GOP pollster Luntz revealed Limbaugh's role in new survey

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, CEO and president of Luntz Research Companies, appeared as a guest on the May 21 FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes to present the results of his new poll that purportedly showed that a plurality of Democrats say if they had the choice they would prefer Senator Hillary Clinton over Senator John Kerry as their presidential nominee. Luntz admitted radio host Rush Limbaugh had a role in instigating the survey:

CO-HOST ALAN COLMES: Frank, good to have you on the show. Did Rush Limbaugh have something to do with asking you to do this survey?

FRANK LUNTZ, LUNTZ RESEARCH COMPANIES: Yes. In fact, he had talked to me about it a couple times on the air, and I wasn't paying attention. And he even suggested that if I didn't do the poll that there might be consequences.

COLMES: What kind of consequences?

LUNTZ: Nobody wants to have to respond to 20 million people that they're listening to on the air [The Rush Limbaugh Show reaches more than 20 million listeners per week].

Limbaugh had discussed the Luntz Research Companies poll results on his May 14 radio program and posted them on his website:

RUSH: All right, folks. I have the results of my poll question -- and there are three questions here -- that I requested. Frank Luntz of the Luntz Research Companies in Alexandria, Virginia, did this. This was a survey, a normal survey you would normally do just included three questions I asked for -- actually one question I asked for and two others, one on either side of the question to not isolate it...

[...]

This [the poll results] is not a ringing endorsement of their [Democrats'] nominee. It means that people haven't changed their minds about their preference, and it means they're really not lined up behind Kerry at all. The reason I set this up is, "Okay, in a normal circumstance, your party chooses a nominee. Your nominee is off and running in the middle of the campaign, now, the middle of the general election campaign," and here comes this question: "Hey, who would you vote for if you had to do it all over again?" Normally the nominee gets it, especially in a Democrat poll -- 40% John Kerry!

[...]

So 47% of Democrats would choose Hillary Clinton to be the nominee today -- and, by the way, that was the only choice they were given, not Howard Dean versus Kerry, and not anybody else. It was Hillary versus -- Frank wanted this question in there. I'll admit this is Frank's question. He wanted it in there, and I said, "Frank, you've got to put it [second] because I don't want my question to be distorted here, because if you put Hillary, I don't want Hillary in the list of possibles in the first one, either, because I wanted just those guys that Kerry ran against." So that's what he did, but here in the second telltale question: "If you could vote again for the candidate to run against George W. Bush in the fall, and your only two choices were Kerry and Hillary, for whom would you vote?" Forty-seven percent Hillary, 44% John Kerry. So there you have it, folks, a little EIB ["Excellence in Broadcasting," Limbaugh's name for his radio show, which is distributed by Clear Channel communications] participation in an official, scientific poll out there.

On Hannity & Colmes, Luntz continued, offering a "joke" as an explanation of why he thought Hillary Clinton would not do well in a national election:

LUNTZ: ...[M]en 50 and older hate [Hillary Clinton]. And the No. 1 reason why older men don't like Hillary Clinton is that she reminds them all of their first wife.

HANNITY: Oh, man is that cold. That's cold. They actually told you that?

LUNTZ: It's a joke, but if you did a survey like that, she is a very divisive figure.

As Salon has reported, there is little reason to trust a poll taken by Frank Luntz, who was reprimanded in 1997 by the American Association for Public Opinion Research [AAPOR], "an association of about 1,600 individuals [that] promotes standards of professional conduct and ethics for surveys and public opinion research," for his work polling for the Republican Party's 1994 'Contract with America' campaign platform. According to Salon, "Luntz told the media that everything in the contract had the support of at least 60 percent of the general public," but when a member of the AAPOR "filed a complaint requesting to see Luntz's research and a verification of the figure," Luntz refused, citing "client confidentiality." Salon describes Luntz as "possibly the best example of what we could call the pollster pundit: someone who both purports to scientifically poll the opinions of the public, and then also interpret that data to support his own -- in Luntz's case, conservative -- point of view." Salon added that, according to David W. Moore, author of the book The Super Pollsters, Luntz's work is little more than "propaganda" disguised as research. Luntz has explained his own methodology as follows: "Say you poll on an environmental issue, and on eight of the 10 questions the numbers are in your favor. Why release the other two? It's like being a lawyer."

As the New York Times reported on May 28, 1992, Luntz conducted polls for the presidential campaigns of Republican Pat Buchanan and third-party candidate Ross Perot in 1992. He is currently an "adjunct fellow" at the conservative Hudson Institute, and has conducted polls, as Media Transparency has shown, for organizations such as David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, which according to one of its direct mail appeals serves to "change the leftist, anti-American elitist culture that is dominant in the entertainment industry [and to expose] the idiocies and the viciousness of the radical leftism in universities, the media, mainstream churches, and everywhere else this modern plague is found."

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Stories/Interests
Polling, 2004 Elections
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