Three Ways Fox News Is Attempting To Delegitimize Clinton’s Lead In The Polls

Three Ways Fox News Is Attempting To Delegitimize Clinton’s Lead In The Polls

Fox News has attempted to delegitimize Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls for months, claiming that the polls are skewed due to oversampling, that the size of rallies Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds is more indicative of his support than polls, and that there are “secret” Trump supporters who are too embarrassed to tell pollsters whom they support. However, other media outlets have explained that concerns about oversampling are “laughably incorrect,” and that claims that crowds are more accurate than polling are some of “the most idiotic claims out there.”

Trump Claims He Is “Winning” And The “Press Is Refusing To Report It” As Polls Show Clinton Leads

WSJ : “Trump Criticizes Media For ‘Phony’ Polls, Says He’s Winning.” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump asserted during a rally that the media is publicizing “‘phony polls’ that show Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leading,” wrote The Wall Street Journal :

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump criticized the media on Monday for publicizing “phony polls” that show Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leading.

“What they do is they show these phony polls where they look at Democrats, and it’s heavily weighted with Democrats. And then they’ll put on a poll where we’re not winning, and everybody says, ‘oh, they’re not winning,’ ” he said in Boynton Beach, Fla., pointing to an ABC News poll released Sunday that showed Mrs. Clinton with a 12-point lead.

“The truth is, I think we’re winning,” he said.

Mr. Trump has for several weeks been saying that the election itself is “rigged,” making unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and tampering at polling stations as polls show him behind in the race. Earlier on Twitter, Mr. Trump said “the press is refusing to report” that his campaign is winning. [ The Wall Street Journal , 10/24/16 ]

Trump: “We Are Winning And The Press Is Refusing To Report It.”

RealClearPolitics Average Of Polls Shows Clinton Up By Over Four Points. The RealClearPolitics average of all polls since October 15 found Clinton has a 4.4 percentage point lead in the polls showing a two-way race against Trump, as of October 26. Including third-party candidates, Clinton holds a 4.7 point lead. [RealClearPolitics, 10/26/16 , 10/26/16 ]

FiveThirtyEight Forecast Gives Clinton Over 80 Percent Chance Of Winning The Presidency. FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 polls-only forecast on October 26 gave Clinton an 84.7 percent chance of winning the presidency. The website’s polls-plus forecast, which includes data on the economy and historical trends, found Clinton has an 83 percent chance of winning. [FiveThirtyEight, 10/26/16 , 10/26/16 ]

Fox Has Attempted To Delegitimize Polls Showing Clinton Winning In Three Ways:

1. Fox Claims Polls Oversample “Certain Demographics” To Boost Clinton’s Lead

Steve Doocy: “If You Oversample Certain Demographics, Then You Wind Up With Better Results.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that polls were “oversampling certain demographics” as a way to “manipulate data” and give “better results.” Doocy, citing an ABC poll that had Clinton beating Trump by 12 points, added that media were attempting to “bake the cake … to wind up with better numbers for Hillary.” From the October 24 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends :

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Speaking of rigged, thanks to WikiLeaks we have just seen exactly how John Podesta and company over in the Clinton camp were going to — they put out a multipage document in detail showing exactly how to manufacture detailed and desired data —

ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): You don’t say.

DOOCY: By oversampling. If you oversample certain demographics, then you wind up with better results for you.


BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): People are saying, OK, why are the polls the way they are, why are they sampled where they appear to be. And maybe they say that the Democrats want to make everybody feel like the die has been cast. If you look at the ABC poll and you believe what the ABC poll says today, it is a 12-point advantage for Hillary Clinton. Now somebody might be going, “I’m not even going to vote. You know, my guy is not going to have a chance. I’m not going to show up.”

