Republicans have long been frustrated and worried about a political landscape in which the facts point to a large Republican loss in '08. They've tried a variety of different options, none of which have worked, and now they're digging deep into their arsenal of options. Plan M: Change the facts.
Last night, I received a phone call from Civis Political Research asking if I would answer some questions for a poll they were conducting.
Immediately after agreeing to answer questions, the person on the other end of the line, "John," began to ask the questions. This surprised me somewhat, seeing as often pollsters ask simple demographic information to make ensure that their poll has a representative sample of their population, or somewhat near a representative sample. (If Gallop happened to conduct a poll and the respondents were 90% black, you think that would affect the results?) I later found out from Andrew Larson (their call manager) that they were using the Secretary of State's Registered Voter files (which apparently YOU can get for the low low price of $30.00). Which might mean that upon confirming that I was the respondent they already had the demographic information they needed, but I doubt it. For example, they could have asked whether I was planning on voting in Minnesota this year (a fair question, given that they were calling an Oklahoma cell-phone and that coincidentally I am currently visiting Oklahoma), a question that could severely affect the accuracy of a poll of Minnesota voters.
Then came to the good part, the second question asked was "Given Minnesota's current budget shortfall should we raise taxes or should we cut spending"?
Huh? Those are the only two choices? And cut spending on which programs, raise taxes on who? I refused to answer the questioning, explaining that it was a false choice and braced myself for what I found to be an awful poll. As the rest of the questions were revealed, it was clear that the questions all leaned to the right. Every issue was presented from a Republican framing which basically meant that it was full of false choices and biased wording.
This was not a push poll. Instead, it was just a bad poll. The information gathered (except for asking which party I identified with), was biased and without a doubt elicited results that would seem to favor republicans. The data to which I contributed, according Mr. Larson, will be kept internal and will available for sale to politicians.
Not even the guy conducting the poll could hide his bias. When asked an open ended question about my solution to solving the nation's economic problems (another dumb question, was I supposed to have an economic policy laid out and ready to roll out for the pollster?), the pollster audibly sighed in frustration when I began talking about wealth redistribution. I guess I shouldn't be surprised given that they recruited pollsters from the College Republicans and from conservative blogs.
So, if you hear a Minnesota Republican spouting off about how polls show that he or she is right, just remember, not only is the Republican wrong, the poll is wrong.