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Michigan: There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

Attorney David Trott’s recent announcement that he plans to challenge freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., in next year’s GOP primary in the 11th District has gotten plenty of attention, both in Roll Call and elsewhere. And it deserved it, since Bentivolio is one of a very small handful of House incumbents who seem poised to lose bids for renomination.

Bentivolio is hardly a political powerhouse. In 2012, he lost more than a third of the primary vote to a write-in candidate to win the Republican nomination for Congress. Then he defeated a weak Democratic opponent by 6 points in November. Since then, he has done nothing to shed his reputation as a libertarian loose cannon.

Trott has been endorsed by some substantial GOPers already, including former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and former state Rep. (and one-time U.S. Senate and U.S. House nominee) Rocky Raczkowski. If the attorney puts together the kind of effort that many assume he will, Bentivolio will be in deep trouble. We are talking about Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais kind of trouble — a problem for Bentivolio since DesJarlais is going to lose his primary if he runs for another term.

Which now brings us to the suckers born every minute …

Both the Oakland Press (a Journal Register company) and, the website of the Booth Newspapers chain (which includes newspapers in Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Saginaw and elsewhere) reported on a recent “poll” in the Michigan GOP primary race that showed Bentivolio holding a lead over Trott.

The automated “poll,” a “collaborative effort” of three different companies (I won’t name them because they don’t deserve any publicity), showed 100 percent of respondents having an opinion when asked which candidate they “prefer THE MOST.” “Undecided” or “no opinion” was not an option, even though many potential voters undoubtedly were undecided, had no opinion or had never heard of the candidates. But never mind that, or the fact that the lack of an “undecided” option so distorts the results as to make them meaningless.

The so-called poll included just two questions: the meaningless forced ballot test and a question on gender (!!!). It did not ask whether respondents had heard of the candidates or had positive or negative opinions of the candidates.

I won’t give the names of the two writers who did nothing more than rewrite the press releases into “news” stories, since presumably there were editors involved as well. But shouldn’t we expect more from both “media” organizations?

Anyway, if you saw their coverage of the “poll,” you ought to know that the “survey” is one of the worst that I have ever seen — and I have seen some pretty bad ones over the years. The whole incident gives polling and journalism a bad name. Congratulations to those media outlets that saw the press release and discarded it.

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