Mark Blumenthal | September 8, 2006
Topics: Lincoln Chafee , Push "Polls" , Stephen Laffey
Thanks to our friend DemFromCT for emailing news of what sounds like a genuine "push poll."
Just last month, I wrote about allegations of "push polling" in congressional races in New York and Arizona. In that case, as in so many that appear almost daily in various newspapers across the country, the allegations sounded less like a true push poll (an effort spread information disguised as a poll) and more like internal campaign surveys testing how voters respond to negative information.
Today the Associated Press reported that a group named "Common Sense" has made automated calls to voters in Rhode Island asking about their preference in the Republican primary for Senate between incumbent Lincoln Chafee and challenger Stephen Laffey. According to the article, "those who chose Chafee heard graphic descriptions of an abortion procedure opponents call 'partial-birth abortion,' which the poll said Chafee supports."
The giveaway that this was a true push poll -- at least in my view -- came in the next few paragraphs:
Eva Geoppo, 57, of Providence, said she received four phone calls because she has multiple phone lines at home. On the first call she received, she chose Chafee when asked who she planned to vote for.
"It just freaked me out," said Geoppo, who owns a general contracting business. "They said something along the lines of 'Do you realize Sen. Chafee is for partial-birth abortions and he's a war monger?'"
The next time, she chose Laffey.
"It was 'Do you need a ride to the polls?'" she said.
Yes, a survey that samples randomly generated telephone number might, in theory, sample a household with multiple phone lines more than once. The odds of someone with four lines getting called four times, however, are astronomically small. Geoppo's experience implies an effort to systematically dial every phone in Rhode Island. Moreover, real surveys do not offer to give individual voters a ride to the polls.
According to the AP story, the Chafee campaign claims that the group behind the calls is "an Ohio-based organization" called Common Sense 2006, and officials of the group did not respond to requests for comment.
Interesting story. We will pass along more news if it develops.