Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Laughable Polling in Kentucky and Other News

  • Kentucky: When Mitch McConnell's camp polls Kentucky voters, you might think his pollster asks something like: "In a possible 2008 match-up, would you vote for the Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell or the Democratic challenger Charlie Owen?" Well, that's way too straightforward and honest for Mitch McConnell. Before actually asking about a preference between McConnell and Owen, McConnell's poll primes respondents with such tidbits as:

    Mitch McConnell is only the 2nd person in Kentucky history to lead his party in the US Senate. ...

    A point raised by critics is that Charlie Owen has no prior experience in public office and if elected he would be 70 years old on the day he was sworn in, one of the oldest freshman Senators in US history. In view of his age and lack of experience, do you have a very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or very negative reaction to Charlie Owen running for Senate?
    In a courtroom, that would be called "leading the witness." Outside of a courtroom, it's just craven politics. (It's also the kind of deceptive politicking that is frowned upon by ethical professional political consultants.) MyDD's Singer offers more on the poll's duplicity and how it does far more to evidence McConnell's own weakness and desperation to demonstrate false public support than anything else.

  • In reminding us once again that the DSCC whooped the NRSC in Q1 fundraising, CQPolitics offers two additional fun facts.

    1) $425,000 (or over 6%) of the NRSC's Q1 take of $7 million (just over half of the DSCC's $13.7 million Q1 take) came from the McConnell Majority Committee - not a very diversified donor base, huh?

    2) Though earlier reports suggested the NRSC is debt free, CQPolitics notes that the NRSC still owes over $260,000 to the law firm Foley and Lardner.

  • Idaho: Another Idaho Republican is considering a Senate race in 2008: Boise City Councilor Alan Shealy. It's unclear if Shealy would consider a bid regardless of Larry Craig's plans, but Shealy does make reference to Republican Jim Risch as a "formidable opponent" suggesting either that Shealy wouldn't challenge Craig if he ran again, or Shealy has inside info regarding Craig's possible retirement plans.

  • North Carolina: BlueNC reminds us that state Attorney General Roy Cooper could make for good competition against Republican Elizabeth Dole.


    Blogger Blue South said...

    That Kentucky poll isnt a push poll.

    Its wrong to say McConnell is in the lead by 20 points right now. But its not a push poll

    8:29 PM, April 24, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    BS is absolutely correct. There is a world of difference between message testing and push polling. The KY poll is clearly the former.

    9:12 AM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Mitch McConnell's poll isn't "message testing" - it's clearly priming respondents to respond a particular way and then touting the results as though they were a valid indicator of public support. It's absolutely laughable.

    (And if Charlie Owen conducted a poll where the text read: "A majority of Kentuckyians disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as President, but Mitch McConnell votes the way Bush wants him to over 90% of the time. In 2008, who would you vote for: Bush-rubber-stamp Mitch McConnell or Charlie Owen, who promises to be an independent voice for Kentucky?" And then Owen touted positive response to that poll, you'd probably take issue with its methodology...)

    11:16 AM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger Blue South said...

    It is laughable to prime that way and say that is where you stand at this moment in time. But its not push polling.

    But, if McConnell spends enough and Owen has almost no money and only gets his message out through newspapers then that is the result we will see.

    If Owen can actually spend money like a normal campaign then that poll means nothing.

    11:39 AM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Yes, the poll is message testing, and there's no need to put it in quotation marks.

    I'm not championing the merits of the poll or its methodology. You can dismiss the poll all you like, with good reason.

    However, calling this a push poll reveals an absolute lack of understanding of what a push poll is. A push poll is a tactic to use the cover of a "pollster" to spread a talking point. They typically contact thousands of people, and only ask one or two questions, so as to keep calls under a one minute. The point is to contact as many people as possible, not to conduct survey research.

    This poll is clearly not anything remotely like that. The talking points inserted into the poll is likely one of the messages that McConnell will use if Owen is his opponent. The poll gauges how people respond to it. That's called message testing. Its extremely common, but its rarely (if ever) found in public polls, and private polls are rarely released. I can't imagine a campaign who hires a pollster to not do similar types of message testing.

    12:09 PM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    No, priming isn't necessarily push polling, and I don't claim that it is in the post (though the difference isn't necessarily in the text of the call but more in the quantity of calls and intent of the calls). In the post, I call the priming polls "deceptive" and "craven" politicking - which I think it is. I link to the article that discusses push polling over the text "frowned upon by ethical professional political consultants" simply to indicate that there are standards of acceptable vs. not acceptable and ethical vs. unethical polling by political consultants. And I believe that these priming polls certainly fail that standard.

    McConnell will have a ton of dough, but as va blogger has pointed out in other strings, there are diminishing marginal rates of return on big money. If Owen can raise substantial dollars (even $5 million) to combat the Misleading McConnell message with his own, then there's a chance. Not a great chance, but a chance.

    12:10 PM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger Blue South said...

    true. you never called it a push poll. the lack of understanding was displayed by the guy who wrote that article.

    But, journalists in institutions like the Washington Post barely understand polling, and I dont expect others to do so.

    12:17 PM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    You can believe whatever you want. But just because you invent a term for a poll doesn't mean that it fails any objective standard. The poll is legitimate, ethical, and 100% acceptable. Is it particularly relvent or useful? No. But that's besides the point.

    There's no reason to call it deceptive or craven. They tested a message and gauged support afterwards. Its called an "informed ballot test". Are any of the talking points that the poll brings up not accurate?

    I think you have a problem with the release, which no doubt claimed that McConnell enjoyed wide support in a hypothetical match-up against Owen. If the release did not mention that the ballot test was after the message tests, then the release is misleading or deceptive. But at that point, we're no longer talking about the poll.

    12:21 PM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    BS-- the article about push polling that S2G linked to was not in reference to this poll. S2G simply linked a random article.

    12:25 PM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger Blue South said...

    the article with the results is titled "McConnell Push Poll"...

    7:57 PM, April 25, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Ah, apologies. I thought you were talking about the one that he linked to under the blockquote, not above.

    9:15 PM, April 25, 2007  

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