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FACT CHECK: Push Polls

The anonymous “people” in the so-called “Del Mar Forward” and “Woodpecker” group recently sponsored another in their series of “community surveys.” The “results” of their 185-person poll (out of 3,000 Del Mar voters) were presented to the City Council as “powerful data” to support their criticism of Council Member Ellie Haviland. This is not the first time this group has put forth unscientific polling and claimed it as declarative data.

This process presented as “fact” easily meets the definition of a “Push Poll” as defined by Oxford Dictionary as “an ostensible opinion poll in which the true objective is to sway voters using loaded or manipulative questions.” Wikipedia says a push poll consists “primarily of leading questions designed to change a person’s mind about an issue or candidate without actually admitting it; the data derived therefrom is generally irrelevant. ”The anonymous Del Mar Forward group’s piece recited a series of negative statements leading to their pre-determined conclusion, followed by a question based on those leading set-up words. Predictably, the answers were tallied and then presented as factual survey results.

The American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) states that good message testing includes pro and con statements and recommends a sample size of at least 500-1,000 respondents. The AAPOR and other public opinion organizations denounce these push polls as “incompatible with authentic polling.”


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