Date: Tue, 14 Nov 95 00:56:01 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Manufacturing Consensus?
Manufacturing Consensus, Chapter (~n): The Contract
According to a story by Knight Ridder reporter Frank Greve, "Pollster May
Have Misled GOP on Contract" (Seattle Times, 11/12/95) GOP pollster Frank
Luntz has admitted that his widely touted poll indicating that 60% of
Americans supported the Contract was based not upon actual questions about
Contract items themselves, but rather on ad-campaign slogans supporting the
Contract. When pressed to disclose the methodology of his poll, Luntz
initially insisted that only his client, the Republican National Committee,
could provide the details.
RNC officials, however, said they'd never seen it.
Luntz then maintained that he'd done the survey only for himself, and that
the results were "private information", an apparent violation of the ethics
code of the American Association of Public Opinion Research.When
questioned, Luntz agreed that the purpose of his poll had been to find the
most persuasive wording of the Contract's propositions for a TV Guide ad.
In an example of the methodolgy employed by Luntz, a positive response to
the statement "we should stop excessive legal claims, frivolous lawsuits,
and overzealous lawyers" was counted as a vote for the Contract's specific
proposal on tort reform, one of the more controversial items of the agenda.
According to Republican Party officials, the Luntz survey was in fact the
*only* poll on the contract's popularity. According to Barry Jackson, chief
of staff of the House Republican Conference, "What Luntz said about
extensively testing the content (of the contract) is simply untrue."
What makes this revelation particularly significant is that these alleged
"poll results" were widely circulated by Gingrich et al to build momentum
for the Contract through creating an impression of public support
apparently far greater than actually existed. Most distressing of all is
the apparently significant impact this poll had on members of Congress
themselves, especially freshmen with few polling resources of their own.
According to Rep. Mitch Castle, R-Del., "It was just repeated over and over
by the leadership and others that polls showed these were proposals highly
popular with the American public." Though harboring reservations about the
Contract himself, Castle too eventually supported the measure.
According to the Knight-Ridder article, pollster Luntz, a self-described
"marketer of ideas", ultimately agreed that his findings could not be used
to measure public support. Their analysis: "If not, the House GOP's
legislative agenda isn't just losing popularity; it was probably never that
popular to begin with."
Despite the apparently significant impact of his "poll" on the
Congressional vote on the Contract, Luntz' admission of his bogus methods
have come conveniently late (by the better part of a year) to affect the
Congressional vote on the Contract, and the resulting GOP PR bonanza.
Alert readers of the Seattle Times would have spotted the item on page A23
of the Sunday edition, sandwiched between an article on the Vince Foster
investigation ("Clinton Aide's Death Still Raising Questions") and another
entitled "Vatican's Upholds Ban on Ordaining Women."
© 1995 Peter Langston