01/03/2008 08:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Unethical "Entrance Polls"

Watching CNN tonight, I am struck by how journalistically unethical it is for this network to be trumpeting so-called "entrance polls" (aka. scattered polls of people walking into the caucuses) - at the very moment the Iowa caucus voting is actually happening. Here you have a process that is so open for public viewing that national cable news cameras are allowed to broadcast them live to the planet. And that network - throwing journalism ethics to the wind - is citing straw polls of voters walking into the caucuses as a way to predict the voting, before the voting has actually taken place.

This is far worse than broadcasting results from eastern states before western states polls close. This is broadcasting numbers that seem like results BEFORE the voting has even concluded. It is not a stretch to think that such speculation will bleed into the caucus meetings taking place, potentially manipulating voting outcomes.

If, say, you are in a caucus meeting and hear that CNN is saying your candidate is going to lose based on "entrance polls" perhaps you aren't going to vote for your candidate anymore, not wanting to back a supposed loser. In other words, the media's desperation to create storylines has the very real possibility of creating self-fulfilling predictions. National political reporters go on television essentially predicting winners and losers based on "entrance polls," that news gets into caucuses going on, thus helping to create those very winners and losers.

I wish I was surprised, but I'm not. After all, as Matt Yglesias notes, NBC's Tim Russert and Chris Matthews have already decided that John McCain is the big story coming out of Iowa - even before a single caucus has been held.

Welcome to the supposed "greatest democracy on earth."