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Candidates, Kos go after Rasmussen

It was a week of mixed news for Republicans, especially in the polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports. The independent polling group -- which uses auto-dialing surveys instead of live surveys and is thus able to crank out lots of data -- had the first poll showing Rep. Joe Sestak (D) leapfrogging Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, and a poll showing Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) mostly weathering the storm over his Vietnam service scandal.

But it also released surveys showing Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul romping in Kentucky, just as the media was going after Paul for questioning portions of the Civil Rights Act, and a poll showing conservative favorite Nikki Haley (R) surging in South Carolina's gubernatorial race. As a result, Rasmussen has been taking it from both liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas and South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster (R).

"Rasmussen Reports uses randomly-selected, computer-generated calls, often referred to as robo-calls," said McMaster pollster Richard Quinn in a campaign memo. "We've seen in past elections that Rasmussen poll numbers are less reliable than ones conducted using the traditional method of live callers speaking one-on-one to registered voters with a history Republican primary participation."

At his blog, Moulitsas authored a post titled "Rasmussen's (dishonest) game," accusing the pollster of caring "only about setting the narrative that Democrats are doomed" by eschewing polls on this week's races for polls on races that showed Republicans romping, notably by missing out on the Democratic victory in PA-12.

Scott Rasmussen, the firm's president, laughed off the criticism. "I assume you recall that we were first to show Sestak catching Specter and our final showed Sestak by 5," he said. "On PA-12, we never poll House districts. We focus on statewide polls. We cover every senate and gov race in the country. The more competitive ones get more coverage." And when I've spoken to Rasmussen in the past, he's said that the firm decides what issues and races to cover the way a newspaper decides what to cover -- what's going to be newsy, what will set the narrative.

Here's the South Carolina campaign statement attacking the poll.

McMaster campaign statement on Rasmussen Poll

COLUMBIA, S.C. – McMaster for Governor lead consultant and strategist Richard Quinn today released the following statement:

Rasmussen Reports uses randomly-selected, computer-generated calls, often referred to as robo-calls. We've seen in past elections that Rasmussen poll numbers are less reliable than ones conducted using the traditional method of live callers speaking one-on-one to registered voters with a history Republican primary participation.

“We were in the field Tuesday night with a statewide poll as opposed to the Rasmussen survey, which was completed on Monday. So, our numbers are more recent and we believe more accurate than the automated Rasmussen survey. We show State Rep. Nikki Haley in second position, at 23%, two points behind Henry McMaster at 25%. Congressman Gresham Barrett and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer are tied at 14% each.

“There is no question State Rep. Haley has enjoyed a temporary bump in the polls, which is not surprising. After all, Governor Mark Sanford's PAC spent $400,000 on TV ads promoting State Rep. Haley.

“However, our research and experience shows most Republican voters are ultimately suspicious of unknown candidates with slick TV campaigns promising hope and change. A majority prefer conservative reformers with a record of results. We believe the preference for proven leadership will benefit Henry McMaster on election day.

By David Weigel  |  May 21, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Polls  
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