Push Polling in South Carolina political campaigns

For the twenty-seven people who visit this blog montly, here is the discussion of push-polling research that I promised I was working on:
Here we go again.

Recently, we've seen allegations of push-polling in South Carolina start popping up. Some of you may recall this practice
making national news during the 2000 GOP Presidential Primary. Now, it's back, via recent reports of its use in the GOP primary for Lieutenant Governor, with complaints surfacing of callers contacting voters by telephone and presenting questions critical of both incumbent Andre Bauer and challenger Henry Jordan.

According to the website for Public Opinion Strategies, a telephone services firm focusing on GOP candidates, "'push polling' is NOT polling at all - it is advocacy calls under the guise of research. The differences between push-polling and survey research could not be more dramatic". It goes on to list some of the differences between push polling and legitimate telephone surveys.

The Independent, a weekly newspaper in Lafayette, Louisiana, fired their polling firm after it was revealed the firm was engaged in push polling practices. Their criticism of the practice left little to the imagination:
Push polling tries to deny us, as voters, the ability to connect the dots between the lie and those who benefit from its telling. It should have no place in Lafayette.
These concerns are even shared by political consultants. In a 1998 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, an overwhelming majority of political consultants rejected the practice, with SEVENTY PERCENT agreeing that push-polling was unethical, and only SEVEN percent felt it was a fully acceptable practice.

It's also condemmed by the National Council on Public Polls and the American Association for Public Opinion Research, which in 2004, condemned the practice, warning:

Push polls go beyond the ethical boundaries of political polling and bombard voters with problematic statements about candidates or issues in an effort to manufacture negative voter attitudes.
Clearly, this practice has been widely rejected, including by political campaign professionals and professional organizations for those who conduct surveys of the public. It's a fair question to ask is if it's so widely condemned, who would still dare to employ such practices?

Of course, the nature of the calling might suggest that it was conducted by one of the other candiates: Republican Mike Campbell or Democrat Robert Barber. To fair, I contacted both of these campaigns to give them an opportunity to state their positions on the issue. Only Barber's people responded:

-----Original Message-----
From: andy@robertbarber2006.com
Sent: Monday, April 17, 2006 2:39 PM
To: Earl Capps
Subject: Re: Research on push polling

dear earl,
sorry for the delay in response. I can tell you though, that the Barber campaign has nothing to do with any push polling, and will not in the future.

Thanks for contacting us.

Andy Smith

I still invite the input from these campaigns, and any others, for any office in South Carolina who would like to express their concerns about this campaign practice, as well as private citizens. You can post on my blog, email me at earl@earlcapps.org.

I appreciate the responses I've received, as well as off-the-record phone calls and emails that have come in on this subject. I will keep your comments confidential unless you give me express permission to publish them.

4 Response to "Push Polling in South Carolina political campaigns"

  1. Go Campbell 18/4/06 15:13
    You can smear us all you want. You are the one terring down Campbell signs, and we have the pcitures to prove it.

    GO CAMPBELL!!! GO!!!
  2. Earl Capps 18/4/06 15:16
    Whatever junior. You got the pictures, then just lay those cards on the table and let's see what you've caught me doing.
  3. Michael Reese 18/4/06 15:37
    I hope that you tore down the Campbell signs that are........alongside of the Interstate, isn't it illegal to post campaign signs on the interstate? I've seen several of them here in Spartanburg alongside I-85
  4. Earl Capps 19/4/06 22:40
    Mike - I've done worse than that. I steal Halloween candy from kids, tell little old ladies at Branson that Elvis really is dead, and even moonlight as an IRS agent.

    I am the personification of the purest evil any mortal can ever hope to be, yep. Total demon. Guilty of everything I can be accused of and then some.

    I'm so terrible that before I go to confession, I ask the priest if he's ready to retire, cuz he'll reach retirement age before my confession is complete.

    But ya know, the Campbell campaign haven't put up the first sign in my neck of the woods yet. How could I be tearing them down if they don't exist?!?

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