Friday, April 30, 2010

And the Survey Says . . .

Last night we got a call at the Clifford home from someone asking our opinions. Yes, we were surveyed. So what were the important issues? Was it what movies we like? What laundry detergent we use? While we've had those in the past, this one was about things going on in the city of Pomona. The interviewer didn't identify who had commissioned the survey, but they had our information, who we were, where we lived, etc. (Is it time to get paranoid?)

The main issue that they wanted to know about was what we thought of saving $5 million by bringing in the LA County Sheriff's Department. They asked the same question in four different ways (a common technique when you're trying to influence the outcome of the survey). So now the idea is floated that the Sheriffs will save us $5 million, a full month before the "study" is done. WOW, that was fast!! This was obviously a campaigning effort on someone's part to try and get backing for the "proposal" of the Sheriff's.

So what other questions did they ask. Hmmm. With three council seats up for re-election (and none in the district where we live) they asked what we thought of councilmember Carrizosa, and how we through Mayor Rothman was doing (and he's NOT up for re-election until 2012). They also asked which proposal for the waste transfer station that we preferred. As well as some generic questions such as "What do you think is Pomona's biggest problem?"

Have any of you out there gotten this call? What did you think of the survey?


Anonymous said...

Whoa THREE people shot on Mission - 2 dead and 1 critical!!! It is not even Hot yet! Scary...

Pride in Garfield Park said...

Fascinating. Gee, who would commission a push poll in lil' ol' Pomona?

We'll have to keep our eyes out for reports on the data and, hopefully, the corresponding survey items.

calwatch said...

This post shows a basic lack of understanding with how polls work, and what a "push poll" is and isn't. This is a standard message testing poll, and has nothing to do with "influencing the outcome of the survey", rather testing potential messages for the inevitable campaign that will happen when the city charter gets amended. Read this post for a complete definition of what is and isn't a push poll.

Incidentally, since this is a message testing poll, you will never find out the results of the poll, other than in the type of ads that will be thrown about during reelection season, or during a charter revision. For example, the choice might be more trash stations or the Sheriff's Department (after all, Pomona is in a revenue crisis). If the voting population thinks Carrizosa is a dolt, they aren't going to play up her support of contracting. etc. Or it could be the PPOA running the poll, trying to find out a number where people would decide that the Sheriff's are cheap enough - $5 million, $10 million, whatever - and looking for ways to counteract that (by, for instance, doing an ad that links the unpopular Carrizosa with the attempt to slash cops, and direct mailing that ad to all voters without Hispanic surnames to avoid backlash).

If you put your phone number on the voter registration, then you will get called. Even if you don't, it is trivial to cross reference that information with public databases. In case you didn't know, voter records are public - they are posted at every polling station, and campaign operatives routinely purchase them from the Registrar's office.

If you remember who was offering the survey, that would give a clue as to who is pushing it (certain polling outfits are tied to Republicans, Democrats, labor, business, etc.) Otherwise, it seems like a pretty fair survey to me, and does not need the "push poll" label.

John Clifford said...


While I never called the poll that we took as a PUSH poll, I completely understand why Pride in Garfield Park called it such. In framing the question using unsubstantiated "facts" the poll attempted to "push" information out into the community in a viral manner.

I'm usually an advocate for precise language as I think it enhances discourse, but the term Push Poll has morphed via the common vernacular into a new meaning which is more a poll that attempts to push an agenda under the guise of polling. The pollsters may also be trying to get information, but they're also trying to influence people's thinking about an issue.

We saw a lot of this the prop 8 campaign with polls that suggested all kinds of things. Asking people if they wanted homosexuality taught in schools, and other "talking points" that the pollster's wished to become part of the debate.

I don't think that anyone is currently using the term push poll to only refer to those taht attempt to "spread an untruth about an opponent or 'rumor' so salacious or farfetched that you dare not spread it yourself"

Since the poll that was done tried to put out unfounded information (a savings of $5 million), and since we don't know if the pollster is actually collecting the information, it is not unreasonable for someone to infer that it is, under the popular definition, a push.

Anonymous said...

Giver it a rest John, he put you in your place.

John Clifford said...

Sorry anon, but how did he put me in my place? I NEVER said that it was a push poll. I never used that word. That was a comment.

I DID suggest that the poll floated the idea that there was a $5 million saving to going with Sheriff's which I've not seen anywhere else and which I understood was the reason we needed a study.

And I'm not going to "give it a rest." The reason that I blog here is that I think that discourse is important. We need to know what's going on. AND I do it in the open. I'm not anonymous. And I'll be there this evening at the council meeting.

Ed said...

So Mark Blumenthal (calwatch's link) is the de facto expert on "push polling"? Hmmmm.....why?

On a different note, has anyone heard of other cities contemplating LASD as a quick fix for their budget woes?

Pride in Garfield Park said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pride in Garfield Park said...

Acknowledging (again) that I didn't actually take the survey and thus don't know the content of the items or response anchors, and knowing that a move to disband our PD would require a vote of the residents, I can say that the original description of the items sure sounded like a push poll to me.

My understanding is that some push polls, beyond merely trying to trash an opponent or measure, are much more concerned with cajoling a particular response from a respondent (e.g., "Yes, saving 5M per year is a good thing!") in hopes that respondent will then behave in a manner consistent with that belief come ballot time (e.g., vote yes to disband our PD) -- a classic use of cognitive consistency as a persuasion technique.