10/06/2009 03:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Disclosing Our Own Screwup

In the spirit of transparency, we need to provide full disclosure of a mistake we made and an apology to our readers and to Rasmussen Reports.

In the year since the election, we have worked to create a new collection of charts that track all available surveys not just for election trial heat results but also a series of national measures, including presidential job approval ratings, favorable ratings, the national "generic" congressional ballot, the classic "right direction wrong track" question and a handful of measures of perceptions of the economy.

We started putting up new charts after the 2008 election knowing that some would "work" -- we would find enough reasonably comparable data from a variety of sources to make for a robust trend line -- and some would not. It was also probably inevitable that we would make a mistake or two along the way.

Well, as I discovered this past week, we did. For a handful of charts, we have been republishing some extraneous data from behind the gated subscriber pages on The affected charts are two that track perceptions of the economy (excellent/good/fair/poor and getting better/getting worse), our Obama favorable rating chart and the three charts that track the Obama job rating by party (Democrat, Republican and independent). Rasmussen does provide some results from these questions (usually just from one answer category) on their free-to-all "By The Numbers" page. For the economic charts, that represent the bulk of the data we misused, we were filling in results from the subscriber tabs for data omitted on the By-The-Numbers page.   Compounding the error, as noted last week, in one instance we were including numbers on our Obama favorable rating chart that were actually mislabeled job approval rating results.

I could tell a long story about a small error that cascaded, but it all boils down to a lack of clear communication by me. As such I deserve and will take full blame. So there is no confusion in the future, our policy henceforth is iron-clad: We will not republish a single number in our charts unless it has already been published or released into the public domain by the pollster or sponsor.

Knowing that Josh Tucker has raised some good questions about the whole notion of gated, subscriber-only crosstabs, I want to make clear that no one at Rasmussen complained to us about this issue. We discovered it ourselves and subsequently reached out to apologize, an apology I repeat publicly today. Except for the erroneously labeled data which we have already taken down, Scott Rasmussen has kindly granted us permission to leave the remaining data in place.

In correcting our error, however, it is now clear that two of our charts -- those tracking current and retrospective assessments of the economy -- will no longer "work" as intended. Virtually all of the data going forward would be coming from the Gallup Daily tracking and, as such, our chart would add no real value to those that Gallup publishes itself (here and here). We may rework our charts using only monthly values at some point in the future, but if we do, those charts will be based on monthly releases from other organizations, and from Gallup or Rasmussen should they ever opt to put monthly summaries into the public domain.