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xcurmudgeon

RNC polled me on VA-Gov tonight, and...

by: DCCyclone

Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 22:28:24 PM EDT


(It is always helpful to know what the opposition is up to, so please keep these reports and insights coming - promoted by Teddy Goodson)

...it's fascinating stuff.

This is actually the SECOND time I've been polled in a short time, the first back in early June right before the primary.  That first poll was a robopoll, and very short, just a few questions that took a minute or two.

Tonight was a more comprehensive poll with a live caller, with a mix of neutral, "message-testing," and demographic questions.  It took about 15 minutes.

The trial heat test question, McDonnell vs. Deeds, came in the middle of the poll.

What I found the most interesting as a respondent were a few of the message-testing questions.

DCCyclone :: RNC polled me on VA-Gov tonight, and...
One question point blank asked if I supported or opposed "the right to work."  No explanation.  A lot of average voters won't know what that means, when asked off the cuff like that, and of course they'll say "yes" without understanding the question.

Before that, a series of questions asked me to rate on a scale of zero to 100, with zero meaning I'd be least likely to support the candidate described, and 100 the most likely, my thoughts of a candidate with several specfied descriptions.

A few of these questions were largely unbiased, like "the candidate is strongly pro-life."  Everyone understands abortion politics well enough to answer appropriately according to their personal views on the issue.

But other questions were very leading and hard to answer in the negative, by their very nature.  One focused on "the candidate" did such and such to change state ethics laws to do politicking while he was a State Senator.  McDonnell obviously is testing whether he can manufacture a scandal out of something most people aren't even aware of, including a political junkie like me.  The candidate "description" was phrased in such a strongly critical way that even I couldn't say "100," meaning I'd be sure to support a candidate with that description.  So I answered "50," meaning no more or less likely to vote for him...which is true, given I know they're talking about Deeds and I'll simply ignore any manufactured "scandals."  But I'm a "strong Democrat" and "liberal" as I answered in a couple other questions, and people of other political persuasions are going to answer "zero."

The problem with some of these message-testing questions, like the one I just tried to describe, is that they essentially ask "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who beats his wife?"  What the hell will anyone say?!  And yet it doesn't really test a message in the dynamic of a real campaign, where there is pushback.  I know campaign professionals must see value in questions like these, but I think they're mistaken.

I contrast this to some other more neutral message-testing questions the poll asked (without the zero to 100 scale), such as on spending cuts versus tax hikes to balance the budget--some of these policy questions phrased both alternatives in a largely positive light and thus were unbiased.  These questions reflected how messages get tested in a real campaign, with pushback and counter-arguments.

A final note:  the live caller asked for me by name up front, and at the end of the poll again confirmed I am the named respondent they sought.  That's also when, per Virginia law, they revealed the poll is paid for by the RNC, which I was going to ask if it wasn't volunteered.

I wish I had the opportunity to take notes, but I was distracted by my 3-year old daughter nipping at my heels and trying to get my attention.  No way, caught off guard as I was about to put her to bed with my wife out for the evening, could I get pen and paper and jot down the most interesting questions.

I don't know if there's any value in trying to get some of this information to the Deeds campaign, especially since I wasn't able to take notes, but maybe I'll try.

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Question placement
is important in an extended live poll, as I'm sure you know, where the question comes in the sequence, is it just another way of phrasing an earlier question ("ask 3 times in a different way finally to get what the respondent really thinks, or 'the truth'"). After establishing bona fides with clearly phrased neutral questions, setting up a series of cleverly worded have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife yes/no questions, a pattern emerges tricking respondents into continuing the "yes" or "no" pattern when normally he/she might switch back and forth---- and so on.  

But what interests me is the question that interested you, on what you thought of a candidate changing state ethics laws to do politicking while he was a State Senator.  Hmmm, are Republicans telegraphing a smear campaign in the offing (it doesn't have to be based on facts, it can be a distorted innuendo).  Were there any questions about deficits, budget shortfalls, or anything linking Virginia with the national economic meltdown and Obama's national efforts, or the stimulus package, unemployment, drill baby drill, and so on? Can you even recall all that with your 3-year old daughter nipping at your heels? (All I had to do was answer the phone or go to the bathroom to send my long-ago 3-year old into a frenzy of wanting attention; it can be a little distracting, so I doubly appreciate your report).  


LOTS of questions on those topics, Teddy......
Yes there were questions on stimulus monies, unemployment benefits, budget shortfalls, transportation, etc.  The major contemporary policy issues in Virginia news were queried, often in "do you agree more with the 1st statement or 2nd statement" format, with both statements presented in a favorable light.

Regarding the big "ethics" question that interested me, yes, in fact, I'm convinced they're testing a potential smear campaign, which is why I took notice of it.  It's not something that's been in the news that I can recall, and I follow politics pretty closely...at the least it wasn't raised at all in the primary campaign.  That's why I have a hard time later remembering the details well enough to explain the framing cogently here.

I note that there was not any question that named Obama, either tying him to any policy issue in the news or asking more directly about his job performance.  I didn't think about that until just now, but it's interesting that they didn't test Obama at all.  And that tells me they're convinced Obama, at least for now, is clearly an asset for Creigh.