DOOCY: Sure. But when you look at the ABC poll, where it’s 12 points ahead for Hillary Clinton, if you look in the fine print, they asked 9 percent more Democrats. So, you know, surely, there is an edge in registration for Democrats. But what they’re talking about is the way you manipulate the data. For instance, this thing goes on to say in Arizona, oversampling of Hispanics and Native Americans is highly recommended. In Florida, make sure the sample’s not too old — because apparently they feel they vote Republican — has enough African American and Hispanic voters, and on independents when it comes to the cities of Tampa and Orlando, those are better persuasion targets than North or South Florida. So include Tampa or Orlando first. So if you essentially bake the cake that way, you’re going to wind up with better numbers for Hillary. [Fox News, Fox & Friends , 10/24/16 ]

Fox Regular Rudy Giuliani: If It Weren’t For Oversampling Levels, “You Would Have Pretty Much An Even Race.” Trump surrogate and regular Fox News guest Rudy Giuliani claimed that the “oversampling of Democrats is apparent” in the latest polls and that if it weren’t for the level of oversampling, polls would show that the race is “pretty much … even.” When asked by Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt why pollsters oversample instead of “count[ing] the vote as is,” Giuliani said pollsters are “making assumptions” about the turnout. From the October 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends :

RUDY GIULIANI: Well something is going on. I do think the oversampling of Democrats is apparent. Now, the pollsters have an explanation for that, they’re oversampling by about 10 percent Democrats. I think if I got that sample down to about five percent oversampling for Democrats, you would have pretty much an even race. You do have the most expert poll, the Business Investors —

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Investor’s Business Daily.

GIULIANI: Daily, most accurate for the last three elections, showing him ahead by two. So I don’t know. I think this is a closer election than they think, but let them feel confident. You know, fine.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): We’re going to find out.

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Why do they do oversampling? Why don’t they just count the votes as is?

GIULIANI: They make assumptions as to what they think the turnout is going to be, and that’s the danger of a poll because if the turnout turns to be different than the sample, you just get a Brexit, or you get one of these things like the Colombia — I don’t know if you are familiar with the Colombia peace vote, but that was going to win by 10 percent. It lost by 8 percent. [Fox News, Fox & Friends , 10/25/16 ]

Lou Dobbs: Trump’s Claim That Oversampling Is Rigging The Polls “Resonates … Because Everyone Knows These Polls Aren’t Making A Lot Of Sense.” Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs defended claims that oversampling demographics makes polls appear more favorable to Clinton, arguing that the assertion “resonate[s]” with the Republican base and with independent voters because “everyone knows these polls aren’t making … sense.” From the October 25 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered :

SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): He really keeps hammering on this point, Lou, that the polls are wrong and that he’s actually winning.

LOU DOBBS: And it’s not an accident, as you know, that he is doing that, because this resonates with his base, it resonates with independents, because everyone knows these polls aren’t making a lot of sense. You’ve got some outliers at 12 point differentials and others with him in the lead — national tracking polls, specifically IBD and the LA Times -USC polls primarily.

SMITH: But his critics are quick to point out that when this race started, and especially in the primary season, he was quick to point out those polls when they showed that he was winning

DOBBS: Quick is an interesting word to use, because remember it took a long time for him to plow through the national liberal media attacking him as not being serious, not being able to get even to the primaries, and the next thing you know it was February 1 and he had a little setback in Iowa, and the next thing you know, he starts — the Trump train, as they call it, starts rolling. So it has been, I know what you mean by quick, but this thing was a process that he had to overcome national media bias every step of the way. [Fox News, Outnumbere d, 10/25/16 ]


Wash . Post ’s The Fix: Claiming Oversampling Is Voter Suppression Is “Laughably Incorrect.” The Washington Post ’s Philip Bump called complaints about oversampling leading to incorrect polls “laughably incorrect,” explaining that oversampling is a standard polling method to “get robust enough sample sizes” for different subgroups. From an October 24 Post article:

The problem is that it can be hard to find enough people to get robust enough sample sizes to offer the necessary information. Normal polling in a state will usually have no problem getting enough white people in the mix to evaluate where they stand, but you may need to specifically target more black or Hispanic voters to get a statistically relevant sample size.


