Ilhan Omar at the SOTU - 2019 (
by Tony Petrangelo
Aug 26, 2019, 7:00 AM

Push Poll!

While pursuing the website twitter dot com over the weekend I was presented with the following tweet:

Apparently Minneapolis Ward 3 Council member Steve Fletcher was the recipient of a push poll concerning Ilhan Omar. For those of you who don’t know what a push poll is, those of you like Council member Fletcher, lets pause here for a refresher:

AAPOR [American Association for Public Opinion Research] defines a “push poll” as a form of negative campaigning that is disguised as a political poll. “Push polls” are actually political telemarketing — telephone calls disguised as research that aim to persuade large numbers of voters and affect election outcomes, rather than measure opinions.

And here is a bit more detail on the differences between a push poll and a regular poll:

AAPOR offers guidelines on the difference between “push polls” and message testing. For example, in message-testing surveys, the call will contain more than a few questions; the organization or call center making the calls will be identified; and the survey will include questions about the respondents’ demographic characteristics. Message testing is usually based on a random sample of voters, and the number of calls will fall within the range of legitimate surveys, typically between 400 and 1500 interviews.

“Push polls” usually ask one or only a few questions about a single candidate or a single issue; the questions are uniformly strongly negative (or sometimes uniformly positive) descriptions of the candidate or issue; the organization or call center conducting the calls is not identified, or a phony name is used; and the calls are placed to large numbers of people.

Right off the bat there are some problems with Council member Fletchers claim of a push poll. First of all the people conducting the survey identified themselves as VRI Research, this is not typical of a push poll. Additionally, the call happened in August of 2019, at least one year away from Ilhan’s next potential election. The sole purpose of a push poll is to influence an election, so it would make zero sense to be doing a push poll a year away from an election.

If that wasn’t enough to make one suspicious of the push poll claim, Council member Fletcher’s next tweet removes all doubt:

Push polls don’t do this. Push polls don’t ask what you think of a series of national political figures, then what you think of some more local figures and then test messages. Push polls don’t waste their time with that stuff because push polls don’t care about gathering data, they only care about contacting as many people as possible.

This is not a push poll. What this is, is a poll poll. Like a regular old poll.

All sorts of people do polls like this for completely legitimate reasons. In fact, campaigns will oftentimes do polls like this on themselves!

Just because a poll is asking questions you don’t like, or questions that are negative about a candidate you like, doesn’t mean it’s a push poll. And if that same poll occurs a year away from the next possible election and asks your opinion on a number of different national and local political figures before getting to the message questions that offend you it is definitely not a push poll.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

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