UPDATED: Report Proves Quinnipiac Hillary ‘Liar’ Poll Was False and Slanderous

By Tom Watson and Peter Daou

UPDATE (10/2/15): USA TODAY and Suffolk University pull the identical, reprehensible stunt as Quinnipiac, deceiving readers into believing that the majority of voters believe Hillary Clinton is a "liar." Under the graphic on this page, USA TODAY tells readers that the source of the "liar" word association is "430 likely Democratic voters." That is an outright lie. Looking at the internals, out of 131 respondents – 13% of the total sample – who associated "liar" with Hillary, only 8 (0.8%  of the total) were Democrats, 49 were Independents, and 73 were Republicans. And over half were men. So USA TODAY is portraying the response of mainly male Republicans as somehow indicative of what Democrats (and all voters) believe about Hillary Clinton.

Similarly, the words used in the poll to compliment Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (both of whom we admire and respect) come primarily from Democrats. Comparing what most Republican males say about Hillary to what most Democrats say about Joe Biden is a brazen deception. It is entirely unacceptable. USA TODAY should retract the article and apologize to readers and to Hillary Clinton.

It is beyond question that the national media want to undermine Hillary's candidacy. Even Fox's Bill O'Reilly admits it. However, to do so with outright falsehoods is unconscionable. The Q poll debunked below was trumpeted by countless media outlets - to Hillary's great detriment. Now the USA TODAY/Suffolk U. poll is being disseminated by the media, from Morning Joe to Politico. This madness has to stop.

UPDATE (10/11/15): Incredibly, CBS News becomes the third major media source to deceive voters by representing Republican views of Hillary as those of Democrats. This graphic was posted by Twitter user "Lucille" from a screenshot of a CBS broadcast:

UPDATE (11/9/15): More than two months after we debunked this deceptive poll, Politico repeats the falsehood: 

In a Quinnipiac poll in late August, the first three words that came to voters’ minds about Clinton were “liar,” “dishonest” and “untrustworthy.”

The word "voters" is false and misleading. Those negative terms were from Republican voters, not all voters. This mischaracterization was initiated by Quinnipiac and has been repeated countless times by the media.


ORIGINAL POST (9/13/15):

It was a lightning bolt from the polling universe: two weeks ago, Quinnipiac University found that the most cited description of the most admired woman in American politics was “liar.”

The media jumped on it. Commentators seized on it as definitive proof that the American electorate distrusts Hillary Clinton.

But the conclusion was a sham.

Back on August 29th, we deconstructed the poll, looked at the internals and found that it was highly misleading. While Quinnipiac presented the poll as evidence that voters associated “liar” with Hillary, we demonstrated that it was Republican and Republican-leaning respondents to the Q-poll who linked Hillary to liar and other derogatory terms (including “bitch”). It is a vastly different thing for Republicans, parroting Fox news and talk radio, to hurl misogynistic insults at Hillary than for all voters to believe Hillary is a liar.

On August 29th, we wrote:

Like so many of the “bad news for Hillary” stories created by a single cherry-picked piece of data in a polling universe that (still) shows Hillary dominating the Democratic primary and the general election, the “liar” claim is just another bit of fool’s gold.

For two weeks, #HillaryMen have called on the media to disavow the poll. Some journalists have been ethical and responsible. Case in point: when presented with the #HillaryMen analysis of the Q-poll last week, veteran New Yorker political journalist John Cassidy immediately amended his piece and acknowledged it publicly.

Other media figures have ignored our debunking of the poll and run with the ‘liar” lie, slandering Hillary in the process. One of the most egregious examples was a nationally televised interview in which NBC political correspondent Andrea Mitchell confronted Hillary with the “liar” finding without questioning the poll’s methodology. This is reprehensible for any serious journalist. Mitchell essentially ambushed Hillary and compelled her to answer to a falsehood, to explain something that was factually wrong, something that goes to the heart of her integrity.

NBC's Savannah Guthrie compounded the inequity in an interview with Chelsea Clinton when she confronted her with the discredited poll. 

Just as the New York Times trumpeted a false and dangerous allegation that Hillary was the subject of a criminal investigation and generated a cascade of anti-Hillary coverage, the Q-poll has had the same effect. These are the proverbial eggs that can’t be uncracked, the genies that can’t be put back into the bottle. “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

But there’s a new twist in the Q-poll story. Today, we have new ammunition to expose the truth about this deceptive poll. Mediaite columnist Tommy Christopher has published a deeply reported article proving our initial claim that Quinnipiac cooked the numbers in a way that cast a false sense of dishonesty on the character and campaign of Hillary Clinton:

If you’ve watched any political news the past two weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s new campaign slogan must be “Hillary Clinton: Liar, Untrustworthy, Crook,” because that bumper sticker phrase has been plastered all over the dial, and has been tripping off the tongues of every news anchor and/or pundit, and has even been repeatedly shopped to the candidate herself.

Because of the way the results were reported, Republicans and Republican leaners comprised 45% of the reported responses, while Dems and Dem-leaners made up only 36%. Again, this analysis still leaves out a good 20% of the overall responses (ones which were mentioned one time or less), but when you consider the responses in context, it’s pretty clear that the negative responses were overwhelmingly from Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, and that there’s a much higher degree of descriptive unanimity among them.

Christopher got Quinnipiac to release the internal numbers on the word cloud that associated “liar” to Hillary Clinton. As we argued two weeks ago, the data “was mined with rank dishonesty, presented unethically by a pollster as a major find, and seized upon by an insider media class determined not to witness Hillary Clinton taking the oath of office in January of 2017.”

Christopher’s investigation supports the #HillaryMen case and calls into question the professional ethics of the Quinnipiac polling unit.

In light of this new evidence, #HillaryMen are formally calling on Quinnipiac University to issue a public apology to Hillary Clinton and to the American electorate. We call on Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., director of the poll, along with Peter A. Brown, assistant director; Tim Malloy, assistant director; April Kleinman, associate director; and the legendary New York newsman Mickey Carroll (the Q Poll spokesman) to repudiate and publicly apologize for the presentation of their August 27th poll results that branded Hillary Clinton a “liar.”

We ask Quinnipiac to retract and repudiate its false word cloud and we request that the Quinnipiac team undertake serious media outreach to alert reporters and commentators that the conclusion in their widely shared August 27th press release is false.

Only an apology and strong media outreach to retract and correct Quinnipiac’s false “findings” is a fair response to Tommy Christopher’s exposé and the #HillaryMen story.

We also ask that Quinnipiac University President John L. Lahey personally direct this effort to correct the University’s grievous error, as a signal of good faith to the American electorate and a sign that a fair and level playing field for the first serious woman presidential candidate is important to a liberal institution of higher learning.

The stakes are high, for both Quinnipiac’s reputation as university and for our public commons. Cultural sexism is rampant, particularly as the 2016 campaign takes shape and the forces of intolerance work to block the election of America’s first female president.

It is time for Quinnipiac to step up and make this right – in a way that the New York Times has lamentably failed to do.

And as we’ve contended in recent days, it is long past time for the national media and commentariat to apologize to Hillary and their audiences for eagerly and irresponsibly spreading false narratives as a cudgel to bash the most qualified American woman ever to seek the office of the presidency.

It is challenging enough for Hillary to take on nearly two dozen declared and undeclared candidates whose fire is directed primarily at her. It is even harder to attempt the heretofore impossible task of breaking the ultimate gender barrier. To add lies and innuendo from the media on top of these already formidable hurdles is the definition of injustice. If this gross mistreatment is allowed to stand, the 2016 election will become a national disgrace.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.