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A We Ask America poll of May 13 shows Walker with a 9 point lead over Tom Barrett in the race for Governor of Wisconsin. I heard a lot of concern today, but question whether that's warranted, or just a distraction. It always pays to check background and methodology.

According to a Mar 28, 2010 story in Illinois' State Journal-Register, Gregg Durham, a former state spokesman, is now COO of Xpress Professional Services Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, which "does things including polling". The polling operation, We Ask America, started as "an extension of political work", had only recently unveiled its Web site,

We Ask America does both automated polls — where recorded voices ask respondents for their views — and live-interview polls. The firm did more than 20 polls during the primary season for one client, the gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, and all but two of those were automated.

In very recent history, Durham said, automated polls have been much more accurate than interview polls nationally, but he thinks both have a place and it depends on the needs of a client. “My personal preference is for automated (polls) plus focus groups,” he said. “I think that’s a combination that works extremely well.”

Automated polls also can be worked up quickly. He [Dunham] said polls being put on the Web site are just a fraction of the surveys conducted by the firm. All this happens with a staff that includes mainly just three full-time workers.

“I had never done PR work,” He said, “but I can talk my way out of a paper bag.”

WAA's Mothers' Day Wisconsin Gubernatorial poll was automated. No methodology is given at their website. But the FAQ page boasts that "we have a track record of predicting winners & losers that no other pollster predicted". Whether their unique position among pollsters was successful or not must not be frequently asked.

From the WAA website's non-partisan poll summary headline – "Recall Fever" ("Mid-America Melee" had already been used), a few interesting remarks, my emphasis:

by admin on May 14, 2012 in Polls | 0 comments

In the Midwest, it’s not easy to find a more polarizing figure than Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In a state where bold ideas are often rewarded, Walker’s slash-and-burn rhetoric during his first months in office resulted in bringing national attention to his administration’s aggressive fiscal reforms while stirring a hornet’s nest of resentment from public unions and others who felt he went too far. Walker soon became the Poster Boy (good and bad) for partisan views fueled by an economy in a tailspin.

….Wisconsin’s loopy election laws make it comparatively easy to recall a governor, so Walker now faces a rematch…..

….what better way to celebrate Mothers Day than by asking 1,219 likely Wisconsin voters who they plan to elect on June 5?

…some of Walker’s detractors [sic?] have been vocal about the fact that Walker was duly elected in 2010 and in most states would not be able to be challenged with a recall without greater cause. And a whopping 95% of those called said they plan to vote in the June 5th election which will have the national spotlight on it.

For now, that light is shining a bit brighter on Scott Walker.

And….scene. You can step out of that blinding light now, Gov, that's a take! It should play well up in bold, loopy Wisconsin. Hope no-one's so bold they peek outside Wisconsin's borders to see that the economic "tailspin" is these days just a localized phenomena.... or give much thought to your treatment of their mothers.

On the value of automated polls, WAA says they "can have a huge number of responses (we’ve conducted polls of up to 70,000 responses!), and cost about one-tenth the price of interview polls." Why then, does 1,219 work so well for Wisconsin? I guess the summary neglected to call Wisconsin a "cheap" poll date, too.

Though We Ask America challenges the reader to check their record with The American Research Group, who "keeps tabs on the accuracy of pollsters, including We Ask America", the only reference available there was for the 2012 Wisconsin Republican Primary. WAA's accuracy rating for polling that narrow demographic was the same as Marquette's.

And thank goodness (no, thank the loopy laws!) the recall was such a simple, easy undertaking. I must have missed all the loops while standing for hours numbing my brain in freezing rain and snow. I doubt I'd had the energy left to jump through had I even know about the loops. Here I wasted all my life believing Wisconsinites had a deep history of valuing education, research, discussion and concerned contemplation of policy, when all this time we were just boldly passing loopy laws for rewards!

Thanks WAA, for having the automation to get more in touch with my state than I am with a meager 61 years of personal experience here.

I had lots of questions to ask at the WAA website, but the 0 comments displayed will likely remain so, given there's no functional commenting system there. (And I so wanted to comment on the Mid-America Melee poll!) I must admit, however, that's a great (and cheap) way to leave an impression of unquestioned accuracy.

After that assault on my sensibilities, I'm left only to contemplate trends by looking at successive polls from the same source.

8/12-8/14     Barrett +1
10/20-10/23 Walker +2
2/23-2/26     Barrett +3

1/19-1/22     Walker +6
3/22-3/25     Walker +2
4/26-4/29     Walker +1

Happy automated Mothers' Day poll!

