer to get rid of their President, which in turn results in the media silence.
It's a lovely little closed loop they've created. It's impenetrable, and it's dangerous.
The purpose of the lockdown is obviously to suppress the consideration of impeachment - if 42% of the population are already of the opinion that the president (and presumably others) should be impeached, then we can safely assume that a much higher percentage of the population would be calling for impeachment if we had a free press.
It is clear that the administration is, or should be, concerned about the possibility of impeachment. It is also clear that Zogby's concern about the 'impartiality' of questions is absurd on its face. As John Zogby himself says: "those who complain the loudest about polls follow them more closely than anyone else" - which necessarily raises the distinct possibility that the administration was sufficiently concerned about the mere mention of impeachment that they asked, bribed, or otherwise threatened Zogby into not repeating the poll about impeachment.
(update: Dan Rather just gave a speech at the Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan where he said that there is an "atmosphere of fear in newsrooms" which comes from politicians "applying pressure" (link))
Of course, it's conceivable that Zogby's decision not to poll the impeachment question is an act of self-censorship. That scenario seems unlikely however, given that Zogby appears to have changed his 'policy' in the week or two after his appearance on Keith Olbermann's Countdown.
We should make some noise about this. The maladministration is concerned about impeachment, and the polling firms are in the pocket of the Rovian machine. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.