Push Poll or Issue Testing? Republican Jewish Coalition Poll Ignites Controversy

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

Jewish political circles were buzzing at midweek over reports that John McCain supporters in Florida and elsewhere are using “push polling” to link  the Democratic nominees to the PLO and other anti-Israel forces.

According to an AP report on Tuesday, Jewish voters in Florida were contacted by callers claiming to be survey researchers asking if they would be influenced if they “learned that Obama has donated money to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.”

A blogger in The New Republic reported that he was a target of such a poll and offered some more details.

Jonathan Cohn reports that a caller identified as an employee of “Central Research” asked routine questions about his voting habits, his religion and his views on a number of politicians. Then, the call got down to the nitty gritty.

Cohn said the caller asked “would it affect my vote if I knew:

– Obama had a decade-long relationship with pro-Palestinian leaders in Chicago

– the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yousef, expressed support for Obama and his hope for Obama’s victory

– Barack Obama was the member of a board (sic) that funded a pro-Palestinian charitable organization.”


Cohn said that when he asked who was sponsoring the “poll,” he was rebuffed.

But The Politico’s Ben Smith offered an answer before the sun went down Tuesday in this story.

“The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which is launching a campaign against Obama on behalf of Senator John McCain, sponsored the poll to ‘understand why Barack Obama continues to have a problem among Jewish voters,’ the group’s executive director, Matt Brooks, told Politico,” Smith wrote.

He continued: “Brooks, however, denied that the poll was meant to influence Jewish voters, and said it was a traditional poll meant to gauge the opinions of Jewish voters.”

And Smith reported that a polling expert suggested it might have been a “message testing” poll, not a push poll.

The controversy prompted a protest in New York by the Jewish Council for Education and Research, which runs the pro-Obama Website JewsVote.Org.

“From the response we received at JewsVote.org, it is clear that many people who received this poll felt like they were being encouraged to believe things about Barack Obama they know to be untrue,” said Mik Moore, the group’s co-director. “It speaks volumes about the RJC’s confidence in John McCain and Sarah Palin that they apparently did not ask a single question about the candidates they support and focused entirely on testing out their anti-Obama smears.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.