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Just a few short years ago, Public Policy Polling was an obscure Democratic outfit, mostly focused on local polling in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now, ten years after its founding, PPP is driving national coverage with an unmatched supply of polls on everything from the Republican primaries to God's approval rating. Since their automated polls are so cheap to conduct, they've been able to flood the zone in early polling on federal races, and they've notched up an impressive record on special elections, which are notoriously hard to predict. So where did they come from?
Well, according to founder Dean Debnam, the whole operation began largely out of spite. In the 1990s, conservative nonprofits backed by a wealthy retail executive, Art Pope, dubbed a "one man Republican equalizer" in the press, dominated polling in the Raleigh area. Debnam, a proud Democrat whose wife was active in education advocacy and ran for mayor of Raleigh in 1999, fretted that the questions were slanted to produce more right-leaning results. "They were putting out polls to push their agenda," he said. "I was fed up with reading basically BS in the local paper as if it was fact."