A division of Xpress Professional Services, Inc.
220 East Adams St.
Springfield, Illinois 62701
Fax: 217.522.2367

8:47 PM PT: Mr. Durham has responded to my inquiry about the methodology for the "Recall Fever" poll with a prepared, standard "statement of methodology" which does not address this, or any poll, specifically.

To summarize, voter lists are proprietary, cell phone algorithms are proprietary, methodology insures results are "projectable", and We Ask America adheres to the principles, ethics and guidelines of the American Association of Public Opinion Research.   

Originally posted to jorogo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 05:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Democracy Addicts.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We Ask America (18+ / 0-)

    is apparently a subsidiary of Illinois Manufacturers’ Association... and "uses methodology similar to that of Rasmussen Reports" according to a Nate Silver post back in February of 2011.

    This makes me much less likely to panic.

    If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    by AnnieJo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 05:46:18 PM PDT

    •  oops, you already had the subsidiary thing (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jorogo, 3goldens, elwior, ruleoflaw

      in there.  :-)

      If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

      by AnnieJo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 05:48:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But Nate's comments (8+ / 0-)

        add a lot of information. Thanks for the link.

        "All war is stupid" - JFK

        by jorogo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 05:56:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  If you follow the link in Nate's story, (5+ / 0-)

        it a Feb 18, 2011 gem of a We Ask America poll called, "Weirdness in WI".

        While Wisconsin has a history of offering up a policy pendulum that swings a wide swath in both directions, the vitriol flowing from the eruption on this issue ["budget repair" bill] has been absolutely Vesuvian.

        They [Senate Democrats] went into hiding, and the governor has the state police out looking for them. (Hint to Wisconsin state troopers: some from the Rockford, Illinois area claim that local beer distributors have been running low on their supply of Schlitz. Coincidence?)

        But Wisconsin remains a state that historically has rewarded those with policies that went beyond the safety lines of more timid politicians.

        Wisconsin’s knack for dramatic debate as a refreshing change over the predictable meanderings in most other locales.

        Where did this obsession with re-writing Wisconsin's political history into a perpetual pie-fight come from? I guess the Orwellian nature of that should be obvious - We've always been at war with Eastasia; We've always had a "policy pendulum" in Wisconsin. Our progressive history is down the memory hole and nothing's new here since Walker the conqueror uniter ascended to power. Move along.

        Amazingly, there were never any comments left at that poll summary, either.

        "All war is stupid" - JFK

        by jorogo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 07:54:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Robo Poll, too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md, jorogo

      Most people hang up on those.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Mon May 14, 2012 at 10:27:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not a bad thing in and of itself (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jorogo, Puddytat, Sand Hill Crane

        Even if most people hang up, as long as they hang up in predictable ways and don't leave too many demographic crosstabs without much representation in the sample, it's something that can be controlled for.

        The fun thing is the unexplained "likely voter" screen.  If "likely voter" = dues-paying GOP member in the mind of a fly-by-night pollster, sure, that's a set of likely voters, but not a very useful definition.

        This is why I only pay attention to polls where they show the methodology and crosstabs.

        Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

        by GeoffT on Mon May 14, 2012 at 11:04:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sand Hill Crane
          This is why I only pay attention to polls where they show the methodology and crosstabs.
          That's what doomed Franklins polls, particularly the first one which had Walker winning.  It was too heavy in Republican households and enormously light in polling regular working people.  His MOE was 9%.  9%!  I've never seen a poll with a MOE that high.

          Of course, most people look at the polling data and not what's behind the numbers.

          There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

          by Puddytat on Tue May 15, 2012 at 12:31:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I've asked Mr. Durham (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Puddytat, Sand Hill Crane

        whether the callback number is blocked. I don't know how widespread anonymous call rejection is, but I block calls without numbers to display.

        I'm still waiting for the script, too.

        "All war is stupid" - JFK

        by jorogo on Tue May 15, 2012 at 05:49:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "does things including polling" (7+ / 0-)

    {{{{snorts beverage on keyboard}}}}

  •  Son of a Ras! (5+ / 0-)

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Mon May 14, 2012 at 06:34:34 PM PDT

  •  If you were down to your last chip (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorogo, ruleoflaw, elwior

    and you needed to win in order to gas up the car on the way out of Las Vegas, who would you bet to win?  

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Mon May 14, 2012 at 06:39:46 PM PDT

    •  Trick question. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ruleoflaw, elwior, non acquiescer

      I despise wasting any time gambling, have never done so, and got quite agitated on the rare occasions anyone's dragged me into a casino. I see only wasted lives there. I don't like bright lights nor glitzy stage shows.