Small samples of poll respondents mean a huge margin of error. Until you get to about 400 people in your sample, the margin of error drops quickly; once you pass 400, though, it doesn’t change a whole lot. (This is why a lot of polls use sample sizes of 400 to 600.) If you’re trying to figure out how to craft a message to Hispanic voters in Colorado, for example, you’re going to need to seek out more Hispanic voters in the state to include in the survey. This is called an oversample, since it’s an intentional effort to include more people from a certain group in your sampling. [ The Washington Post , 10/24/16 ]

The Atlantic : Oversampling Is A “Completely Valid Statistical Practice That Everyone Uses, Including Republicans Pollsters And Probably Trump’s Own Campaign.” The Atlantic ’s Andrew McGill clarified that oversampling is a “solution” when pollsters are “particularly interested in a smaller subgroup” so they’ll “end up with a large enough samples to draw real conclusions.” McGill also explained that pollsters “rebalance the sample to bring it back in line with the overall demography of the population” before reporting their findings, “negating the inflationary effect of the oversample.” From the October 24 Atlantic article:

When pollsters field a survey, they randomly call (or contact online) a representative sample of the population they’re studying. If you’re looking at the entire United States, maybe that’s 1,000 people. The magic of statistics means the researcher can be fairly confident, within a certain margin of error, that the opinions of that sample will match up with the population as a whole. If the sample is large enough—and 1,000 people almost always is—that margin of error will be minimal.

But if the pollster is particularly interested in a smaller subgroup—say, suburban housewives—they might run into trouble. What if they only contacted 50 suburban housewives during their random phone calls? That’s a lot less than 1,000. The margin of error for their responses will be a great deal higher—making it harder to accurately predict what suburban housewives really think.

Oversampling is the solution. When pollsters launch a survey, they’ll often try to interview more people from underrepresented groups so they’ll end up with a large enough samples to draw real conclusions. Before they report the results, they’ll rebalance the sample to bring it back in line with the overall demography of the population—negating the inflationary effect of the oversample.


Oversampling is, in other words, a completely valid statistical practice that everyone uses, including Republicans pollsters and probably Trump’s own campaign. If the polls are overestimating Clinton’s lead, and Trump is headed for an upset win, it’s not because of pollsters using oversampling to get more accurate results for demographic subgroups.

“If you wanted to just bias the poll, you wouldn’t waste the extra money making all these extra calls—you’d try to manipulate it from the beginning,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster. “This is an added expense to the pollster with the idea of getting more information about a certain subgroup, and weighting that back so you understand the overall as well.

“Sometimes,” he added wryly, “the polls say what they say because they’re accurate.”


But oversampling? It’s benign. The fact that a post detailing a media oversampling conspiracy has gotten more than 1 million page views says something about Trump supporters’ fears of losing the election, but even more about America’s statistical illiteracy. [ The Atlantic , 10/24/16 ]

Huff. Post: Oversampling Is About “Making Sure The Results For That Group Are As Accurate As Possible,” Not Making A Certain Group More Representative. The Huffington Post’s Ariel Edwards-Levy pointed out that oversampling doesn’t overstate “the size of one group relative to others,” but makes sure the results are “as accurate as possible.” Edwards-Levy said the practice doesn’t change the poll overall and is only used to look at specific demographics. From an October 24 Huffington Post article:

Oversampling, though, isn’t about overstating the size of one group relative to others ― it’s about making sure the results for that group are as accurate as possible.

Often, pollsters are looking to get a better picture of a group that ordinarily includes only a small fraction of survey-takers. They’ll make an effort to find extra people in that group, raising the sample size and allowing them to better measure what that slice of the population thinks. Crucially, though, oversampling doesn’t change the weight that any subgroup is given in the poll overall.


