Mark Blumenthal | October 29, 2006
Topics: Push "Polls"
I wrote about allegations of push polling back in August. More often than not, the targests of these allegations turn out to be the internal message testing surveys conducted by campaigns rather than true "push polls" -- calls conducted under the guise of a survey intended only to spread negative information. Tonight, DK, the weekend blogger at Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo.com, has been reporting (here and mostly here) on automated calls received this weekend in Maryland (and elsewhere) that certainly sound like the real thing.
Here is one example:
After asking you who you're going to vote for, it asks "do you want your own taxes raised or lowered?" Then it tells you that Cardin has voted to raise your taxes and will do so again. It follows with "do you believe the words 'under God' should be in the pledge of allegiance?" It tells you Cardin voted to remove them, which I assume is false. Then it goes straight to the gutter and asks "do you support medical research experiments on unborn babies?" Of course, it then tells you Cardin is for this. It finishes by asking again who you're going to vote for.
I am curious whether the recipients remember being asked any demographic questions, any attitudinal measures like ideology or party identification, any favorable ratings on the candidates, or questions geared at determining if the respondent intends to vote, is following news about the campaign or has voted in the past. If the "poll" asked none of these questions, but only the "questions" described in the quotation above, then given the timing, it almost certainly the sort of fraudlent "push poll" dirty trick worthy of the name.
I'll pass along further reports as find them.
UPDATE (10/30, 6:58 a.m.): Reader ST passes along this report from Tennessee
I have some experience in electoral politics and with legitimate polling, so I tried to pay attention as the call progressed
I was hit with the Tennessee version Sunday night around 6 p.m. EDT. First of all, they are interactive robo calls asking a series of yes/no questions.
You are first asked if you want to participate. Then you are asked if you would vote for Bob Corker. Same question for Harold Ford.
Next you are asked a series of yes/no issue questions. You get pushed if you answer a certain way. The first question was, roughly, do you want to keep your tax burden as low as possible. I answered yes to this one as was bombarded with a series of statements about how Corker advocates making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and how Ford wants to raise everyone’s taxes. Standard push technique.
They call then moved to other topics, asking if you would describe yourself as pro-life, asking if you support the NRA's strong defense of the Second Amendment, asking if you think there is a problem with illegal immigration in the U.S.
If you answered no, the call moved on to the next topic, if you answered yes, you got bombarded with pro-Corker talking points.
At the end the call again asked if you would vote for Corker, and if you would vote for Ford.
Then the call identified itself as coming from "Common Sense Tennessee" and gave a Web site commonsensetennessee.com. It also said it was associated with Common Sense Ohio and identified its treasurer as John Lind.
No demographic information was asked. It was all yes/no questions. I assumed that yes or no was all the machine could process, because everything was asked in the form of a yes no question -- even who you were going to vote for. In the candidate preference part at the beginning and end you were asked would you vote for Corker (yes/no) and then would you vote for Ford (yes/no).
Again, this call appears to fit the classic definition of "push polling," which is a fraud -- an effort to communicate a message under the guise of a poll -- not a poll at all. Real tracking surveys conducted a week before an election typicaly ask demographic items, attidues used to classify voters such as party identification, and usually track candidate favorable or job ratings. Real automated surveys are capable of handling questions with more categories than just "yes" and "no."