Polling Considered Crucial to Modern Campaigning

By: Courtney Ann Jackson Email
By: Courtney Ann Jackson Email

Jackson, Miss. During the coverage of the 2014 elections, you could be
called on to participate in a telephone survey. And the responses you give to a polling call could impact the way candidates run their campaigns.

"The last 10 days you're going to start tracking every single night," said Dan Davis, president of Southern Research Group. "And that's what annoys a lot of people. But every single night you're going to be looking at a tracking poll. And you're going to decide, is this moving the voter? Is this not moving the voter?"

There's a method to the madness behind those pesky phone calls before election day. Davis' company has conducted surveys during more than 200 campaigns through the years.

"We test both positive and negative messages in a poll," said Davis. "We try to make sure that what we're doing we test whether something is positive or negative against us and against our opponent."

Something Davis refuses to do is known as push polling.

"I don't consider push polling to be polling. It is a way to get out. it's just like direct mail or anything else. It's a way to get a negative message out on your opponent and that's all it is," Davis said.

The calls are targeted no matter the type of survey. In this case, they only make it to likely Republican primary voters.

"There's a tremendous amount of polling going on that no one ever sees," said Davis. "As a matter of fact, most of our polling no one ever sees."

Some of the companies are more public with results. Those have varied through the course of the Thad Cochran-Chris McDaniel contest.

A Chism Strategy poll shows Cochran up by one point. Meanwhile, others show McDaniel up by as much as 12 points. The questions and methods vary, but the impact remains the same.

"I never accept a candidate that doesn't understand the importance of polling," said Davis. "Because sooner or later, I'll show them the importance of polling."

Davis reminds people to always look at the origin of the poll. Some are commissioned by the campaigns directly or have slanted questions to get the results they want.


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