By Ellen Ratner
TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON –– Rasmussen Reports president Scott Rasmussen is famous for his polling and understanding trends and people’s views. However, not everyone knows that he has a background in media and just began a radio show heard on weekends in Washington, DC and Chicago. I met up with Scott in the green room at Fox News Channel where he was doing one of his many media appearances.
First, a little history. Rasmussen Reports began as an opinion polling firm that published its results. Back in the mid-1990s Rasmussen began putting the results of his polling on the internet and he says he found “there was a tremendous appetite because people cared about the topics we polled about and wanted to know what their friends and neighbors were thinking.”
Rasmussen says these polls are scientific surveys. Most of the interviews are conducted via the phone and since growing numbers of people are abandoning land lines, they are reaching them in different ways as well. They collect a random group of people all around the country and make sure the sample they get reflects the nation’s population in terms of gender, age, race, political party and geographic location. Rasmussen tells TALKERS, “One of the things that is important in any kind of scientific survey is being a randomly selected group. That’s the way you get the results. The way you test to see if the poll works is to see in the real world what things the poll predicted actually happened. The most obvious example is comparing poll results to election results.”
Rasmussen’s entry into the polling/opinion business and back into broadcasting is an interesting story. He was always very good at numbers and had grown up around broadcasting. During the mid-1980s, at a time when congressional term limits were all the rage, Rasmussen says people who wanted term limits couldn’t find pollsters to work with because Republican pollsters wanted results that helped Republicans and Democratic pollsters wanted results that helped Democrats. He did some volunteer work for them and that eventually led him to hang out a shingle and set up his own firm. He says it took on a life of its own. “In the mid-1990s there was this new thing called the internet and I opened a site. I was really shocked to learn how much of an audience there was for people getting information on their own and I have been following that consumer interest ever since.”
Having a broadcasting background tuned Scott Rassmussen’s eyes and ears to opinion. He and his father Bill are renowned as co-founders of ESPN. His father worked as a sports announcer for many years. Scott began his broadcasting career when he was seven years old voicing a commercial. Bill Rasmussen was communications director for the New England Whalers of the World Hockey League. Scott Rasmussen says it’s sometimes hard to explain the late 1970s to young people today. “There was only one college football game on TV each weekend. People wouldn’t put sports on television that much because there were only three networks and the audience shares weren’t big enough. We were having trouble getting the Whalers on television. Someone told us about cable TV so we had a meeting with all of the cable operators and told them about this great idea to put the Whalers on. We were going to fill out the summer with Bristol Red Sox baseball. That whole meeting was kind of a flop but we learned about the satellite at that meeting. We learned that we could send a signal around America via satellite for less money than it would cost to send that same signal around the state of Connecticut via traditional landlines.” Eventually they put football on cable on the weekend to use the satellite time they had committed to. Soon they had, what was at the time, the largest contract in cable history from Anheuser-Busch.
Now, more than 15 years after Rasmussen Reports went online, Scott Rasmussen has a weekly radio show on Citadel’s WMAL, Washington, DC and WLS, Chicago. The show isn’t a permanent addition to either station’s weekend lineup at this point but it could develop into something longer term. Currently, the show’s opening segment offers the latest polling data on the issues of the day. Rasmussen says his role is to not only keep the conversation going but to bring in a new element of what the polls are showing and what voters or consumers believe about various issues. Citadel is offering him the chance to try out his ideas and he’s looking to expand.
Broadcasters interested in speaking with Rasmussen on their shows can do so as he is available for radio interviews. He can be reached via rasmussenreports.com or phoned at 732-776-9777 and ask for either Beth or Debbie.