Thursday, May 25, 2006

Gabrieli's Boomerang Poll

The Gabrieli campaign this week gave us a textbook example of how to leak a poll to the media. They conducted an internal poll that showed Chris Gabrieli taking the lead in the Democratic primary against Attorney General Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick. Now, since this is an internal poll, it means we the public do not get to see what questions were asked, what types of people responded, or if the sample was at all biased. This was a poll not meant to measure opinion, but meant to convince people that Chris Gabrieli deserves to be on the ballot. So, with that in mind, the campaign leaked the poll to the media, and CBS4's Jon Keller and the Globe's Frank Phillips write about it as if it were news. The campaign then blasts an email out to delegates -- how they got all of the delegates private emails is another question -- trumpeting the news stories about the poll that they conducted. This way, rather than sending the poll results directly to delegates, they get the added bonus of being about to quote not from their campaign, but from an actual journalist. He sends the poll out, it comes back to him as free media, and he sends it out again.

Keller notes that Reilly and Patrick have not done any media to counter Gabrieli's TV ad blitz. I would argue that they would be fools to spend a dime on television until after the Democratic convention next Saturday. If Gabrieli does not make the ballot -- and he needs 15% of the delegates to vote for him to do so -- then it none of this will matter. The primary is not going to be lost in the last two weeks in May. It's much cheaper for Reilly and Patrick to try to keep Gabrieli off the ballot than it would be for them to put out television ads. The Globe comments briefly on that effort in today's article about yesterday's debate:

Gabrieli's campaign says it is confident that its efforts to get on the ballot will get the candidate over the threshold, but aides are devoting all their resources to it.
All of their resources? No kidding. I got four Gabrieli-related phone calls in one day last week. One robo-call, two calls from his campaign, and one survey.

As an aside, the internal Gabrieli poll was conducted by long-time Massachusetts pollster Tubby Harrison, who Keller says "has a good reputation". That may be true, but I can't help think of the words of Elias Nugator who, in February, reminded us of this nugget:
[Harrison's] imperial high noon goes bck to 1986 and the race to succeed Tip O'Neill in the fabled Eight Congressional District. late in the primary tubby pimped a poll for the Boston Globe claiming that George Bachrach had pulled ahead of Joe Kennedy amongst "those most likely to vote". So the Boston Globe had a merry few days second guessing a Kennedy whilst Joe's campaign went into crisis mode.

Two weeks later, Kennedy took Harrison, Bachrach, A scion of the Roosevelt family and the Boston Globe out into the back yard and beat them all about the face and neck with a big electoral shovel.
That is why you don't pay much attention to internal polls. The ones you hear about are not intended to measure, they're intended to convince. The ones you never hear about are the ones that the campaign is taking seriously.