Episode 26: Polling 2016

Something happened. We lost two years. It’s already 2016, and the presidential election is here – as in right now.

That must be the case. There’s a new poll out almost every day. One poll after another declares Hillary Clinton is in the lead for the Democratic nomination. Another only a few days ago declared Rep. Paul Ryan has a lock on the Republican nomination.

But wait. Check your calendar. No matter how much buzz there is in the news media about the 2016 presidential polls, it’s actually 2014 – and it’s more than two years before the nominees are selected and President Barack Obama’s successor is declared.

So what’s with all 2016 polls, and how much should you be paying attention?

“They attract attention, for sure,” Carroll Doherty, director of political research at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, says. But “they don’t tell us a lot. … They tell us name recognition, and not much else.”

In poll speak, that means the results at this point are not predictive of what will happen in 2016. There’s that little problem of what social scientists call “intervening variables,” and what the rest of us describe as “things happen.” In other words, there still is plenty of opportunity for strong candidates to get derailed (think “bridgegate”) and weak ones to develop political muscle.

Doherty emphasizes that Pew, which labels itself as a non-partisan “fact tank,” is not in the 2016 polling business at this point. 

Why? Well, Doherty points out that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani looked strong in the summer of 2007, which was later in that cycle than February 2014 is in this one, and neither won the party nomination, not to mention the White House. Plus, he’s more focused on that little event coming up this November known as the midterm election.

So what are you to do with the barrage of 2016 polls?

DecodeDC’s latest podcast provides some guidance and perspective – along with mention of some possible candidates you definitely would never think of. 

Episode 25: The Greatest Show on Earth


If you’ve ever watched or heard a State of the Union address, you might think the event starts like this:  “Mr. Speaker! The President of the United States!”

But, as is true with so many things in Washington, there’s more to the story. A lot more.

The State of the Union address – SOTU as it’s known in Washington – is a mass media event that takes hours, no, make that days, no, make that months, of preparation.

The SOTU is highly orchestrated by the White House, by members of Congress, by the news media.

For many reporters, the speech itself is a blip. Their focus is Statuary Hall, which is a short walk from the House chamber where the president gives the annual speech.

“Stat Hall” – more jargon used by the Washington in-crowd – is interview central. A lot of lawmakers pass through the hall on their way to the address – some of them stopping to give reporters their response to a speech they have not yet heard – and almost all of them head to “Stat Hall” after the speech for the media after party. A few of the lawmakers are high-profile enough for reporters to flock to them when they enter the hall; most line up at one of many television interview locations and wait for their turn in front of the camera.

It’s a media mob scene.

To give you a sense of the entire day it takes news crews to set up and cover the mob, we perched a camera on a balcony overlooking the room and produced a time-lapse video of the craziness.

And to find out how the SOTU became such a circus – think of Stat Hall as the Big Top – listen to DecodeDC’s latest podcast: Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest show on earth!


Episode 24: The Real Fight Over Unemployment Benefits

If you've been tuning into the nightly news, you've heard the wrangling over unemployment benefits. It's not really about whether to extend them. It's about how to do it.


DecodeDC Acquired by E.W. Scripps; Expanding Staff and Mission

DecodeDC, the podcast, radio show and reporting brand, has been acquired by the E.W. Scripps company and will join its storied Washington, DC news bureau, founder and host Andrea Seabrook announced today.

“I’m thrilled,” said Seabrook. “It has always been my goal to cover Washington in a fresh new way, leaving behind the tired old cliches of political news. Scripps believes in that vision too, and has invested in expanding DecodeDC.”

Seabrook will join Scripps as well, continuing as the Anchor and Senior Editor of DecodeDC’s content. She previously spent more than a decade at NPR, reporting on Congress and hosting its nationally syndicated news programs. Seabrook left NPR in 2012 and founded DecodeDC with more than $100,000 raised through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

“The mission of DecodeDC is to tell the REAL stories in politics -- and to ignore the left/right theater that is dramatized by politicians and reported by the media on a daily basis,” said Seabrook. “I couldn’t be happier to find such an enthusiastic partner in Scripps, with its stellar legacy of truth-telling.”

Listeners will continue to find DecodeDC podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and other listening platforms, as well as on the website, DecodeDC.com. As it joins Scripps’ Washington, DC Bureau, DecodeDC will expand into the company’s newspapers, television stations, and digital properties.

Episode 23: Morality 2.0

Which is worse: breaking the law to leak classified secrets?  Or keeping quiet about what could be a violation of Americans' constitutional rights?  Andrea Seabrook talks to an expert who believes that these modern times call for a Morality 2.0.