Pollster.com

Articles and Analysis

 

The Pollster That Made Up Data


Here is a story we hate to see.  The manager of a survey call center that did work for Republican pollsters pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding her clients and now faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.  The Associated Press has the ugly details: 

According to a federal indictment, Costin told employees to alter poll data, and managers at the company told employees to "talk to cats and dogs" when instructing them to fabricate the surveys.

An FBI affidavit from 2004 quotes a supervisor of the company estimating that 50 percent of the data sent to Bush's campaign was falsified. FBI Special Agent Jeff Rovelli, who wrote the affidavit, said Thursday that investigators were not able to verify the claim related to Bush because that data was not located and analyzed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Chang said on several occasions when the company was running up against a deadline to complete a job, results were falsified. Sometimes, the respondent's gender or political affiliation were changed to meet a quota, other times all survey answers were fabricated.

Most pollsters, including a large number of news media pollsters, use third party call centers to conduct their interviews.  I do not have personal experience with DataUSA, the firm Costin worked for (now known as Viewpoint USA), but it certainly sounds like a subcontractor used by at least one of the pollsters for the Bush campaign. 

The 13-page indictment issued in March (via White Collar Crime Prof) has some details that other pollsters should find chilling.  In addition to the falsification described above, it claims that Costin and others instructed employees to alter and falsify the gender and political affiliation of respondents to meet job quotas and deadlines, and "modified the survey script by altering [interviewing software] source code to eliminate questions and undesired data" (p. 5).  More important, it alleges that the conspiracy began "in and around June of 2001" (p. 3) and lists specific instances of falsification that occurred between June 2002 and October 2004.   If this particular conspiracy went undetected for two to three years, you have to wonder if this is just an isolated incident or if the problem might be more widespread. 

 

Comments
derek:

Unfortunately, I've read several places that the most recent Connecticut poll (Public Opinion Strategies), which is being trumpeted by the Lieberman campaign, used information from this company. In all fairness, you should remove it from your calculations, since it's fatally flawed.

____________________

bulshevek:

Always suspected "popularity polls" relating to Bush's handling of the war in Iraq were in error -this would seem to support this premise. No citizen would be so stupid as to abandon our pursuit of truth, honor and the american spirit when so many of our military citizens have volunteered (given) their lives to defend these ideals.

____________________

John Salmon:

The preceding comments have been produced by the DNC and should be disregarded as purely partisan. They are political spam.

____________________

!!:

This is obviously a set up, first of all why would a democratic business do work with Bush. This is obviously the work of interegation by the FBI (Jeff Ravelli) to promote themselves and get publicity. Plus, why would a democratic polling business who is getting paid significantly go as far as to cheat "50 percent" surveys for a republican. To add to it the Lenny Mastri character seems to be vengeful and angry about something in order to tell lies and start this whole mess with the FBI.He sounds like a real winner stealing computers, very educated obviously. Costin was obviously set up and forced to plead guilty in order to get a lighter sentence! Wake up people.

____________________

An Insider:

As an longtime employee, I can tell you first-hand that this is a set up! Lenny Mastri is a psychopathic maniac that we all lived in fear of. The FBI saw an opportunity for headlines and Ms. Costin was forced to plead for a lighter sentence. WE NEVER WORKED FOR A REPUBLICAN! NO BUSH! NO LIEBERMAN! NO FALSIFICATION!

When Ms. Costin tried to get away from Mastri, he broke in and destroyed the company. He physically abused her. He stole company checks and forged her signature. He threatened to ruin her if she left him! He was the programmer and set her up. (See all the police reports and restraining orders!)

The government gave Mastri immunity on many felony counts. He is free to lie, steal, rape, drive drunk, fence stolen goods, stalk women, frequent prostitutes and abuse AGAIN!(all documented behaviors of Mastri) The Judge allowed Mastri only probation for his "Cooperation"! The government allowed Mastri to destroy this honest and decent single mother because she divorced him!

YOU ALL SHOULD BE OUTRAGED THAT THIS CAN HAPPEN IN AMERICA!!!! We taxpayers paid for a multi-million dollar case to justify Jeff Rovelli's "special" agent standing! He is as big a crook as Mastri! HE ALLOWED MASTRI's LIES TO FLY!!!!!! A CROOK with a BADGE!!!!

Ms. Costin is 100% INNOCENT! I was there!

____________________

April Watkins:

Well, in the end, justice prevailed! http://www.nhregister.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18576712&BRD=1281&PAG=461&dept_id=517514&rfi=6
It was only a matter of time before Ms. Costin would get caught for all of her illegal manipulations and dishonesty. The legal process was fair, and all the parties had more than enough time to gather the evidence and prove unequivocally, beyond any shadow of a doubt, what IN FACT, really happened. Those who have had the misfortune of encountering Ms. Costin both professionally and personally know first hand what a destructive, manipulative, lying, convicted felon she truly is. It was only a matter of time. She herself never graduated college and was always pretending to be something she wasn't, isn't, and never will be.
We were there too, we know! It's fitting that Mr. Mastri walked away with no jail time. He merely was a pawn in Ms. Costin's grotesque scheme. He can walk away with his head held high.

____________________



Post a comment




Please be patient while your comment posts - sometimes it takes a minute or two. To check your comment, please wait 60 seconds and click your browser's refresh button. Note that comments with three or more hyperlinks will be held for approval.

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR