What Fresh Hell Is This?

July 19, 2006

I got PUSH POLLED for Tricky Ricky Santorum today!

Wikipedia's definition of a "push poll" is:
A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. Push polls are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning.


Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants.
The poll started out innocently enough, but I started to have my doubts when one of the initial questions was how likely would I be to vote for Carl Romanelli, the Green Party candidate, if I heard that he was the only pro choice candidate running for Senator.

Midway through the rather lengthy survey, they asked how do the following attributes accurately describe Santorum. There were about ten or so and only two were negative: "doesn't represent people like me" and "is out of touch." I guess not even Ricky's supporters think that associating these qualities with Tricky Ricky could put ideas in people's minds that weren't already there. There was no corresponding list for Casey (or Romanelli).

But of course, they saved the best for last. There were ten or twelve questions that were the real "push" as in "pushing" voters away from Casey. They would read a statement and you were to answer if that statement made you more likely to vote for Santorum or Casey. All of the statements were Rick-positive and Bob-negative along the lines of "Santorum wants to insure that terrorist don't creep across our border, but Casey wants to let millions of aliens in. Would knowing this make you more likely to vote for Santorum or Casey?"


After the second or third question like this, I interrupted the interviewer and said to her, Jesus! This is such a push poll! You know the definition of push poll, don't you?"

She responded with, "Ma'am, I'm just doing my job."

Yeah, she knew too and because I've been on the other end of the phone for more surveys/polls than I can count, I let her finish it. Besides, it keeps them tied up with me instead of someone who might not be in on the "joke."

My Caller ID displayed the following info for this call:

"Venture Data3, 541-868-1309"

Geez, Ricky/Ricky's buddies! Can't you at least push poll from this state? That's an area code for Oregon. You'd at least think he could have went with a Virginia company...

Anyway, googling "Venture Data3" only got me to a page where people bitched about how many calls they received from that number. However, googling "Venture Data" lead me to VentureData Telephone Collection Experts. Venture Data does have a call center located in OREGON (Remember, the call had an Oregon area code).

And get this, if they are the same "Venture Data" who called me, they need to reread their own stated policy on push polls:
Our Policy Regarding Push Polls

Venture Data L.L.C. is a survey research company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company operates call centers located in Eugene, OR and Spokane, WA. We, the ownership and staff of Venture Data, are committed to providing our clients with accurate consumer and voter opinion data. We use industry standard scientific methodologies and practices for telephone based survey research to collect opinion data.

We recognize that in the heat of highly charged election campaigns tempers will flare and accusations of impropriety are likely to fly.

In light of this, we want to make it clear that Venture Data L.L.C. has never conducted nor participated in what is commonly referred to as "push polling." Our activities are strictly limited to conducting telephone survey research wherein we gather the opinions of a limited number of representative voters and deliver that data to our clients. We adhere to strict methodological standards. [emphasis added]
Just to be super clear on all this I've worked for market research firms that did political polling (as an interviewer, monitor, editor, head supervisor and coding director), as well as being an interviewer for NBC's Election Division in the mid 80's (we shared the floor with the writers for Saturday Night Live -- Dennis Miller was a prick even back then) so I KNOW A PUSH POLL WHEN I SEE ONE. And, kiddies, this was one PUSHY POLL!

I also know that doing push polls is a real sign of DESPERATION.

I'd love to know who was paying for this piece of tripe "poll." Wouldn't you?

UPDATE: Coming soon!
"Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 19:01:09 PM MDT
A controversial Utah firm frequented by the GOP and implicated in scandal is push polling this evening for Rich Tarrant in Vermont."



e b bortz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
e b bortz said...

Thanks for the explanation of
the nuances of "push-polling"...it certainly does seem like desperation from Santorum.

But i'd be remiss to not mention the obvious (in my opinion):
Carl Romanelli, the Green Party candidate, is in fact the only
pro-choice AND pro-peace candidate in this race...there
are many voters who have stopped
holding their noses in the voting
booth...they are increasingly voting for their hopes not their
fears...it's a matter of conscience.


8:13 AM

Patrick said...

Have you considered jotting down the questions they were asking you, and perhaps either posting them here or notifying the Casey campaign?

Push poll or not, the poll was to test which potential negative attacks would get the most traction. While most potential Santorum attacks are obvious to all of us, I'm sure the Casey camp would appreciate a little heads-up as to what they'll be facing when the ads hit the air this fall.

Maria said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info on Venture Data3 they call me 3xs a day but when I answer they never sya anything soo I hang up!! I wish they would loos my number!

