Nelson is a blogger, activist and communications consultant, his website says. He is a new media manager at public affairs firm The Hatcher Group and blogs about sustainability politics on EnviroKnow.
“Most Americans oppose President Barack Obama’s ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico spill, even as they hold the company primarily responsible for the incident. Almost three-fourths, or 73 percent, say a ban is unnecessary, calling the worst oil spill in U.S. history a ‘freak accident,’ according to a Bloomberg National Poll.”
But, as Nelson outlined on his blog, the poll really asked if poll takers think “off-shore drilling is just too dangerous and should be banned” or if “off-shore drilling can be made safer and should not be banned.”
In an e-mail to StinkyJournalism, Nelson wrote that he has been “following polling on off-shore drilling very closely” for the past few months and that “as soon as I saw the Bloomberg headline” he knew “something wasn’t right.”
Nelson listed on his blog that he contacted The Daily Beast and Atlantic Monthly, which both reported Bloomberg’s story and that Atlantic Monthly issued a correction.
Nelson wrote on his blog that he has “been in contact with 13 Bloomberg employees” but has found that none has any reason or concern for the story’s inaccuracy. Nelson listed the people at Bloomberg he has contacted, including the article’s author and various editors. As of July 21 at 9 PM EST, Nelson still hasn’t gotten a response from Bloomberg about the poll or a correction.
In an e-mail to StinkyJournalism, Nelson wrote that some news organizations have quickly made corrections when he’s contacted them, citing CNN, but that others have proved more difficult.
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While a commenter on the Huffington Post’s publish of Nelson’s story suggested that Nelson was too confrontational with his requests for a correction from Bloomberg, Nelson wrote to StinkyJournalism that he “was extremely cordial at first, and only became confrontational once it became clear they were stonewalling.”
Media Matters agreed July 16 with Nelson, writing that “Bloomberg’s polling question was about X, and then Bloomberg News announced it was about Y, and attached Obama’s name to it. There’s an apples-and-oranges problem here that Bloomberg News ought to acknowledge and correct. ”
Likewise, Kevin Drum wrote on his Mother Jones blog July 15 that Bloomberg’s report “is stunningly bad journalism.”
Drum went on to say that “The Bloomberg results make for an exciting headline, but that’s about it. Correlation with reality is pretty close to zero.”
Nelson reported on his blog that Bloomberg’s Washington executive editor Al Hunt, who Nelson was told “supervises Bloomberg’s poll coverage,” wrote to him that “we believe we intrepreted the poll data correctly.”
The president of the company that did the poll for Bloomberg, J.Ann Selzer of Selzer and Company, Inc., “refused to answer any specific questions,” Nelson wrote.
A similarly themed poll question by ABC News and the Washington Post released July 14 – the same day as the Bloomberg article – found much different results, Nelson noted on EnviroKnow.
The ABC/WP poll found that 39% of their respondents across the U.S. oppose the six-month moratorium, compared with Bloomberg’s 73%. The ABC/WP question was “Do you support or oppose the current six-month ban on new offshore oil drilling while authorities investigate the cause of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?”
The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics advises journalists “clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct,” “encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media,” and “admit mistakes and correct them promptly.