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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dirty deeds (probably not done dirt cheap)

Man, with all the finger-pointing that's going on among candidates for various offices around Portland about alleged campaign misdeeds by their opponents, I hate to start any more trouble. But yesterday a reader sent me what purports to be a copy of an e-mail message that he sent to Michael Dembrow, one of three candidates who are running for the Oregon House seat in my district (45). The reader also addressed the message to Dembrow's campaign manager, Logan Gilles. It reads as follows:

For shame! Last week I was about to sign up and contribute to your campaign, but after the "push-poll" I just endured, I feel obligated to support Ms. Boston. Your "polling" outfit, Standard Market Research in Denver CO, left no doubt in my mind what they were up to. You should know that I will share my experience with my favorite Law Professor. This is exactly what progressive democrats are sick and tired of. Take your coveted endorsements and stick them. As a lifelong resident of Northeast Portland I want progress, not regress. Stay out of politics, do not pass go, and you will not collect my $200.
Wow. Even though beauty's only skin deep, perhaps our choice is becoming clearer.

Comments (21)

That same outfit called my house last night, wanting to speak with my son who no longer lives here. I tried to pin the caller on what he wanted. He was rude and abusive. He handed me off to a supervisor, who was also rude and abusive. At that point, I resorted to some good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon verbiage and they terminated the conversation.

Of course, that could be the way Ms. Boston's campaign wanted you to react ...

So what was the "push poll" about? Can your emailer be more elaborate? Is he sure he's using the term "push poll" correctly? Can he be sure it was a push poll and not just a traditional message-testing poll? I was polled last night re. the Charles Lewis/Amanda Fritz/Chris Smith race, but would never use the term "push poll" as it lasted at least 10 minutes, which is way too long for a traditional push poll.

(The call, btw, seemed probably paid for by the Fritz campaign, given the messages being tested.)

Yup, Dave J is right. People are starting to throw around "push poll" way too often these days.

Remember: candidates don't care who is winning today, they want to test messages. When a campaign polls, they may ask "who would you vote for today" but only as a prelude for message-testing questions.

It's perfectly reasonable for a campaign to read a positive bio and a negative bio (simulating a campaign) and then ask, again, who they would support.

In my recollection, I don't think there's been a substantiated claim of a push poll in Oregon in the last decade. Every time it comes up, it turns out that it's a regular ol' poll that someone misunderstood.

In a push poll, you're trying to deliver a single message - and fast. You need to deliver tens of thousands of calls in ordrer to affect the outcome, so they need to be short. In a regular poll, you're only going to call 400-600 people, and you wants lots of data, so the calls are long.

Two more things: Dembrow and Boston aren't the only two candidates in that race. Jon Coney is also a candidate.

All three people are good and decent folks. My firm happens to be working for Michael Dembrow, but I speak only for myself. Also, this is the first time I've heard of the campaign doing any polling at all, so I'm speaking in generalities here, not with any specific knowledge of that side of the Dembrow campaign.

Didn't Marc Abrams get push-polled by Jim Francesconi's campaign four years ago and tell Steve Duin about it? I seem to recall reading about it in the O.

I would certainly trust Marc to know if he was being push-polled.

It's perfectly reasonable for a campaign to read a positive bio and a negative bio (simulating a campaign) and then ask, again, who they would support.

Maybe in your world, Blue Boy. I think it's sleaze.

it's a regular ol' poll that someone misunderstood.

I think the reader understood perfectly.

Two more things: Dembrow and Boston aren't the only two candidates in that race. Jon Coney is also a candidate.

Already covered in the post linked to above.

My firm happens to be working for Michael Dembrow, but I speak only for myself.

Sure. As always. I'm sure you'd drop a negative comment about him, too, if that is how you really felt.

Do you bill for these comments separately?

From Wikipedia, "a push poll is a technique in which an individual attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll." That's what it was, no doubt about it. The questioner, a very nice lady by the way, agreed with me when I said that this souds like a push-poll. And by God it worked, it altered my view of Mr Dembrow.

One more thing: A push-poll would be one-sided, only attacking one candidate. A legitimate poll, testing messages, would have a negative profile of each candidate that it's testing.

A call recipient won't know how many other people are getting called, but can listen to the questions. If it lasts more than 90 seconds or so and tests negative against each candidate, that's your tip: just a regular poll.

And thanks for the reminder about the Francesconi thing. Indymedia has a clip of the Steve Duin column about it. (Why, oh why, doesn't the Oregonian have online archives?!)

Also, a push poll usually contains a substantial mis-truth, or misrepresentation of the truth. The classic would be the one sanctioned by the Bush campaign in 2000, in which South Carolina voters were asked if their perception of John McCain would be changed if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child with a black woman. Of course he had not, but that wasn't the point of the poll--the point was to get that information into the public sphere.

Also, I'm somewhat amazed that a polling outfit would admit who they are working for. I usually try to amuse myself by guessing the identity of the candidate who paid for the poll as I'm being asked the questions (usually it's pretty easy), but I was always under the impression that pollsters didn't disclose their clients.