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, after several years teaching rock climbing at wayward youth camps and rootless wilderness activism, I showed up in Salt Lake City broke and jobless. This was maybe, '98 or '99. As I scanned the SlTrib ads, I was thinking what's the easiest way to get a fast paycheck? An hour later I was in reception room of Data3, which then had offices... somewhere on 200 South, I think. The vibe of the interview, if I remember right, was very bucket shop, "If I told you you could be making a 100 dollar a night bonus, what would you say to that?" I remember being like, "Right bro--If I told you I'm just here for one paycheck and I'm not actually going to do any work, how would you feel about that?" And that's basically what happened. I had headphones and an autodialer, and a BS script I was supposed to read.. It all push polls for whatever political campaigns were back then--"If you knew Chuck Quackenbush molested turtles, would that make you more or less likely to vote for him?" But I couldn't really intentionally screw up the script too much because the bosses listened to your calls at random. Data3 also had fundraising sections on "the floor" where the senior penny stockbroker types worked giving each other high fives when they got a 25% commission on a 100 dollar credit card pledge. The lingo, if I remember right, was all about "a smooth ask" and "closing the deal." If I stayed with the company long enough, someday I too could be one of these bigshot scam artists. After a week of night shifts spent hassling the electorate of Virginia and Orange County, I left notice with the receptionist to hold my paycheck and walked out, never to return. A week later I got a call from Outward Bound in Maine and I was back teaching ropes and walls. The whole time in Salt Lake, I never moved out of my car. Seems like a long time ago. Since then, I went to law school and now I probably make a little more than those hotshot Data3 telemarketers. But I can't say that what I do now is any more honest. Anyhow, thanks for taking me back.

Phillip said...

What genius decided that a nuisance call after 9 p.m. is going to be more welcome than a similar call at dinnertime? I was so offended that I Googled Venture Data3 to find out who these public-relations morons were, then sent a check to the Bob Casey campaign, even though I'm in California.

Anonymous said...


I happen to work for these evil idiots... And they are truly evil.

They take advantage of dirt-poor hippies in Eugene, Oregon, the location of Venture Data's largest call center, to do their dirty work. For a survey that makes the company perhaps $500, I am likely to be paid $2 - $5.

This is really minimum wage, with a chance of 'incentive pay' if you keep your average daily production above quota for a two-week pay period. HA HA HA! This rarely happens.

Most of the employees are college students and single mothers, over-educated and under-paid individuals that can't find better work.

I've worked there on and off for six years now, and it's like watching a train wreck every day I get called in.

Unfortunately, the insider information is too disturbing to pass up.

As far as the time of day... People get off work around 5pm, so that's when the call centers start calling. 5-10pm is the -only- time you will ever receive political calls from us, though market research is sometimes done during the day.

So... I'm sorry.

Michelangelo Markus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelangelo Markus said...

I actually used to work at that office. The other person who worked at VD (yes, we actually call it VD, we really hate working there) is right about most of it although to clarify, we aren't actually paid per poll, you get minimum wage and if you do well you can make a bit more. But it does work out to a couple bucks per respondent. Just thought I'd clarify that a little before someone files some legal complaint and wastes their time.

Also I hated doing polls like the one in question, but when I questioned management about how they could consider a poll like that to not be a push poll they actually had a pretty reasonable explanation.

1. The polls are using far too small of sample groups to have any real impact on swaying an election, therefore they could not succeed at being a real push poll. For that you'd have to contact as many people as you possibly could.

2. Venture Data does surveys for any party, (though more republicans than democrats) and most surveys we do don't have the "push poll" feel to them.

3. And the main reason is the purpose of the poll itself. It's not designed to push voters, it's designed to see what messages will push voters. Before a candidate starts attacking an opponent they often will request a poll to decide which attacks to use. Hence the poll isn't designed to push voters itself, but rather to do research on how one CAN push voters. The distinction is subtle sounding, but the main difference between a genuine poll and a push one is the number of people surveyed. Our survey sizes for an area were exactly the same "push poll" or not because that's all you need to get the necessary data.

4. As a side note, some politicians "attacked" in these polls are the ones who requested it, as a way of seeing which attacks they can safely dismiss and which ones they will have to spend time and money defending themselves against. Often times an attack ad will go out and have virtually no effect, but the media will mostly just cover the nastiness of the ad, so the only way to know is to test it yourself by hiring a survey.

That said, I don't blame you for getting pissed off by these kind of polls, I hated doing them myself, particularly when I knew a message we were testing wasn't true, but for all you know it was paid for by the candidate it attacks.

(We were never informed of which candidate's campaign paid for a poll, nor were we on any level allowed to do anything to sway a responder on any of the questions, you could be fired. Another thing you won't see at a push poll operation.)