John Zogby is the reason I do not trust polls

John Zogby is the reason I do not trust polls - Bent Corner
John Zogby is the reason I do not trust polls - Bent Corner
My European history teacher, John Zogby (Photo: APB Speakers).

I do not trust political polls. I blame this mistrust on the man who taught the European history class I took in 1992 while stationed at Griffiss Air Force Base. The man’s name was John Zogby. When not teaching a night class for Utica College,  he ran a polling business in Upstate New York, John Zogby Associates.

The reason I took the class was that I was two classes shy of earning an Associates’s degree in avionics. I earned credits for the technical aspects of the degree attending Air Force tech school. I only needed general classes to complete the degree.  I thought I’d enjoy the European history class because, at the time, I enjoyed reading about the Napoleonic wars. Taking the class turned out to be a mistake.

John Zogby is the reason I do not trust polls - Bent Corner
Napoleon and his staff returning from Soissons after the battle of Laon, by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, 1814.

The class was different than any other college class I took. It met only once a week at night on base, not at the Utica College campus. Additionally, It did not have a textbook. The information was conveyed solely through lectures by John Zogby. Finally, the grade for the class was based solely on two essay tests, one at the midterm and the other at the class’s conclusion.

I didn’t like how the class didn’t have a textbook. I also didn’t like how the final grade for the class was determined by two essay tests. A lot could go wrong with having only two essay tests deciding your grade. Essay-based tests can be very subjective.

I have a tendency to think about the worst-case scenario of any situation and then I fixate on it as though it already happened. I was worried about blowing the midterm and then needing to earn an A on the final just to squeak by with a C.

I prepared for the midterm exam by studying my notes all weekend long. If I had a textbook, I would have also studied that.

On the night of the midterm test, John Zogby had a proposal for the class: work eight hours at his polling business and he would raise our grade one complete level. The offer didn’t seem right. What did European history have to do with American politics?

Because I was so worried about passing the class, I jumped at his offer. Almost everyone else in the class did too.

We took the midterm. I felt I did well. Because of my preparation, the answers came easy to me. I left class that night feeling confident I would complete the class with a passing grade.

The following week, I discovered I earned an A on the midterm. I was happy. I realized that no matter how badly I did on the final, I was guaranteed to earn at least a C. It meant I would earn my three credits from the class and move on. I also meant I didn’t need to pull an unpaid eight-hour shift at John Zogby’s polling business.

After going over our midterms, John Zogby went through the list of the people who agreed to pull a shift at his polling business. He wanted to make out a schedule. One by one, my fellow students told him they changed their minds about working at his polling business. As he worked through the list, he seemed to become more and more annoyed. He then addressed the room as a whole and asked for a show of hands of the students who changed their minds about working at the polling business. A lot of hands going up, including my own.

John Zogby didn’t react very well to this show of hands. He asked us why we changed our minds. A woman in the class said something along the lines that it didn’t seem very ethical to raise our grade a level for doing work at his polling business. She was a hundred percent correct. It was completely unethical.

Do not accuse John Zogby of being unethical, even when he is

John Zogby reacted to this by losing his temper and acting like a baby. He yelled that no one had ever questioned his ethics. He was shouting about the indignity of having his ethics questioned.

John Zogby is the reason I do not trust polls - Bent Corner
If John Zogby was a Magic: The Gathering card, it would be this one.

It was clear to me Zogby was a bully who was looking for someone to unload on. The woman who answered his question became the focus of his rage. He then began yelling at everyone in the class. He probably realized we all thought it was unethical to use his position as a college instructor to get free labor for his polling business.

It took a while, but he finally calmed down. He then tried to teach the class as though nothing happened. About ten minutes into his lecture, he lost his temper again, saying a lot of the same things he said before. Although I’ve seen people lose their temper before, I’ve never seen anyone lose it, calm down, and then go for another round a few minutes later without any provocation.

The whole thing made for a very uncomfortable evening. I wished he just canceled class that night. He once canceled it for too much snow but waited till everyone arrived to do so. For whatever reason, the class proceeded that night as normal even though nothing about that night was normal.

I lost all respect for John Zogby

I never looked at John Zogby the same again. I originally thought he was smart and an excellent speaker. Then he became a big baby-man who would publicly yell at a woman for telling the truth in response to a question he asked. If you cannot handle the answer, do not ask the question. As a pollster, you’d think he’d know this. To say I lost respect for him is an understatement.

On the night of the final, I felt confident. I studied my notes all weekend long and left that night feeling it paid off. I didn’t just feel I did well on the test, I knew I did well.

Imagine my surprise when I received my final overall grade for the class and discovered it was a C. Because I earned an A on the midterm, it meant I received an F on the final. If John Zogby didn’t appreciate having his ethics questioned, he sure had a funny way of showing it. In my eyes, my final grade for the class only confirmed he was an unethical and dishonest person. If I earned an A on the midterm, there was no possible way I earned an F on the final.

A few years later after I left the Air Force, I began to see John Zogby on cable news weighing in on political races as though he was someone who knew what they were talking about. To me, he was a man who yelled at a woman and tried to use his position as an educator to get free labor for his business.

John Zogby is the reason I do not trust polls - Bent Corner
John Zogby on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I think John Zogby is unethical, dishonest, and a bully. I base this on my personal experience with him. If someone like him is looked upon as a respected political pollster, then I have no respect for political pollsters. I do not trust political polls. The only polls I trust are the ones done by voters on election day. The others are just garbage. I think Donald Trump winning in 2016 confirms that.

In conclusion

I wish I was as brave that night as the woman in my class was. I feel bad that we allowed her to say what I’m sure the rest of us were thinking. I didn’t even know her name. I wish I did. In my defense, I was an enlisted serviceman in the U.S. military. I did not stand up to authority. The very thought was alien to me. I don’t think she herself was in the Air Force. I believed she was the spouse of someone in the Air Force.

I also have no respect for Utica College. They should have known what was going on in John Zogby’s classroom.

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