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Friday, December 09, 2005

Columnist Says Previous Payments for Court Testimony Undermine Zogby Credibility on Wal-Mart Survey

You probably read last week about that John Zogby survey that purported to show that a majority of Americans think Wal-Mart is bad for America. Considering the widespread and unquestioning coverage given the Zogby survey by the mainstream media, odds are good you heard about it over and over.

Now comes investigative journalist and book author Joel Mowbray with a column in The Washington Times that tells us the rest of the story of John Zogby's relationship with Wal-Mart and the union-backed Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign against the Arkansas-based Big Box retailer.

Mowbray did what the mainstream media didn't do, which was a little digging into the bonafides of a pollster whose work regarding Wal-Mart begins to appear only randomly related to accuracy and reality.

What Mowbray found was an Arizona court case in which Zogby testified last year:

"In recent years, Mr. Zogby has pocketed roughly $90,000 to serve as an expert witness for individuals suing Wal-Mart, according to testimony he gave in a deposition last year in an Arizona case. Nowhere is Mr. Zogby's prior work on behalf of plaintiffs mentioned in the press release announcing the poll results.
"During a 45-minute phone interview for this column, Mr. Zogby willingly acknowledged when asked about his work on behalf of the various plaintiffs. He repeatedly requested that the column reflect his honesty, which shows that he understands the relevance of his past work."

Why is Zogby's paid testimony relevant to the work of his survey on how Americans view Wal-Mart?

"As any pollster can attest, trust is the key issue, as polling - no matter how transparent or scientific it purports to be - hinges on the credibility of the wizard behind the curtain. Pollsters are masters of subtle manipulation, and small changes in wording can - and often do - yield substantially different results. Or questions can be asked in such a way that produce ambiguous results that can be interpreted in many different fashions."

Turns out, according to Mowbray, that Zogby developed his survey questions in consultation with Wake Up Wal-Mart and that the advocacy group even wrote the news release announcing the results of the survey.

So why did we read these facts in The Washington Times instead of in a mainstream media oracle like The New York Times or The Washington Post? Could it be that Wal-Mart is the focal point of an urban legend of the mainstream media - Big Box retailers are by definition evil because they are such a prominent feature of suburban America?

Go here for the rest of the Mowbray column.

Zogby has a history of producing surveys that others find questionable. RedState.org founder Mike Krempasky offers these links (Full Disclosure: Mike is an account executive at a major public relations firm that does work for Wal-Mart):

Zogby predicted a Kerry win in the 2004 presidential race:
http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews825.html

And there are these links as well:
http://www.prospect.org/print/V14/1/mooney-c.html
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_22_56/ai_n13659409
http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2004/8/23/173359/459/83#83