      You'd find me in the desert if I ever got to Nevada again, and I'd give up my last drop of water to get one more vote against Walker.

      Bets? No. Deals, let's talk.

      "All war is stupid" - JFK

      by jorogo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 06:50:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Neither (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jorogo, elwior

      Trick question. If I needed to win in order to get out of Las Vegas and to the polls, I couldn't get out before the election.  So I must have an absentee ballot sorted out already.

      It's against the law in Wisconsin to cast a ballot in a race that you have made a wager on.  That's likely unconstitutional, but there it is.

      Instead I'd enjoy the fruits of those futures I bought in the stock of Wisconsin advertising companies, freshly swollen with Walker's millions.

      Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

      by GeoffT on Mon May 14, 2012 at 07:10:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorogo, Ice Blue, elwior, Helena Handbag

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Mon May 14, 2012 at 07:01:54 PM PDT

  •  I guess we should expect more of this sort of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorogo, elwior


  •  In the field on Mother's day only? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorogo, elwior

    Like that's not going to screw up the demographics of those available by phone.

    Hope all those Dem-leaning young adults stayed at home and ignored their mothers.  Or weren't out knocking doors.

    Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

    by GeoffT on Mon May 14, 2012 at 07:30:18 PM PDT

  •  I won't lie any more when they poll me. Maybe that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorogo, elwior

    is not such a good idea.

  •  Keep your mind open, Barrett is not doing well. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is the second poll that has Barrett down by more than then margin of error.  Rassmussen is a conservative, but he is considered by unbiased sources as being very very accurate.

    Barrett looked horrible on TV today,  can't someone tell him to tuck in his shirt and pull up his trousers?  He looked tired and beaten.  Now it has been revealed that his wife was emailing recall supporters on work time on school computers while teaching in the Milwaukee school district.  This is the kind of thing that Walker's staff is being investigated for.

    Don't doubt that the wheels are falling off of Barrett's trolley.  I think he needs a major an overhaul of his campaign starting tomorrow.   Start by giving Mike Tate and Graham Zelinski the rest of the month off.  They are not playing well with the bread and butter Wisconsinites!

    Get your friends to vote on June 5!

    •  Good advice to keep an open mind, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, Puddytat, rqcrqc, Helena Handbag

      as long as you keep it cleaned of manipulative rhetoric, and aimless criticism. An open mind should be as ready to reject bad information as it is willing to accept good information.

      And yes, get out the vote.

      "All war is stupid" - JFK

      by jorogo on Mon May 14, 2012 at 08:15:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ras considered to be very biased and inaccurate (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jorogo, rqcrqc, non acquiescer

      "Rasmussen polls were biased and inaccurate", according to Nate Silver's analysis of the 2010 polls vs election results, having an average error of 5.8 points and a 3.9 point Republican bias.

      Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

      by GeoffT on Mon May 14, 2012 at 09:10:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who says Rasmussen is very very accurate? (0+ / 0-)

      Other than you, that is? Not to say you're full of shit, exactly, but it sounds like you might be.

      •  Several sources - its easy to find (0+ / 0-)

        From Fordham University.  A rating of the 2008 presidential election:

        1. Rasmussen (11/1-3)*
        1. Pew (10/29-11/1)

        2. YouGov/Polimetrix (10/18-11/1)
        3. Harris Interactive (10/20-27)
        4. GWU (Lake/Tarrance) (11/2-3)

        5. Diageo/Hotline (10/31-11/2)
        5. ARG (10/25-27)

        6. CNN (10/30-11/1)
        6. Ipsos/McClatchy (10/30-11/1)
        7. (D)Research 2000 (11/1-3)
        8. AP/Yahoo/KN (10/17-27)
        9. Democracy Corps (D) (10/30-11/2)
        10. FOX (11/1-2)
        11. Economist/YouGov (10/25-27)
        12. IBD/TIPP (11/1-3)
        13. NBC/WSJ (11/1-2)
        14. ABC/Post (10/30-11/2)
        15. Marist College (11/3)
        16. CBS (10/31-11/2)
        17. Gallup (10/31-11/2)
        18. Reuters
        C-SPAN/ Zogby (10/31-11/3)
        19. CBS/Times (10/25-29)
        20. Newsweek (10/22-23)

        •  And then there's November 2010 - (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Five Thirty Eight:

          The 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points, a considerably higher figure than that achieved by most other pollsters. Some 13 of its polls missed by 10 or more points, including one in the Hawaii Senate race that missed the final margin between the candidates by 40 points, the largest error ever recorded in a general election in FiveThirtyEight’s database, which includes all polls conducted since 1998.
          I once guessed how many bricks it would take to put in a walkway when I saw them on sale at the store, and hit it right on the nose. I was amazed, but wouldn't ever trust I could repeat that accuracy. In fact, I didn't trust it and had to figure out what to do with the 20 extras I bought as a margin of error.

