Thursday, March 22, 2007

Phrase of the day: Push-Polls

Whilst we're on the subject of oven-chips (see below), lets talk about John McCain*. I've noted before that he has hired for his campaign team some pretty dodgy geezers, but McCain has been sinned against more than he has sinned in terms of hard-ball electioneering. McCain's attempt to the be the Republican party candidate for the Presidency in 2000 faltered during the South Carolina primary against the then Governor Bush. This contest was notoriously spiteful with the Bush campaign being accused of various dirty tricks, most famously spreading rumours that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. Even though this wasn't true, the fact that it swung the primary in Bush's favour perhaps says a lot about the type of people who vote in Republican primaries in South Carolina; Strom Thurmond country after all.

I've always wondered how you spread a rumour like that. Did Karl Rove sit in lots of bars saying "Pssst! Buddy! Have you heard John McCain..."? Nope. As I heard yesterday via Radio Open Source, the way it was done was via "Push Polling". I wasn't familiar with the term so looked it up:
A "Push Poll" is a telemarketing technique in which telephone calls are used to canvass vast numbers of potential voters, feeding them false and damaging "information" about a candidate under the guise of taking a poll to see how this "information" effects voter preferences. In fact, the intent is to "push" the voters away from one candidate and toward the opposing candidate. This is clearly political telemarketing, using innuendo and, in many cases, clearly false information to influence voters; there is no intent to conduct research.

In the South Carolina case, McCain's campaign manager writing in the Boston Globe described the process as:
the "pollsters" asked McCain supporters if they would be more or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child who was black. In the conservative, race-conscious South, that's not a minor charge. We had no idea who made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.
Mother Jones has a good article on push-polling here.

*As segues go this is a bit lame and might only make sense to Brits. If you don't get it (and/or don't have anything better to do with your life for 45 seconds or so)
click here.


KGS said...

Looks like the Dems are as forceful in the "tar and smear" game as the Repubs :-)

Actually it's a rather good video. I wonder if there is any copyright problems with it?

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

It is good, although I think that too bluntly negative doesn't work well, its too transparent. I've never seen the original, but presumably its an Apple ad? In which case I suspect that it won't ever get off YouTube for all the rather obvious legal issues.

I did hear that Bill was laying into the NYT last week though, for going easy on Obama and hard on Hilary. But its not just the Clinton campaign that is out to get Obama, Fox and co. were happy to spread unsubstantiated rumours as well

KGS said...

The Muslim issue is the least of his worries, I am more concerned with his Church's creed.

Why would an intelligent politician like Obama be willing to risk political suicide by associating with a church that is separatist in word and deed?

Just exchange Black for White and feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck.