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ABC News: 'Answer Our Questions -- Or Else!'

The following is the complete text of an email received by Rasmussen Reports this morning:

My name is Elliott Morris, and I am the Editorial Director of Data Analytics at ABC News. I am responsible for our editorial analysis of polls, elections results and other data, including the output at ABC's FiveThirtyEight.

I am emailing you to send a final notice that FiveThirtyEight is considering formally banning Rasmussen Reports from its coverage. Such a ban would result in being removed from listing on our main polls page and being excluded from all of our aggregation and election forecasting models. If banned, Rasmussen Reports would also be removed from our historical averages of polls and from our pollster ratings. Your surveys would no longer appear in reporting and we would write an article explaining our reasons for the ban. 

A pollster at Rasmussen Reports (preferably you) needs to reply to this email with satisfactory comments in order to avoid the ban. To be sure, response alone is not guaranteed to end in the avoidance of a ban; our concerns run much deeper than simple failure to reply to methodological queries — which, for what it's worth, is itself grounds for a ban, and on which we have already given Rasmussen substantial leeway. 

First, Rasmussen must explain the nature of its relationship with several right-leaning blogs and online media outlets, which have given us reason to doubt the ethical operation of the polling firm. please tell us whether questions are ever suggested to Rasmussen from these outlets, including Fox News and "Steve Bannon's War Room", where Rasmussen's head pollster regularly appears, with the promise of coverage in return for "public" fieldwork? Do Rasmussen's pollsters work with anyone from these organizations on topics to consider polling, despite listing polls as un-sponsored or sponsored by other groups? Does the pollster have a close personal relationship with any of these figures that might cloud their judgement in the operation of a public poll? 

Related to this, does Rasmussen Reports believe the results of the 2022 Arizona Governor election, as certified by the state's department of elections, to be fraudulent based on the results of a 2023 survey conducted by Rasmussen reports and sponsored by College Republicans, as it stated for Mr Bannon on his programming in April of this year? Does Rasmussen Reports believe its polls can provide more precise estimates of election results than certified ballot counts by states' secretaries of state? Does it believe the results of the 2020 election as certified are accurate? What does it view its role as in providing public opinion data on this topic? 

Second, Rasmussen must answer the following questions about its methodology, which Mr Mitchell has so far failed to answer for FiveThirtyEight senior reporter Nathaniel Rakich three times:

  1. This survey seems to indicate that Rasmussen’s weighting targets or sampling strategies are not well-tuned, since the outcome of the poll does not match the observable election result. How are you addressing that methodological problem?
  2. This tweet seems to indicate that Rasmussen’s IVR polling is reaching the same people (or, at least, person) multiple times. Is the phone portion of the poll relying on a panel of some type? If not, why would the same citizen get routine calls from the same pollster?
  3. Perhaps related to #2: Your methodology states, "Calls are placed to randomly-selected phone numbers through a process that ensures appropriate geographic representation." What is the process being applied? And what does "randomly-selected" mean here? If not RDD, where are you getting your call lists?
  4. The methodology mentions a "demographically diverse panel" for online respondents. Is this panel proprietary, or are you contracting it out? If the former, how do you recruit and ensure balanced representation on the panel? If the latter, to whom are you contracting out?
  5. The methodology mentions you weight by "age, race, gender, political party, and other factors." What are the other factors?
  6. The methodology also states, "For political surveys, census bureau data provides a starting point and a series of screening questions are used to determine likely voters. The questions involve voting history, interest in the current campaign, and likely voting intentions." Does this mean you are weighting first and screening second? If so, is there additional rebalancing for the LV sample? For example, women are less likely than men to say they're definitely going to vote, but they usually make up at least half of the electorate anyway.

In addition, please tell us:

  1. Where do the benchmarks for your non-census weighting variables, such as political party, come from? Are they constant across surveys in a given year or month or do they change over time? If they change, what are the changes based on?
  2. Does Rasmussen Reports check its likely voter screens against any ongoing estimate of the proportion of the population belonging to a given party?
  3. and; How does Rasmussen Reports account for the biases introduced into its sample by not calling cell phones?

Failure to reply, or failure to notify us of an intent to speedily reply, by the end of the day on Friday, June 30th, 2023 will be taken as a final concession of our grounds for a ban. The ban would take effect imminently thereafter. 

Thank you for your time,

Elliott Morris 

ABC News 

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

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