Polling Fun

It is tempting by many campaigns to put out public polling claiming their guy is in the lead and touting his or her strength. For the second time in a month, Summit Consulting Group has put out a poll touting the strength of State Senator Jim Waring.

Now I like Jim and think he’s a good guy. But he needs to distance himself from Summit’s incredibly flawed polling.

For those of you who aren’t experts on polling, let me explain. In the poll just below as was the case with the poll release around a month ago, Summit isn’t releasing a true ballot question. You can tell this because the undecideds are uncommonly low. In fact, most Congressional races develop late and rare is it that a candidate builds up any type of substantial lead until voters start paying attention.

Yet, at first glance at the press release below, you would think that Jim Waring has a commanding lead in the race. However, if you read the press release, you will see that it is only among voters who have made up their mind. This is probably around 20 to 25 percent of the voters, leaving around 70-80 percent undecided. Now in fairness to Summit, they acknowledge that.

But there is another problem.

If you read further into the press release by Summit, they claim that the poll conducted was 400 interviews with a  margin of error of +/-  5 percent. That’s fine, but the numbers they are citing for Waring only include those who have decided or about 20-30 percent of those interviewed or in other words about 80 to 90 interviews, not 400. The problem with that is that this isn’t a statistically significant number of interviews to mean anything. The margin of error for such a small sample is so large that it means nothing. You can see that in their results with both Crump and Gorman jumping around in the numbers. That is to be expected because the margin of error is so large.

If Summit wants to be taken seriously as a polling firm, then they would do well to release the entire poll and release the number of interviews included in the numbers they choose to highlight.

Finally, in an article in the Capitol Times from last month, Summit head Chad Willems mentioned that he was going to be working for Waring.  Yet in this press release there is no such mention of any relationship.  The reason this matters is that the FEC takes a very dim view of consultants and employees of a campaign doing things independently that could ostensibly be seen as beneficial to a candidate they are working for.  Now Summit may not be working for the Waring campaign, but if they are, then they should disclose it to the recipients of the press release.


  1. Seedy Three says

    These poll numbers are legit. If you can’t attack the message, as the saying goes, attack the messenger.

    Every poll thus far has Waring in the lead. Maybe that’s because he’s the best candidate to fill Shadegg’s shoes and represent the people.

  2. Anybody notice how the total numbers from this poll add up to 100.3% It’s not even possible. What a joke. Waring should fire this guy.

  3. Even legitimate polls done at this time are silly and meaningless. No one even knows whose in the race or not, most people don’t know the candidates, it’s silly.

    Obviously the candidates who have done and trumpeted the polls have created them to attempt to create news or momentum around their candidate.

    Even worse that the two fundamentally-flawed and laughable polls referenced above was the attempt by the Vernon Parker group to attract attention to their so-called poll.

    Parker’s team participated in what is traditionally described as a “push poll”. Candidates who use such lowball tactics usually deny it because it’s dirty low-brow politics of the first degree.

    In a “push poll” the caller gives damaging (often untrue or greatly misleading) information about all the “other” candidates while trumpeting the supposed virtues of “their guy.”

    What a shock, when doing an unethical push poll, Parker seemed to gain strength over his low showing in the silly Waring poll.

    This is all silly, but unfortunately campaign operatives spread this illegitimate nonsense in an attempt to promote themselves.

    In Parker’s case, it’s particularly curious because he’s been dogged by legal, financial and eithical problems related to his efforts to secure tax dollars to benefit a business with which he was associated. When you’re trying to put ethical allegations from your past behind you, doing so through an unethical (and unaccountable) push poll spreading misinformation about your opponents is a curious way to go about it.

  4. Get Real:

    I missed the parker poll what were the numbers and what were the push questions?

    Agree the thing above is a joke. Why would Waring hire these guys?

  5. It’s bad enough that the media is broadcasting Jim Waring’s pollster as a legitimate poll for this race. (gee, I’m shocked it shows Waring is crushing EVERYONE)

    But this poll doesn’t even pass the laugh test. The numbers don’t even add up to a 100% I’d at least get a pollster that can do 3rd grade math.

  6. Glad someone else posted this article, I was thinking the same thing when reading the poll numbers. The annoying thing is that Waring, Parker, or really anyone who is putting bunk polls out is going to get the news attention, the misinformed support, and overall an advantage.

  7. Get Real:

    You never responded so I let google do your dirty work. Assuming this is the poll you were referring to: http://icarizona.blogspot.com/2010/03/new-poll-parker-ties-for-first-waring.html

    Doesn’t seem to be a push poll, and has over 40% undecided. Question how they did over 1000 interviews, though. Either way the results are more in line with some rational thinking.

    A push poll to me is when they call up and say:

    “Hi i am X and i was wondering if you know that Candidate Y cheated on his first wife, was investigated for a scandal that led to senior citizens losing their pensions and voted against his own party on the Bush tax cuts? Would you still vote for him?” Now that’s a push poll. (woops that’s John McCain!!!)

    Can’t tell on the parker poll because we can’t see the questions, just the results from one question. I wonder what else they asked?

  8. I believe these numbers are legit. Summit has done work for us and it has been very accurate.

  9. We could have a discussion about whether anyone at Summit is a legitimately educated and recognized pollster applying industry standards. But that wouldn’t be too constructive.

    There is no denying the fact that both the Waring campaign … and then the Parker campaign … and then the Waring campaign again have deliberately attempted to mislead the people and mislead the media. It worked with many in the media and many in the blagosphere. Those folks should have been smarter than to print anything without full disclosure of the polling questions, results and methodology. To write about it or draw conclusions without that is indicative of a lazy (or ill-informed) media.

    One outlet got it right and covered the whole story. Here’s the link:


    I’ll give Jim Waring the benefit of the doubt. He’s a nice guy and obviously has gotten himself hooked up with some folks that are leading him down a dangerous path. You don’t take his good reputation and steer him into misleading the public and media before the campaign really even gets started.

    Frankly, I’ve met Vernon Parker but don’t know him well enough to make a judgment. The man, however, has never been elected to public office once. He’s been a government bureaucrat or running a business that feeds off the government bureaucracy (read — our tax dollars) since then (very lucratively, apparently). He’s got a neat rags to riches story (though many of the riches now might come from taxpayer-funded government contracts and government handouts) … in his attempt to get elected for the first time, he’s obviously gotten a little ahead of himself too. You don’t attempt to introduce yourself to the people by lying to them and lying to the media.

    It’s silly. Waring’s campaign does a phony poll and tries to pass it off as legitimate. Rather than sit still or criticize the Waring deception, the Parker campaign says “Let’s do a phony poll ourselves and try to pass it off to the people and the media as something other than it is.” Not to be outdone, Waring tries to lie to the people and the media AGAIN.

    Can this nonsense stop. Anyone who takes internal polling released by the campaign without great skepticism and scrutiny and review (by other LEGITIMATE pollsters) is a fool. If the media did the poll themselves and were happy with the credibility of the pollster and the methodology employed, that wouldn’t be perfect (no polls are), but would be valid and credible.

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