Mark Blumenthal | December 20, 2007
Topics: 2008 , Push "Polls" , The 2008 Race
Via The Page, ABC's Brian Ross and Avi Patel have a report on more strange calls in Iowa asking mostly negative "message testing" questions about the Democratic presidential candidates. They even managed to get a tape recording. It's worth reading (and listening to) in full, but here is the lead:
Iowa Democrats are being hit with a new round of "opinion poll" calls this week that stress negative qualities of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama and praise John Edwards as a man who "has spent his life fighting powerful interests."
The calls come from operators who say they are "out of state" and are conducting an opinion poll for a "research company."
Ross and Patel call it a classic "push poll" fraud, but that conclusion is not evident from the questions themselves. It is not clear from the story, for example, whether the calls included demographic questions or other items that are typical of a longer "message testing" survey. Either way, the mystery continues.
The verbatim questions in the ABC report bear a strong resemblance to calls reported by Politico's Ben Smith and a HuffingtonPost OfTheBus poll project respondent last week. Consider the following question transcribed verbatim from the ABC call:
Question #7: Barack Obama has taken over $12 million from the financial industry and its lobbyists. In the Senate, he was one of the only 15 Democrats who supported the financial industry by allowing predatory lenders to target (unintelligible and the poor by charging unlimited interest on their credit cards and loans. Is this very concerning, somewhat, not so concerning or not at all concerning?
Now compare it to this question reported by Ben Smith's correspondent:
Barack Obama has taken over $12 million from lobbyists and other special interests since his time in the Illinois legislature. Does Barack Obama taking money from lobbyists and special interests trouble you?
And compare again to this question reported by the OffTheBus respondent:
[Asked] If I knew that Barack Obama (pronounced incorrect! I had to instruct the interviewer how to pronounce his name!!) took over 12 million from the financial industries and voted to allow credit card companies to raise interest rates as high as they wanted to, would that affect my opinion of him?
I will yield to anyone with better Googling skills who can find a reference, but when I search on "Obama '12 million' lobbyist," I get nothing similar to the attack above other than my own blog report last week. As such, it seems reasonable to conclude that these calls are coming from the same source.
I am curious (if anyone at ABC News is reading), whether the call included any other questions during the course of the interview, either demographic questions or more standard survey questions.
Developing? We'll see.
PS: One more thing. Commenter "In Iowa" leaves this this tantalizing report on the ABC story:
I got this call a couple of days ago. Recognizing it for what it was, I asked the caller who was conducting the survey. According to them, they work for a telemarketing firm in Ohio called "Influent", and they refused to say who was paying them to do the calls. They say they work for anyone that pays them without regard to political party. They stated that they were not required by law to tell me who was financing the call.
If this comment is legitimate (and we always be careful about trusting anonymous comments), it might connect these calls to the ones Ben Smith traced last month to the same company (Influent). Those calls asked if respondents would still support John Edwards after learning that, as one respondent remembered, "he chose to continue the presidential campaign instead of staying home with his wife who has cancer."