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Push Polling Against John Roberts?:
A well-placed and reliable source (a.k.a. my mom) has informed me that efforts to oppose the John Roberts nomination apparently include "push polling." What is push polling, you ask? The National Council on Public Polls explains:
  A "Push Poll" is a telemarketing technique in which telephone calls are used to canvass vast numbers of potential voters, feeding them false and damaging "information" about a candidate under the guise of taking a poll to see how this "information" effects voter preferences. In fact, the intent is to "push" the voters away from one candidate and toward the opposing candidate. This is clearly political telemarketing, using innuendo and, in many cases, clearly false information to influence voters; there is no intent to conduct research. fake polling calls designed to use the perceived legitimacy of polling questions as a way of creating an impression about an event or person.
  My well-placed and reliable source received a call today from someone claiming to be a pollster from the apparently nonexistent "LST Research Center" who was conducting an opinion poll. The poll consisted of two questions. The first question was whether she was pro-life or pro-choice. When my well-placed and reliable source answered that she was pro-choice, the caller then asked for her views on the President's decision to nominate someone who wanted the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade. My well-placed and reliable source then began arguing with the caller about the inaccuracy of the factual premise; the caller said that she was just reading from a script, didn't really know the details, and then hung up.

  Has anyone else received similar calls? It would be interesting to know how widespread this practice is, and who is paying for it. Of course, if news reports are accurate, it's not exactly something that Karl Rove has standing to object to (see here and here). Still, it's an unfortunate development.
Joel:
I think you should reword the first sentence. It makes it sound like your mom is _advocating_ push polling.
8.5.2005 6:10pm
OrinKerr:
Good point, thanks.
8.5.2005 6:12pm
alkali (mail):
The ethics of push-polling aside, push-polling on a Supreme Court nominee doesn't sound like it would work. It's one thing to try to flip or deter individual votes in a small electorate (e.g., a presidential primary in a small state or a congressional election in an off-year), but what exactly is the logic of bothering an individual about a Supreme Court nominee? The hope that he/she will call his/her senators about the issue and affect the senators' views? That's pretty remote.

If your mother lives in Massachusetts or Utah or some other state where the views of the relevant senators are pretty much a given, I would suspect that the call was a pretext to fundraising, not a push poll.
8.5.2005 6:12pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Well, poll results have their own use in fundraising.
8.5.2005 6:22pm
jallgor (mail):
Alkali - I would think that the goal of such activity is to make the President and the Republican Party look bad by convincing people that he has nominated an extreme right wing judge. They probably aren't trying to effect the outcome of the confirmation.
8.5.2005 6:25pm
I remember South Carolina:
Well, if Bush v. McCain is any guide, soon operatives will start a whisper campaign spreading the absurd lie that Roberts is a hothead / unstable / mentally ill.
8.5.2005 6:30pm
Steve:
It's hard to imagine push polling could have a dramatic effect on a national issue like this. It's a particularly slimy technique, though.
8.5.2005 6:36pm
42USC1983@gmail.com (mail):
Two reasons for this slipperly and dishonest tactic:
1. [NOW] "POLL RESULTS IN: ROBERTS OUTSIDE OF MAINSTREAM. Recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans believe Roberts has values outside the mainstream. We will try to stop him. But we need your help." Blah, blah, blah.

2. [LATER] "BUSH CANNOT APPOINT ANOTHER JUSTICE OUTSIDE THE MAINTREAM. Last year Americans overwhelming said that Roberts was outside the mainstream. He was appointed. But Bush cannot have another appointee outside the mainstream. We will try to stop him. But we need your help." Blah, blah, blah.
8.5.2005 6:38pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
It amazes me how such skewed polling techniques seem to have the superficial appeal of validity. Are we still at a point where there are not many JDs who have MBAs who have taken courses in statistics? For one thing, telephone polling fails to count a great number of the disabled, many of whom do not have the standard private telephone. Too poor. So the polling results will not be representative, push polling or not. I even wonder if the pollsters provide TTY lines. Another thing, is if the pollsters were to advance false information about Roberts being 'mentally ill,' that would likely backfire and work to an advantage for him among the ranks of the disabled, since he might then be viewed as a diversity nominee.
8.5.2005 7:08pm
Chris Murphy (mail):
As I understand it, push-polling is aimed at affecting the views of people who could vote on the issue or candidate being 'polled' by the push-poller. That's the general understanding of the term and it's consistent with the definition given in Orin's post. It's also common ground that only U.S. Senators have the right to vote on a Supreme Court nominee such as Justice Roberts. So when did Orin's mom become a U.S. Senator, what state does she represent and why didn't he tell us about this previously?
8.5.2005 7:50pm
SteveMG (mail):
"A well-placed and reliable source (a.k.a. my mom) has informed me"

I'm going to need another source before I comment.

Dad? A sister? Next-door-neighbor?

SMG
8.5.2005 9:34pm
Hei Lun Chan (mail) (www):
Obviously Karl Rove ordered the poll and told his people to target the mothers of famous bloggers so that the bloggers would write about it, all in an effort to discredit the opposition.
8.6.2005 8:21am
frankcross (mail):
Push-polling is typically used to find rhetorical frames. The questioners ask for an opinion, and then say: "if you knew x, would that change your opinion" or "if you knew y, would that change your opinion." Basically it is trying to define the best rhetorical strategy.

It has been used otherwise, such as by Bush campaigners to spread rumors about McCain in the South Carolina primary. But that rumor-mongering approach only applies when the time frame is very short, preventing inaccurate rumors from being dispelled. Plus, you don't need push polling to spread rumors, if that's your objective
8.6.2005 2:22pm
Nick (www):
I remember getting a call like that during the election last November. It was a "poll" regaring candidates for the state assembly. It was obviously funded by the Republican candidate, and after while turned out to be kinda funny.

I blogged about it at the time here. I think it fits the mold of what you're asking about perfectly.
8.7.2005 12:25pm
bill-10k (mail) (www):
I think most have caught on to the techniques of poll-itorials and push polls. If they haven't they probablay never will.

Florida has been a hotbed of push polling, ever since Lawton Chiles was caught doing it. He used it for his own gains, and aginst legislators he disagreed with. Chiles escapades surfaced the problem, but it had been going on in the south for a long time. The practice started way back, Sen. Byrd probably knows some names of the originators :)
8.7.2005 12:34pm
Matt Thomas (mail) (www):
HMO's and dental use, we got to John Roberts. Without explaining the nature behind why the White House doesn't want to release privileged documents, the poller proceeded to ask me the following questions:

Should the White House with hold documentation from the Senate that directly relates to his confirmation hearing?

If the White House does with hold documentation, would a Senator be justified in voting against John Roberts?
8.8.2005 10:49am