Oversampling, while useful, is expensive, which would make it a particularly baffling and ineffective way of biasing the polls. [The Huffington Post, 10/24/16 ]

Pew Research Center: “Oversampling Allows For Estimates To Be Made WIth A Smaller Margin Of Error.” According to Pew Research Center’s methodology for its polling, oversampling decreases the margin of error, making polls more accurate because “the oversampled groups are weighted to their actual proportion in the population.” From Pew:

For some surveys, it is important to ensure that there are enough members of a certain subgroup in the population so that more reliable estimates can be reported for that group. To do this, we oversample members of the subgroup by selecting more people from this group than would typically be done if everyone in the sample had an equal chance of being selected. Because the margin of sampling error is related to the size of the sample, increasing the sample size for a particular subgroup through the use of oversampling allows for estimates to be made with a smaller margin of error. A survey that includes an oversample weights the results so that members in the oversampled group are weighted to their actual proportion in the population; this allows for the overall survey results to represent both the national population and the oversampled subgroup.

For example, African Americans make up 13.6% of the total U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census. A survey with a sample size of 1,000 would only include approximately 136 African Americans. The margin of sampling error for African Americans then would be around 10.5 percentage points, resulting in estimates that could fall within a 21-point range, which is often too imprecise for many detailed analyses surveyors want to perform. In contrast, oversampling African Americans so that there are roughly 500 interviews completed with people in this group reduces the margin of sampling error to about 5.5 percentage points and improves the reliability of estimates that can be made. Unless a listed sample is available or people can be selected from prior surveys, oversampling a particular group usually involves incurring the additional costs associated with screening for eligible respondents.

An alternative to oversampling certain groups is to increase the overall sample size for the survey. This option is especially desirable if there are multiple groups of interest that would need to be oversampled. However, this approach often increases costs because the overall number of completed interviews needs to be increased substantially to improve the representation of the subgroup(s) of interest. [Pew Research Center, accessed 10/26/16 ]

2. Fox Claims Attendance At Trump Rallies Shows He Has More Support Than Polls Indicate

Fox’s John Roberts: “If You Can Put 20,000 People In An Amphitheater” Like Trump Does, “Maybe These Polls Are Just A Little Bit Skewed.” Fox News senior national correspondent John Roberts hyped a rally in which Trump had 20,000 people in attendance, calling it “a rather stunning feat,” since the county voted for President Obama in 2012. Roberts agreed with Trump’s assertion that people shouldn’t believe the polls, stating that “if you can put 20,000 people into an amphitheater in a place that was Democratic in 2012, well maybe these polls are just a little bit skewed.” From the October 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends :

JOHN ROBERTS: Yesterday, [Trump] put together a rather stunning feat. He was in a county, Hillsborough, that Barack Obama won in 2012 with 53 percent of the vote, and put 20,000 people into an amphitheater there. Donald Trump telling the crowd don’t believe the polls, we’re going to win this thing, and saying that the polls are rigged.


ROBERTS: So let’s take a look at a couple of those polls. A new CNN/ORC national poll has got Hillary Clinton up 5 points. But that’s a slight narrowing of some of the other polls. And then a North Carolina Monmouth poll that came out yesterday has Hillary Clinton up by a single point, 47-46. You know, intensity counts for a lot. And if you can put 20,000 people into an amphitheater in a place that was Democratic in 2012, well maybe these polls are just a little bit skewed. [Fox News, Fox & Friends , 10/25/16 ]

Fox’s Eric Bolling: “Size Of Crowds Is More Indicative” Of Support Than A Poll. The Five co-host Eric Bolling urged his co-hosts to “stop with these polls,” claiming that they are “insane.” Bolling claimed that “polls really shouldn’t matter” because in his opinion, the “size of crowds is more indicative of following” than a poll. From the August 17 edition of Fox News’ The Five :

ERIC BOLLING (CO-HOST): These polls, Dana, honestly we have to stop with these polls. They’re insane with the polls. You look at these — just look what’s going on. You look at a Trump rally and there’s 12, 15,000, 10,000 people.

DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): You can’t, you cannot believe, Eric, don’t, that is a —

BOLLING: And then you look at Hillary Clinton and you have 1,500, 2,000. But that speaks volumes to me.


