Searching for gullible journalists

Kristen Mack appends this to a piece on how Lampson will win in CD22.

The race is competitive enough that voters in the district are receiving campaign advocacy disguised as polls, called "push-polling."

State House District 134 includes Meyerland, West University Place, the Texas Medical Center and parts of Montrose.

Marcos Huerta, a Cohen supporter who received one such call, said the initial questions were benign, then took a turn.

"They stopped sounding neutral and started sounding loaded," said Huerta, a graduate student at Rice University.

After asking about statewide races, the pollster began a series of "pro-Martha Wong statements," asking if they made Huerta more or less likely to support Wong.

He recalled that the pollster asked if his likelihood of voting for Wong was affected by knowing that she opposed frivolous lawsuits, or that Cohen defended President Clinton's affair with an intern because he appointed many women to government positions.

Wong said she did not hire anyone to conduct a poll on her behalf. She also said constituents have received push-polling calls targeting her, though she couldn't provide details.

Mack posits that this was a push poll, but only supports her theory with the characterization of an Ellen Cohen supporter.

It is very unlikely that this was a push poll. Mack -- and the Chronicle editors -- should have known better. Saying that something is a push poll is a very loaded term of art. There is almost zero in this article to support the notion that this was a push poll. There's basically nothing in Mack's column that firmly supports the idea that push polling is occuring in district 134.

First of all, it's totally normal to have a poll in the field around Labor Day for a state rep race. It could be a candidate, a PAC, or any other 3rd party organization. Just because Martha Wong's campaign didn't pay for the poll does not indicate that it might be a push poll. Mack's column seems to cast aspersions as Representative Wong.

Second, it's totally normal to be testing voter attitudes and possible messages that might be effective with those attitudes. Reading pro-Martha Wong statements, and then asking questions is completely appropriate. That's not abhorrent (as push polling is considered to be), but normal. It's simply an attempt by political pollsters to learn how they can best sell their candidate (or their favored candidate, if they're working for a 3rd party organization). That's normal politics, and it happens in every campaign.

Third, push polling right now? That's preposterous. Preposterous. Push polls do NOT occur around Labor Day. They occur right around election day. Push polls happen when they can't be noticed, reported, or refuted.

This is pretty bad. While perhaps political journalists (and their editors) shouldn't be expected to understand certain nuances of campaigning, they should do the research necessary to find out when they're wrong. The Chronicle will probably not cover this state house race very much over the next few months, and now one of the few things they've printed is false. The Chronicle should retract and apologize, but past behavior shows that they won't even issue a correction.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, I saw that Nick Lampson has sent an email to his supporters claiming that someone is smearing Lampson in push polling. That is extremely, extremely doubtful...although I'm sure there are some legitimate polls in the field which are testing negative messages against Lampson.

Hopefully there are no gullible journalists who will fall for Lampson's ploy.

Posted by Evan @ 09/05/06 07:15 PM


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dont count on it!

Posted by hamiltonfan @ 09/05/06 09:14 PM

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