Keeping the Smears Straight

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Just a quick word on the alleged push polling of Jewish voters that’s being reported in various quarters.

First let me say that we’ve been as vigilant as anyone over the years in tracking these kinds of subterranean campaign tactics, so we like a good push poll story as much as the next guy.

But the reports that have come in so far suggest that these are not push polls but actual public opinion surveys that are testing negative messages. There’s a difference, not the least of which is that push polls target large numbers of potential voters, just like any other campaign phone bank effort. On the other hand, field testing negative messaging requires only obtaining a representative sample of voters, like any other public opinion survey.

The easiest way to tell which is which is by how long the call lasts. If you’re trying to reach a large number of voters, you keep the calls short and dirty: plant the seed of the smear and move on; otherwise, the costs of phone calls becomes prohibitive. The accounts so far are of calls that last upwards of 15 minutes.

Someone is testing the effect of fear-mongering about Obama on Jewish voters. But it just doesn’t have the markings of a push poll, as that term is usually understood.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

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