BOLLING: Here’s why polls really shouldn’t matter or shouldn’t ever matter. You pick up the phone and you say, “Who are you going to vote for?” That person on the other end of the phone says, “Well, I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton.” They’re not out there voting. The people who are getting out in the street and going to a rally, those are people who get up off the couch and go hear something, and go say something. That’s why I think size of crowds is more indicative of following, or even polling, than an actual people calling for a poll. [Fox News, The Five , 8/17/16 ]


Wash . Post ’s Chris Cillizza: “There’s Very Limited Evidence To Suggest That Large Crowds Translate Into Large Vote Totals.” The Washington Post ’s Chris Cillizza explained that “there’s very limited evidence to suggest that large crowds translate into large vote totals — particularly in a general election.” From the September 28 Post article:

[T]here’s very limited evidence to suggest that large crowds translate into large vote totals — particularly in a general election.


The problem with conflating crowd size or energy with momentum or a “hidden vote that the polls aren’t catching” is the sheer size of the electorate in a presidential general election. Trump’s crowd sizes, arguably, were more telling in the primary because 25,000 people in a Republican primary is a significant chunk in many states. It’s not even a drop in the bucket in most swing states in a general election; in the smallest of the swingiest states — New Hampshire — more than 700,000 people voted for president in 2012. [ The Washington Post , 9/28/16 ]

Huff. Post’s Natalie Jackson: Claiming Crowd Size At Rallies Is More Indicative Than Polls Is “One Of The Most Idiotic Claims Out There.” Huffington Post senior polling editor Natalie Jackson slammed the argument that “crowd size at rallies is more indicative of a candidate’s level of support than polls,” calling it “one of the most idiotic claims out there.” Jackson explained that while “people who go to rallies are more involved in politics and more motivated by a particular candidate’s message,” many people who do not attend rallies “actually will get up to vote.” From the August 19 Huffington Post piece:

There’s a lot of stupidity running around in politics these days. But one of the most idiotic claims out there is that crowd size at rallies is more indicative of a candidate’s level of support than polls.


People who go to rallies are more involved in politics and more motivated by a particular candidate’s message. They are probably more likely to vote than those staying at home on the couch, but many of those on the couch actually will get up to vote. Voting is generally a much less burdensome method of participating in politics than attending a campaign rally. [The Huffington Post, 8/19/16 ]

CNN: “Extrapolating Electoral Prospects From The Size Of Rally Crowds Is Often A Misleading Metric.” CNN pointed out that “extrapolating electoral prospects from the size of rally crowds is often a misleading metric,” citing the campaigns of Mitt Romney and Bernie Sanders among others who “thrilled thousands of people in mega-rallies,” but still lost their respective races. From an August 27 CNN article:

In fact, extrapolating electoral prospects from the size of rally crowds is often a misleading metric — for evidence, look no further than the campaigns of Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney. Bernie Sanders thrilled thousands of people in mega-rallies over the past year and a half as well. [CNN, 8/27/16 ]

3. Fox Claims There Are Secret Trump Supporters Polls Aren’t Finding

Fox’s Marc Thiessen: “It’s Entirely Possible … That There Are A Lot Of People Who Are Not Telling Pollsters They’re Going To Support Donald Trump.” Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen claimed that “it’s entirely possible … that there are a lot of people who are not telling pollsters they’re going to support Donald Trump.” Thiessen suggested people may not admit to supporting Trump because “it’s not politically correct to be a Trump supporter.” From the October 26 edition of Fox News’ America ’s Newsroom :

MARC THIESSEN: It’s never over until the last vote is counted. I mean, there could be a world-changing event between now and next two weeks. There could be any number of things that could happen. And look, I used to work for Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. And Senator Helms always used to say “I never won a poll or lost an election.” There are a lot of people in North Carolina who would not tell a pollster that they were voting for Jesse Helms, but they ended up voting for him. And it’s entirely possible that there is a Helms effect in the Trump polls, that there are a lot of people who are not telling pollsters they’re going to support Donald Trump because, especially as these videos are coming out with the groping and other allegations, it’s not politically correct to be a Trump supporter if you’re not part of his hard core. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom , 10/26/16 ]

Fox Guest Bob Woodward: “I Think There Are A Lot Of Secret Trump Supporters Out There.” Fox guest and Washington Post editor Bob Woodward claimed that “there are a lot of secret Trump supporters out there who won’t even tell pollsters that they’re going to vote for him.” From the October 23 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday :

