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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Got Push Polled!

Last night I was sitting in my living room watching TV when my telephone rang. The telephone belongs to my Republican roommates (who are also my parents), so when I saw the name of the caller ID was a research company, I figured it was a poll about the upcoming election and an opportunity for me to mess with some pollsters. Here’s how the conversation between me and the robo-pollster went:

Q: Are you registered to vote in Maryland? Yes.
Q: Are you going to vote for Michael Steele? No.
Q: Are you going to vote for Ben Cardin? Yes.
Q: Do you believe your taxes should remain the same or maybe even be lowered? No. (At this point I realize what the computer is getting at and decide to mess with it to see what happens.)
Q: Do you believe the words "One Nation under God" should be taken out of the pledge of allegiance? No.
Q: Did you know that Ben Cardin voted to take the words "One Nation under God" out of the pledge of allegiance? No.
Q: Do you consider yourself pro-life? No. (Incorrect. I am very pro-LIFE. Life is great. But I vote Pro-Choice.)
Q: Do you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman? No. (Incorrect. If a man and a woman feel the need to get married, I have no problem with that.)
Q: Based on what you have heard tonight, do you intend to vote for Michael Steele? No.
Q: Based on what you have heard tonight, do you intend to vote for Ben Cardin? Yes.

This folks is a Push Poll. Illegal in a bunch of states (but not Maryland), considered unethical by legitimate polling entities, and publicly condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants. Push polls masquerade as a legitimate attempt to decipher your opinion on a candidate or issue, while really providing you with negative information about a candidate or topic. You could call it “Smear Polling”. You may remember the Push Poll’s most famous appearance in the 2000 Republican Presidential Primaries where voters in South Carolina received calls from Dubya’s campaign (they deny it) asking if they would vote for John McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child (which he hasn’t). Dubya won the South Carolina Primary that year by presenting John McCain as “too liberal”.

Push Polls are fun and effective because they plant seeds in voter’s heads. Questions in them are often worded so that to answer one way makes you a terrible person (for instance, I don’t really support medical experimentation on unborn babies…Embryos that could be used to save or improve millions of lives and are going to get tossed in the trash because fertility clinics made too many, that’s a different story). For instance “Would you vote for a candidate who kills old people?” , you couldn’t possibly say “Yes”, so when you say “No”, the poll says “Well, did you know that Candidate XYZ voted to regulate the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada?”. Now in your mind, you associate regulation of prescription drugs coming from Canada, with killing old people…and with Candidate XYZ.

Sometimes they are worded in the hypothetical so they don’t actually have to be even a little true. Like, “Would you vote for Candidate XYZ if you knew that he had once been sent to an insane asylum for eating kittens for breakfast and puppies for dinner?” That’s a hypothetical question, but to the uninformed voter, the thought process goes “Well, would they ask me that in a legitimate poll if it wasn’t true? They must know something I don’t and I don’t have time to look it up. I’m not going to vote for a crazy baby animal killer.”

You see, I’m lucky. I answered the phone and laughed at the fact that I was being push polled. It is an unethical, and also kind of outrageously hilarious. Both parties do it. Ike Leggett push polled against Steve Silverman in the Democratic Primary for Montgomery County Executive, Bob Ehrlich did it to Martin O’Malley, and now Steele is doing it to Ben Cardin. The campaigns all say “It wasn’t us. We don’t know who is making these calls in our name.” Well find out, and put a stop to it. If I was running for political office and somebody was LYING to my potential constituents in my name, I would find that person and give them a push poll…right in the A.

I’m glad I kept them on the phone for 5 minutes. Maybe I prevented one call to someone who doesn’t have the time to investigate for themselves and trusts politicians to run honest campaigns. Ha ha ha ha ha…politicians running honest campaigns. Sigh.

Sorry this is so long, but I invite you to create your own push poll questions in the comments section. Best one wins.


Blogger scooterlulu said...

Lets think of push poll questions the dems should use agains Steele!

Do you support the use of bad analogies, like equating stem cell research with the holocaust?

Do you support the use of washed up hacks (like mike tyson) to support senate candidates?

Do you support candidates who claim to be all sorts of independent but are merely puppets for the bush administration and will do and say whatever Dubya says?


2:11 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Do you support candidates who criticize Micheal J Fox for using his "illness" in political commercials and then immediately use their own family members who have M.S. to stump for them?

2:13 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Nice Scooter....

Ooooh, here's a good one:

Would you support a candidate who was endorsed by a violent convicted rapist?

Let's try to think of some fun and outrageous ones against Dems as well. Really force ourselves to get creative.


2:17 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Oh right, thats the whole thing with push polling, is the use of "false statements" Do mine ring too true for you lulu?

How bout this?

Would you support a candidate that Murders and STEELES from an entire family and then when he goes to the pawnshop to sell his good, instead rapes the store owner and STEELES his wallet?

Follow up question: Do you plan to vote for Micheal STEELE?


2:20 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Oh, I should let you know that as a Social Psychologist, I KNOW this question would work. It's called Priming people.

Scooter, M.S. Social Psychology

2:21 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

I like that...How about...

Would you vote for a Candidate who stole someone's wallet at knife point, went to an ATM and put his victim's CARD IN to the machine to take out money that his victim needed to buy medicine for his sick grandmother?


2:23 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Would you support a candidate whose beliefs were so....Oh... MALLEYable that one day he supported the murder of cute puppies and the next day was found sodomizing a puppy with a rubber MALLEYable hammer?


2:28 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

What's a Malleyable hammer?

Scooter, we are talking via the blog again. Let's give someone else a turn.


2:31 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

malleable: adaptable or tractable

look it up lulu

2:35 PM

Anonymous Dr. Bombay said...

Not that I can necessarily empathize with the feelings of African-Americans, but does it seem odd to anyone else that a whole series of Democratic African-American leaders in PG County got together today to endorse Steele? Not because they like him, but because they felt slighted that the Democratic Party didn't run an African-American statewide.

Given the systematic attempts to disenfranchise African-American and other minority voters by the Republican Party in places like Florida and Ohio, does his seem nuts?

Maybe they were swayed by a push poll?

2:35 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Not to mention an African American did run statewide in MD. His name was Kweisi Mfume. He lost to Cardin and has since thrown his support behind Cardin. The democratic party cannot pick who the voters choose in the primaries.

Plus, I dont see how keeping people in power such as George "Macaca" Allen helps African Americans.


2:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a "legit" pollster, these push polls are rediculous but a fact of politics. If you have caller ID write down the name and call a campaign (Carden's for example) and let them know. If they get a name their is a chance they can hunt down the source of the money...but usually people are smart about covering thier tracks

6:04 PM

Anonymous Dr. Bomaby said...

Damn if they didn't send me the same Poll last night. But since I do support medical experiments on unborn babies, it was no problem for me.

9:36 AM


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