I’ve often touched on the high correlation between the results of newspaper polls and their ideological orientations. But the newspapers claim that the samples are randomly selected. So what’s going on?
It is important to remember that Japanese households with fixed phone lines generally subscribe to one of the four major newspapers. Moreover, the deliverymen (or -women) personally make the rounds each month to collect the subscription fees and every six or twelve months to renew the subscriptions, leaving boxes of detergents and other freebies as tokens of their appreciation. This engenders strong brand loyalty. A household tends to stick with one newspaper.
So, if people receive phone calls from any of the major newspapers and are asked to waste their time answering questions with regard to their political preferences － remember, they’re (presumably) not getting any tangible benefits from this － they should be strongly inclined to respond to the ones that they subscribe to.
If that line of reasoning is correct, a disproportionately number of the people who give answers to any of the four major newspapers must be subscribing to that particular newspaper. Their views, of course, are rooted in their worldview and understanding of the facts, which are in turn influenced over a course of many years, often decades, by the news editorials and op-eds to which they have been exposed.
It would be easy to test this conjecture. All that the newspapers would have to do when taking polls would be to ask the following question:
What newspaper, if any, do you subscribe to?
Of course the newspapers will never do that. But one corollary of my conjecture is that non-newspaper polls will be more reflective of the public mind. We may have Yomiuri loyalty, we may have Yomiuri Giants loyalty, but we don’t have Nippon TV loyalty. And we certainly do not have wire service loyalty. That means that TV/wire service should be able to attract an ideologically more even distributed set of samples. So it is reasonable to think that the numbers in TV and wire service poll numbers would fall somewhere between Asahi and Yomiuri poll numbers and would be more consonant with election results. This is testable. I’m sure that a good statistician could check this out. Does anyone out there want to work with me on this?