Friday, January 11, 2008

The Monitor: Push Pollsters Don’t Deserve Votes

The Monitor Newspaper
January 11, 2008 - 11:48AM

Shove off, tricksters

Push pollsters don’t deserve votes

Push polling is the practice of a political candidate’s campaign creating telephone surveys that stress highly negative and usually untrue information about an opponent and relaying it to potential voters under the guise of a “valid” effort at opinion sampling. It is a thoroughly reprehensible election tactic.

So, naturally, it appears that it is being employed here in the Rio Grande Valley in connection with upcoming elections.

Push polling often goes hand-in-hand with the creation of negative newspaper, television and radio campaign ads in that it frequently is used to test what sorts of political attack information is most likely to get voters riled up against a political opponent. You might say that it is the wicked stepmother — or at best the ugly stepsister — of negative campaigning.

In recent years, one of the prime examples of push polling at the national level occurred during the GOP’s 2000 presidential primaries, when George W. Bush’s campaign conducted a “survey” asking GOP voters whether they would cast a ballot for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., if they learned he had fathered an illegitimate black child — a question obviously designed to inflame racist sentiment against the senator’s bid for the nomination. The question, of course, was totally salacious. McCain has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh who is neither black nor his biological child.

The Monitor reported on Thursday that so far in this election cycle, there have been several examples of suspected push polling involving candidates running for the Texas Legislature. We learned that incumbent Democratic state Reps. Kino Flores and Aaron Peña possibly have been victims of push polling by their primary election opponents.

In Flores’ case, a voter reported that a caller had asked her issue questions designed to steer her away from supporting Flores and toward voting for his opponent. This is an underhanded, push poll technique, but did not involve the overt spreading of lies or unfounded rumors. Apparently, such was not the case in push polling involving Peña.

The representative said that voters in his district were contacted by phone and asked whether they would vote for him if they heard that he was a drug dealer. Although, in the form it allegedly was asked, the question does not directly accuse him of being a drug dealer, it does sow the seeds of implication and in doing so is an unfounded allegation that could be extremely detrimental to Peña’s re-election bid.

Opinion sampling to see what it is that voters want and expect from the people they support is a valuable and valid election tool, but the underhanded, sleazy tactic of push polling is quite another matter.

We stop short of saying that you should go ahead and cast your vote for a candidate who has been the victim of push polling. However, we strongly urge you not to vote for any candidate who would stoop to so low a level as to employ push polling or to allow campaign workers or consultants to conduct push polling on his or her behalf.

If someone sinks to that level just to get an extra vote or two, consider to what even lower levels he or she might slither once elected to represent you.

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