Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Few things drive Calbuzz as crazy as seeing phony, cooked-up, biased, bought-and-paid-for alleged survey data get reported and published as if it were the real deal.

So when we saw the headline “Critics of bill to limit initiatives to November push back with poll” and read the story, our heads exploded. It didn’t take long to see that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Small Business Action Committee – outraged that the non-partisan Field Poll had found that 56% of voters (including 52% of Republicans) support voting on ballot initiatives in November elections instead of June – had gone out and bought themselves some data.

Just exactly as Joel Fox (who is the Small Business Action Committee) had reported on his Fox and Hounds blog, touting this new alleged polling data.

The Field Poll had asked “Do you favor or oppose changing election laws so that statewide initiatives can only be placed before voters in a November general election instead of a primary election?”

This is what anyone in the survey business would consider a fair and neutral question. The Field Poll surveyed 1,001 registered voters Sept. 1-12 via landline and cell phone in English and Spanish. Their data and methodology are publicly available.

The results essentially showed strong support for the central provision of SB 202 sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, mandating that future ballot measures should be voted on in November elections – when the most voters turn out – rather than the next statewide election that comes along after a measure qualifies for the ballot.

This measure was jammed through the Legislature in a last-minute maneuver spearheaded by labor unions and liberal Democrats, and also moved to November a vote on the state’s rainy-day fund and spending limitations. But no one was really surprised by the measure, partly because Calbuzz had told everyone it was coming about two weeks earlier.

(We later also argued that Brown should sign the bill because “a) elections have consequences, b) Republicans [in the Legislature] have proved themselves unwilling to actually participate in governing and c) it’s better that big changes in the law and Constitution should be voted on by the widest possible electorate”).

Deep-dish disappointment does not begin to describe our sorrow at discovering that the SacBee’s usually estimable Capitol Alert blog reported with a straight face that the HJTA/SBAC had polling data showing voters want the governor to veto the bill.

As if it was a real survey. Which it isn’t. It’s a push poll done for a specific purpose – to try to convince Brown to veto the bill. (Fox claims this was just about placing the bill in “context” but it was really about loading the dice.)

Fielded by Quantitative Focus (whoever they are) for M4 Strategies of Costa Mesa, a message development firm with corporate and Republican clients, the survey claims to have interviewed 603 likely voters, randomly selected from the voter registration list, on Sept. 22. The margin of error for the survey was said to be +/- 4%.

We have no way of knowing, really, but let’s assume the sample and the calling outfit are all legit. The first substantive question – after a palate-cleansing right-track/wrong-track question – was:

To read entire column, click here.