Articles and Analysis


Real Push Polls in Maryland?

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."



I received this push poll two nights ago. It was a robo-poll, which surprised me. Just demo info - I'm a registered Democrat; living in Gaithersburg, MD; my phone number is in the directory; I've voted in each election since moving here 5 years ago.

Anyway, the poll:

-- Was conducted by "Common Sense Maryland" - which was (per a quick-speaking disclaimer at the end) some out-of-state organization.

-- Began by asking if I was going to vote? Who do you plan to vote for? Would you vote for a candidate that would raise your taxes? Did you know Democratic candidate Ben Cardin....blah, blah, blah.

-- It touched on the abortion issue a lot. And, again, hit on Cardin's stance.

After that, I stopped paying attention. To be honest, I was cooking dinner and was waiting for the salmon in the oven to finish. So I was merely entertaining myself by responding to the robo-polling by saying stuff like "Republicans are stupid?" or "what a stupid question, have your Republican masters been chasing more Congressional pages lately?" etc.



I got the same "poll." It also asked about gay marriage.


Poll Fan:

Two more reports at the following link, from IL and MD, with detailed questions.




...I just typed in commonsenseminnesota.com and...found a functioning web site.

I guess whoever is behind this is going to try to poison the well here as well.



My wife answered the phone but she described a variation of this push poll by the Steele campaign. Mentioned raising taxes, abortion, etc.



It's an automated voter ID call, not a poll of any kind. It won't purport to be a pol and its results wherever it happens won't be reported as a poll. They're not calling a 600 person demographically valid sample. They're calling a pre selected set of the voter file in an effort to ID their turning points. If you don't respond in a way indicating the potential for voting favorably to the candiate they support, they merely move on. If you do, they follow up and will further contact you to be sure of your vote being cast.

That's how good the Republican GOTV machine has become. However, this technique is a tiny fraction of the effort. In some close state legislative seats, ever moveable voter is getting called every night. Every Republican committed voter is getting encouraged with phone and mail almost daily.



I also was pushpolled this saturday night. Am I in favor of "medical experiments on unborn bables?" Hmmm... tough one there. Gay marriage. Taxes.

cute. The GOP can go F**k itself.



I got a very similar "poll" in Montana from "Common Sense Montana." Vote for Conrad Burns? vote for Jon Tester? do you want your taxes raised? do you support giving foreign terrorists the same rights as American citizens?



I have a different definition of push polls. The caller pretends to conduct a survey and then asks questions such as, "If you knew that Candidate X had a 17 love affair with a goat, would that effect your vote."

The point of the poll is not to poll (of course), or even to advocate. The point is to start a whisper campaign about a candidate.

The pollster has a phony company and declines to say who they are working for. It is a VERY low method of campaigning.


Kendall Bullen:

I got the Maryland "poll" last night. I don't know what the definition of "push poll" in politics is, but if I answered a question a certain way (e.g., I of course said I wanted taxes to remain the same or be lowered), then it told me that Steele was for me and Cardin was the bad guy; if I answered a different way (e.g., I said no, I didn't think marriage should be restricted to just a man & woman), then I got no supplementary info to push (!) their candidate.

But I was a fool. I was so disgusted with the unborn-babies question that I hung up. A large part of my disgust was the disingenuity of the question, since they're really asking about stem cell research, which I support; yet I can hardly (I thought while hanging up) answer yes when they ask something TOTALLY DIFFERENT!

Afterwards, talking with my other half, he pointed out (as I was already starting to realize) that I should've just answered what I knew that question was REALLY about, and finished the survey. (sigh)

Anyway, I'm still offended by the call/poll/push poll/propoganda/whatever you want to call it.



When you say that a classic push poll is "a fraud", do you mean that in the legal sense? Are there any laws which criminalize them?


Anonymous Jim:

Someone mentioned the Montana push poll conducted by Common Sense. A bit of googling turns up that this push polling was done toward the latter part of September. Then -- lo and behold -- on October 19, Common Sense 2006 comes out with a poll that shows Tester is up by one and suggests that the undecideds are conservative (http://www.commonsense2006.org). The "poll" was sent out via prweb, was picked up by some right leaning outlets/blogs and cited by the Burns campaign.


I got the Maryland call -- the one that asked if I "wanted my taxes raised or, if possible, lowered?" (possibly asked if would vote for a candidate who would raise my taxes or one who, if possible, would lower them -- but I think I'm quoting it correctly).

Here's where it gets a little interesting. I was literally dumbstruck by the question, and while I struggled for a response, the recording went on to the next question: whether I was in favor of striking the words "under" God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Again, I was made mute by the sheer audacity of the questions. Then the recording announced the poll would end even if I did not answer all the questions. All I could say was "Good!" I was stunned by the call, I couldn't even remember the nature of the second question, until I read your post.

I guess I avoided the song and dance about what Ben Cardin would do to my taxes or to the moral fabric of America -- I should be happy about that, because I can sleep soundly tonight, without worrying about the nightmare ahead, since I intend to vote for Cardin.


I forgot to mention -- I only answered the phone becaue caller ID said it was "P Research 2006" I assumed this was Pew Research Foundation, and was expecting a legitimate poll. That's why I was so dumbstruck by the actual questions that follwed my saying I intended to vote for Cardin.



anonymous Jim: I just wanted to point out that I got that Common Sense Montana "poll" last night. Interesting what you found out about their PR.



I was hit by the Ohio version two weeks ago. The difference was that I was asked the "poll" questions by a real live person. The 1st question asked who I was voting for (can't remember the race, most likely Blackwell/Strickland). The second was a 1-10 scale how important is issue X? It was phrased almost innocuosly, but the second question was a definte "Is using unborn children for medical experimentation OK?" (Ans: "Of course! How else are they going to pay their way through college). The guy on the other end seemed almost embarrased and gave me one of those "dude, I'm just collecting a pay check, it's not my fault" when I told him I didn't appreciate being pushed polled.



I'm in Maryland and have received two different push poll calls. The first was about a month ago. An actual human being, claiming to be with a neutral polling firm asked a series of questions about the Maryland governor's race. She started by asking whether, in the race for governor of Maryland, I intended to vote for Robert Ehrlich of Martin O'Malley. I said O'Malley.

She then stated that there were five possible responses to each question/statement she would make during the "poll."

Each response indicated the likelihood of my changing my intended vote.

There was a scale of "much more likely,"
"more likely,"
"would make no difference,"
"less likely,"
"much less likely."

What followed was a mixed set of questions, some of which were clearly designed to reflect favorably on Ehrlich's record as a U.S. Representative and as the governor of Maryland and the rest of which (the majority) were crafted to reflect negatively on O'Malley's record as mayor of the city of Baltimore.

I received the call from "Common Sense Maryland paid for by Common Sense Ohio" on Monday, October 30. Others upthread have provided detailed information on this call. It was automated and responses were limited to "yes" or "no."

Do you intend to vote in the Tuesday, November 7 election for Maryland's U.S. senator?

Do you intend to vote for Michael Steele?

Do you intend to vote for Ben Cardin?

Would you like your tax rate to remain the same, or perhaps even be lowered?

Do you believe that the words "under God" should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance?

On the issue of abortion, do you consider yourself pro-life?

Do you believe that the only marriages that should be legally recognized are those between a man and a woman?

Do you support medical research experiments on unborn babies?


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