A front page story in today’s Kansas City Star is all about the campaign consultant industrial complex. And that, of course, is tied into unlimited money.
There is this little gem within the bigger story:
….In the mid-1990s, consultants and strategists helped Republicans draft the Contract with America, a set of poll-tested policy positions that helped the GOP win control of the House….
Well, mostly no.
About that poll:
Wednesday, April 23, 1997 — The Executive Council of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) announced Wednesday that a 14 month investigation found pollster Frank Luntz violated the Association’s Code of Professional Ethics and Practices.
AAPOR found Luntz, who heads the Luntz Research Companies in Arlington,Virginia, repeatedly refused to make public essential facts about his research on public attitudes about the Republicans’ “Contract with America.” In particular, the AAPOR inquiry focused on Luntz’s reporting, prior to the November elections in 1994, that his research showed at least 60 percent of the public favored each of the elements in the GOP “Contract.” When later asked to provide some basic facts about this research, Luntz refused.
AAPOR holds that researchers must disclose, or make available for public disclosure, the wording of questions and other basic methodological details when poll findings are made public. This disclosure is important so that claims made on the basis of opinion research findings can be independently evaluated. Section III of the AAPOR Code states: “Good professional practice imposes the obligation upon all public opinion researchers to include, in any report of research results, or to make available when that report is released, certain essential information about how the research was conducted.”
Richard A. Kulka, chair of AAPOR’s Standards Committee noted that AAPOR’s investigation of Luntz began in January 1996, after receiving a complaint from a member. According to Kulka, “AAPOR tried on several occasions to get Luntz to provide some basic information about his survey, for example, the wording of the questions he used. For about a year, he ignored these requests. Subsequently, he provided partial information, but still refused to let us make any of the information public, arguing that the results were proprietary, even though he had been discussing the conclusions of the survey in public for nearly two years.”
AAPOR’s President, Diane Colasanto, adds “When researchers make public arguments based on their research data, then refuse to say how their research was conducted, that harms the public debate on issues and reduces he credibility of all survey and public opinion research.”
AAPOR is an organization of over 1,400 research professionals from government agencies, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and commercial polling firms. It is the primary professional association representing public opinion researchers, and has a strong interest in protecting and strengthening the credibility of survey research. The organization was founded in 1947 by such pioneers of polling as George Gallup, Hadley Cantril, and Paul Lazarsfeld.
Luntz is not a member of the organization.
And media repeated the spin.
From Rolling Stone:
By Rick Perlstein
….The Contract With America was a hustle from start to finish. It never really was about conservatism at all – practically the opposite….
….Gingrich devised a document micro-tailored to turn at least 70 percent of Perot voters, however fleetingly, into Republicans in time for November of 1994. “Republicans knew,” Stone and Rapoport write, “that the traditional Republican congressional campaign” – which is to say, conservatism – “would be insufficient to get this support.” This realization was the genesis of the Contract for America….
….Gingrich and Co. were able to get away with it because the plain facts of what the Contract actually was (a strategic erasure of Republican conservatism) almost entirely escaped the political press – at the time, and ever since….
It was a game in 1994. And people with short attention spans repeat the same media narrative almost twenty years later.