BOB WOODWARD: It may be over, I’m not totally convinced because I think there are a lot of secret Trump supporters out there who won’t even tell pollsters that they’re going to vote for him because they think it’s a neighbor calling, playing a joke. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday , 10/23/16 ]

Fox Guest Tomi Lahren: “When They’re Taking These Polls, People Are Hesitant To Say They Support Donald Trump.” Fox Guest and TheBlaze host Tomi Lahren asserted that “when they’re taking these polls, people are hesitant to say they support Donald Trump,” because there’s “a stigma attached to being a Donald Trump supporter.” Lahren added that “when they’re in that voting booth alone, I think they’re going to cast their vote for Trump.” From the September 9 edition of Fox News’ America’s Election Headquarters :

SANDRA SMITH (HOST): Is this race even closer than these polls are leading us to believe?

TOMI LAHREN: I tell you I think so, and here’s why. There’s been some sort of a stigma attached to being a Donald Trump supporter, which is in large part due to the mainstream media and mainstream in general that has somehow conflated Donald Trump supporter to racist and bigot. So I think when they’re taking these polls, people are hesitant to say they support Donald Trump. But when they’re in that voting booth alone, I think they’re going to cast their vote for Trump. [Fox News, America’s Election Headquarters , 9/9/16 ]


FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten: “The Bulk Of Evidence Suggests That There Aren’t Many Shy Trump Supporters.” FiveThirtyEight senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten explained that “the bulk of evidence suggests that there aren’t many shy Trump supporters,” citing polls and votes from the Republican primary. Enten wrote, “I would bet on the polls getting Trump right again.” From the May 20 FiveThirtyEight piece:

Could the polls be underestimating Donald Trump’s support? That’s the conclusion of what I’ll call the “shy Trump-ers” theory, which holds that public opinion surveys undersell Trump because some of his supporters are unwilling to admit they’re backing The Donald. The supposed evidence for this comes from comparing different types of polls: Through much of this Republican presidential primary, Trump did worse in polls that used live, human interviewers than in polls that don’t. The same gap appears in general election polls testing Trump against Hillary Clinton.

But when you compare the polls to votes — Republican primary and caucus results — the bulk of evidence suggests that there aren’t many shy Trump supporters.


Indeed, there’s little reason to think that we’re in for a surprise in the general election because of Trump outperforming his polling on Election Day. As [ The New York Times ’ Nate] Cohn pointed out, the difference in Hillary Clinton’s margin over Trump between live-interview and online polls is fairly small right now at 2.5 percentage points, and that may have more to do with how the horse-race question is asked than the survey mode. This doesn’t mean that Trump won’t greatly outperform his polls or that people won’t be afraid to voice their support for him. But when you look at the evidence from the primary season and the general election survey results so far, I would bet on the polls getting Trump right again. [FiveThirtyEight, 5/20/16 ]

Bloomberg’s Al Hunt: There Are “Reasons To Question” Whether A “Silent Or Secret Trump Vote” Would Help Him “Outperform The Polls.” Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt pointed out that while a “silent or secret Trump vote would be a big deal,” there are “reasons to question whether Trump will outperform the polls.” Hunt cited the primaries, explaining that Trump “underperformed the final polls in about as many states as those where he outperformed.” From the September 11 Bloomberg View column:

A silent or secret Trump vote would be a big deal: Hillary Clinton is up by several points in the latest surveys, not a comfortable margin.

There are, however, reasons to question whether Trump will outperform the polls.

This wasn’t the case in the primaries. The Republican nominee underperformed the final polls in about as many states as those where he outperformed.

In Iowa, Ann Selzer, the pollster for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, lost her unblemished record when she showed Trump with a small lead. He narrowly lost to Ted Cruz. Sure, that all was within a margin of error and Iowa’s contest is a caucus, where turnout is low. And a week later, in New Hampshire, the final polls suggested Trump would win by about 15 points; he won by 20. [Bloomberg, 9/11/16 ]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters .


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