[ Parent ]
......and I think I found the "ethics" issue......
See link below or copy-&-paste it, this looks vaguely familiar with the rambling poll question I barely could understand.

Ethics rule change that would benefit Creigh

It's an old issue from early 2007.

If you Google it you can find more stuff on this issue, the resolution of which I haven't looked up.


[ Parent ]
The ethics rule change
gambit looks like a possible smear that can be worked, especially by the Rovians, who know so much about ethics, having little themselves. Meow.

[ Parent ]
Reminds me of the push polls of 2000
In South Carolina:  "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?"

That's because...
That's because you apparently don't know what a push poll is. The South Carolina calls were push-polls. This poll took over 15 minutes, happened four months before the election, and disclosed who was behind the call. There is nothing to suggest it wasn't legitimate.

[ Parent ]
Correct, VA Blogger......
Some of the questions I was asked could have constituted a push poll if asked by themselves, quickly, with Creigh Deeds named, and then the caller hung up after a minute or two or three.

But in the larger context, this clearly wasn't a push poll.

And I should have noted in my diary that Deeds WAS NOT NAMED in association with any of the "push poll-quality" questions!  The questions were phrased, for example, as "would you be more likely to less likely to vote for a candidate who beats his wife," not as "would you be more likely or less likely to vote for Creigh Deeds if you knew he beats his wife."  So that further legitimizes the poll itself.


[ Parent ]
Push poll or not,
Some of those questions seemed  very leading, especially the one where "'the candidate' did such and such to change state ethics laws to do politicking while he was a State Senator."  That's what I think DCCyclone's point is here.  The questions are designed to manufacture an opinion.  As we saw with John Kerry, you can take one aspect of a bill that a Senator voted on, and then misconstrue it to mean something entirely different.

[ Parent ]
Polling
In my experience, this is the way polling works.  In a 15-minute poll, the point is to figure out which lines of attack on your opponent and which statements about yourself garner the most support and the hardest support, which means that they will want to test both a neutral-sounding argument, and the most leading argument they can get away with.  Its very interesting to see which particular arguments they are testing, but I don't think there is anything inherently shady to this particular poll.

[ Parent ]
Exactly.
This is exactly the way polling works, especially internal polls (rather than public polls), and both sides do it and have been doing it for years. It's perfectly legitimate and research-driven.

[ Parent ]
Sounds like a smart poll. Is Creigh's campaign
doing anything along those lines?

Good diary, DC. Good comments Teddy and all.


This poll
sounds almost identical to the one I got shortly before the primaries, with three exceptions:
1) I never found out who was conducting it, because my husband answered the phone first and all I heard was the young lady asking for me by name and her bona fides just flew past my ear. When I asked her, later on, whether she was polling on behalf of McDonnell, she said "no ma'am,we're a private firm". And I wasn't smart enough to press the issue.

2)Mine took longer than 15 minutes; closer to 30. But that was because, after the first couple of questions, I asked her to slow down a tad, since I'm a) not as young as I used to be and, b)English isn't my first language. She was very obliging aaaannnnd ssssloooowed dooooown a whoooole loooot.

3) The few semi-push-polling questions (would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who...) were all aimed at taking down Terry McAuliffe, not Deeds.

I was surprised that she even continued to ask the questions, since I told her, early into the interview, that I was going to vote for Deeds. But, obviously, the poll had been put together based on the early indications of McAuliffe's "invincibility" and they were still hoping for his win. That may also account for relative weakness of the line of attack they tested out on you. By June 9, they had done tons of oppo work on McAuliffe but none on Deeds and have to scramble now to catch up. The attacks they tested out on me would have resonated with more readers, because those issues were being discussed in many papers, including WashPo and NYTimes. Now, their cake is dough again; they have to dig up something on Deeds, and there's less to dig up. One of the reasons Deeds was "my guy" from the start...

 


I just got polled by this organization...
After the initial questions, the caller got to the "some people say" questions that were long and one sided. I asked her who was paying for the call. She said that she would get to that at the end of the call. I told her, the questions were long, drawn out and slanted.
I told her I would not continue answering as when I did answer she asked if I could be persuaded to change my answers. I told her I did not want to continue because if she could not take down my preferred answer, why should I stay on the line.

I wonder at geographical distribution
and demographical disrtribution of this poll, that is: all-Virginia, just certain groups or locations? Good show, linda b. They seem to have lost all pretense of "neutrality" and are already deep into persuasion.

[ Parent ]
Well if it's the same poll I got, then it was fair......
Yeah it included slanted message-testing questions, but the poll I got didn't even name Creigh Deeds in those questions.

As I noted above, some of the slanted questions were sooooo one-sided that I question their usefulness to the Bad Guys.

And the "some people say" questions provided slanted choices for either side of an issue, so they were balanced that way.

Ultimately I don't know if linda b was given the same poll as I, and maybe she wasn't, but it's hard to believe the RNC (linda indicated it's the same organization) would run two different polls simultaneously.


[ Parent ]
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