push poll

A very pushy push poll on Right to Work [for less]

Once again, I have allowed myself to be interviewed for a political poll—on Right to Work: a very pushy push poll, to say the least. The polling company is American Viewpoint.  The client list posted on the company’s website includes many right-wing Congressional Republicans, corporate lobbies, and other conservative organizations. So, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the topic of this evening’s lengthy interrogation was the Right To Work [for less, of course] ballot initiative that Missourians will vote on in the state primary on  August 7.

I felt bad for the young woman tasked with getting people to stay on the line for the nearly 30 minutes it takes to get through all of the questions.  I hope she isn’t getting paid per completed survey, because I have a hard time imagining  that a lot of people  would be willing to get all the way through this tedious, repetitive exercise.

Here’s how this poll went: [As usual, I scrambled for pen and paper, and took rushed notes.]

First, the preliminaries: I’m not active in a current campaign. I’m absolutely certain that I’m going to vote in the August primary–not just somewhat certain. I’ll vote in the Democratic primary–not probably, but definitely. On an enthusiasm scale of 1 to 10 for voting in the August 7 primary, I’m a 9 [very enthusiastic]. I strongly–not somewhat–believe that Missouri is going in the wrong direction.

On the political awareness questions: I’m aware of Donald Trump and have a very [not somewhat] unfavorable view of him; I’m aware of Hillary Clinton and have a favorable [not somewhat] view of her; I’m aware of right-wing bugaboo Nancy Pelosi [a dead giveaway, right there, that this is a poll from the right]; and I’m aware of Eric Greitens and have a very unfavorable view of him. [The pollster was a day late on this one–Greitens announced his resignation as MO Governor two day ago.]

I already know, from these questions, that my opinions are not where this poll’s sponsors want them to be. I’m, essentially, a lost cause. And yet, she persisted.

Now, we get to the meat of the poll: Am I aware of the Right to Work referendum that is on the August 7 ballot? Oh, yeah. The pollster describes the referendum as [paraphrasing from my notes] “Senate Bill 19, passed by the Missouri legislature, that prohibits forced membership in labor unions, which does not apply to current union members, and which the legislature has determined has no associated costs or savings.” How do I intend to vote on this referendum?  I’m voting No.

“What is your main hesitation?” asks the pollster.  “It’s bad for workers,” I reply.

Now comes a follow-up question:  “Do you favor or oppose a law that prohibits employees from being forced to join a union?” Now we are into push-poll territory for sure. I have to think about that question, because it is a double negative. And, by the way, I have just told her–in response to the previous question–that I’m voting no. But I understand the logic behind this question: They’re trying to get beyond the blanket slogan “No on A” by stating the content of the proposal, rather than just its name. [An approach akin to asking people who hate “Obamacare” whether they’d support a law that made sure that everyone could get health insurance–to which many Obamacare opponents said, “Yes.”]

I get it. But I’m still voting no.

Now, the pollster presents a list of arguments against the referendum, and asks me how convincing each statement is: “Right to Work offers no protections for workers.” [Very convincing–not somewhat]. “Right to Work drives down wages–in Right to Work states, workers earn an average of $1,000 less per year than in non-Right-to-Work states.” [Somewhat convincing.] “Right to Work will make income inequality worse.” [I tend to believe that.] By the way, every time a rate a statement, the pollster asks me to reconfirm my answer or rating. I’m getting impatient quickly.

And now, for the push question: “Knowing what you now know, [from her statements], how would you vote on Right to Work if the election were held today?”  “No.” “Is that a definite ‘no’?”  “Yes.”

Next, the [much longer] list of arguments in favor of the referendum. I couldn’t quite keep up with this portion, but I certainly learned a lot about the pro-Right-to-Work talking points. Here’s what I was able to get into my notes:

  • “Special interest union bosses who oppose Right to Work are supporting criminal immigrants taking away jobs from American workers.”
  • “Special interest union bosses are dining on fine wine in expensive restaurants while middle-class workers struggle.”
  • “Right to Work will create more jobs and opportunities for workers.”
  • “Right to Work will give Missouri a competitive advantage over neighboring Illinois, which does not have Right to Work laws.”
  • “Union dues are used as political slush funds to promote liberal candidates, like Nancy Pelosi.”
  • “Right to Work will prevent jobs from moving to other states where Right to Work has already been enacted.”

Of course, I rate all of those talking points as “not at all convincing.”  So,” asks the pollster, once again re-confirming the pushiness of this push poll, “Knowing what you now know, how would you vote on Right to Work if the election were held today?”

Geez, I’ve already told you multiple times, in multiple ways, that I’m voting no. Of course, that really doesn’t matter. The poll did its job of pushing out the talking points. And I managed to waste another pollster’s time giving answers the sponsors don’t want to hear. [Of course, she managed to soak up a half-hour of my life that I’ll never get back.]

But, I’ll continue to answer these calls, because they give me an inside look into how polls actually work, and that insight helps me evaluate the meaningfulness of poll results when they are published. [Often, not very meaningful. It often depends on how the questions are phrased, as well as how the polling company jiggers its sample.]

And, I figure, if I take the call, you might not have to.