Hey, Kari,

Since your parsing minutiae - that was two more things.

Chisholm, who speaks only for whomever's paying him, offers his Clintonesque drivel about definitions, while ignoring the point of the post.

Maybe he misunderstands the quotes that the writer placed around "push-poll"; maybe he understands perfectly; maybe he thinks his BS doesn't stink.

I realize that obfuscation comes naturally for the big fella, but who does he think cares about these self-absorbed ramblings?

Dave J.

You guys have got to coordinate this stuff better - it goes Dave THEN Kari.

Get in rhythm, man.

A "push poll" pushes down one side of the question. A "whispering campaign" offer untruths about a candidate under the guise of "polling" about reactions to those untruths. That's what was conducted against McCain in 2000 and describes what my neighbor experienced in a call apparently on behalf of Francesconi, and against Potter. A push poll is not necessarily a whispering campaign, does not necessarily involve untruths, and is not necessarily overtly negative.

A push poll might be used to influence the voter or to test a message. The point is that it asks a series of questions (the script probably has some kind of flow chart) to find out if some angle influences voters to turn a certain way. What is somewhat scurrilous about them is that the caller often starts the conversation as if it were a regular poll (which would simply measure voter opinion at a moment in time), and then leads the callee to provide useful information to the campaign. Also, some people getting the calls find the questions used offensive.

Hey, Kari,

Since your parsing minutiae - that was two more things.

Oh, the irony - *you're*

Now Kari Chisholm is lecturing us on the definition of push polls. Does he work for Websters Dictionary too? I wonder what he charges.

On a related note, my wife got a call from McGuire Research for the Macpherson/Kroger race. It wasn't simply to gauge opinion. They asked reaction to a number of positives about Macpherson, then a few negatives about Macpherson, then a whole bunch of negatives about Kroger. My wife, who figured out quickly what was going on, stopped the pollster and said he must have made a mistake because he skipped the positives about Kroger. The guy laughed, said he was just following a script. When she asked if this was a push-poll, he said "Well, I'm just reading the script, but if someone called me with these questions, I'd consider it a push-poll."

So Macpherson is clearly in on this game as well.

I figured out who Blue Boy reminds me of -- Dick Morris. Politics is business to them, and they got no sense of the civil, civic, communitarian, purpose, cause, or Justice of it. Worse than no heart, these are cases of no soul. My complaint and the prevalent feeling of many people who get that bad after-taste in the back of the throat, after every encounter with such goons, is not that they are vinegary cynics, which they are, and not that they are scorched-earth nihilists, which they are, and not that they are amoral opportunists, which they are, yet more than anything it is their brazen greed. That's it, simple greed. So long as they get more than a share, the consequences or anything else matters not.

In one pithy version, it's like this. These people I got a problem with tend to agree with Coolidge's (slightly misquoted) statement, "The business of America is business." And that is soooo wrong, completely soulless.

What's right is, the business of Business is business. The business of America is Justice.

It says so, first thing, right in the Mission Statement.

I'm upset to hear Macpherson is rumored to resort to dirty or defiling politics. The reflex, to defend it of and tolerate it in my favored candidate, is to say, 'oh, he has to, that's the way the game is played.' Well, but, it is not. Damn it, nice gals and nice guys can TOO finish first. And then I doubt so as soon as I say it, and doubt myself, and ideals, and doubt if I am being 'realistic.'

I don't like Kroger. I met him, we talked, he creeps me out. What the heck is he doing here, in Oregon? He gives me no sense he is authentic or sincere, and gives me a strong sense of veneer, facade, hiding something. I thought he aims to ambition from Atty.Gen. to Governor, and now (NY Gov.) Spitzer hit the silk (i.e., 'bailed out'), and I think Kroger should go back to that Empire State of mind he expatriated from, his career track has an opening there.

Sheesh, a person don't even want to elect nobody. Who needs 'em!! We can do it ourselves, take care of it among ourselves, in conference. Get the gawddammed blind ambitious greed goons out of the way and hands out of the till, they got no indentification with We, the People.

I know Dembrow. He'd probably be a very effective legislator but for all the wrong reasons. Truly Machiavellian. Convinced he knows better than you. Convinced he knows what's best for you.


you need to take YOUR meds, Earl is totally going DOWN this year! Can't you feel it? Tenskatawa is the voice of REAL PEOPLE, and this is going to be the year they finally rebel against guys like Earl and vote for that guy nobody's ever heard of.

"Tenskatawa is the voice of REAL PEOPLE..."

Dude, you left out the "SUR..."

I've known Cyreena Boston for several years and I'll stand for her character in something like this. I have no vote in it, I'm a 5hr drive out of that HD. Cyreena's ability to talk to people, listen and connect is tremendous, HD45 would be hard pressed to do better. Cyreena's job with DPO was exactly what is called for here, she was Constituency Advocate.

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