          "All war is stupid" - JFK

          by jorogo on Tue May 15, 2012 at 06:06:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  They got one election right, evidently, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but their recent Wisconsin poll, which was +/- 4.5 with only 500 voters, had Walker by 5 points -- and Tommy Thompson beating Tammy Baldwin by 12, which is definitely an outlying result.

          When I googled "Rasmussen polling reliability" I came to a completely different conclusion than yours. You're welcome to your opinion, of course, but not to pretend it's widely held.

          •  I think all pollsters hit some and miss some (0+ / 0-)

            The more data the better.  It's a good idea to look at trends in the polls.   It's evident that Barrett is behind and is running out of time.   A day was wasted yesterday due to his wife make the incredibly stupid decision to campaign from work (ughhh!) and Tom having to defend his wife's character.  BTW he did a terrible job of this!  The joke going around is that Barrett's wife has actually worked harder than Tom to win the election against Walker due to the handful of emails she has sent out.  It's seems minor, but its not good when your candidate becomes the punch line of jokes (i.e. Sarah Palin)

            I try to take emotion out of my analysis of data,  I see too often where people decide to only look at polls that support their candidate.    Do so at your own peril!

            •  The important thing is to be critical (0+ / 0-)

              No matter what the poll result is.

              The trouble is with these last two is that it's impossible to be critical of the data, because We Ask America isn't showing the crosstabs and Rasmussen keep theirs behind a paywall (so they may or may not exist, who knows?).  If they have consistent methodology and show trends, that might be useful to a minor degree, but other than that they render themselves useless.

              The Marquette Law School Poll and PPP (if I'm overlooking any outfits, I apologize) both are quite open about who they're asking (after weighting at least) and how they're asking in order to arrive at their conclusions.  At least there we can say "that self-identified Dem/Ind/Rep mix doesn't seem likely given exit polls in recent elections" and the like.

              Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

              by GeoffT on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:41:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Point is that Rasmussen isn't known for accuracy (0+ / 0-)

              by unbiased sources, as you stated. They're actually widely considered to be inaccurately skewed to the right, and spectacularly so in some cases. Maybe you knew that, maybe you didn't, I suppose.

  •  Sample demographics (5+ / 0-)

    Unless and until a poll gives you the demographic breakdown of their sample population, you should just ignore it entirely. WAA talked to "1219 likely voters": were they walking up and down the aisles at the Republican Convention this weekend to do it? For all I know about who WAA talked to, they might have.

    Wisconsin doesn't require a voter to declare a party when they register, so you can't just check registration numbers. But in the 2008 Nov election, CBS exit polling had voters self-identify as Democrat 6% more often that they did as  Republican. In Nov 2010, even though Walker won, CBS exit polling was Dem +1.

    The sample the Marquette poll used at the end of April identified themselves as Dems +3. Given the CBS exit polling, assuming Dems +3 seems reasonable. (In addition, Marquette included breakdowns of what areas of the state they were from, what % were union members, had union members in their family, and ten other factors.)

    I've been told the Rasmussen poll last week had a sample that identified themselves at Repub +3, which seems "off" compared to the CBS exit polling. (Rasmussen details are behind a pay wall, so I haven't seen them first hand.)

    We Ask America's sample? No idea; they aren't talking, at least as far as I know.

    •  Agreed! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jorogo, GeoffT

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Mon May 14, 2012 at 08:48:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reviewing the script and questions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      non acquiescer

      is critical, too.

      See AnnieJo's link upthread for Nate Silver's comments -

      That question [agree with Walker re public union dispute], though, was the fourth one Rasmussen asked in the survey — and the questions that came before it may have biased the responses.

      It is widely recognized in the scholarship on the subject, and I have noted before, that earlier questions in a survey can bias the response to later ones by framing an issue in a particular way and by casting one side of the argument in a less favorable light.

      As an analogy, imagine a survey that asked respondents whether they believed the Democrats’ health care overhaul included “death panels” before asking them whether they approved or disapproved of the bill over all.

      I'm waiting for a response to my request to see We Ask America's script and questions for the "Recall Fever" poll.

      "All war is stupid" - JFK

      by jorogo on Tue May 15, 2012 at 06:18:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Also Polled the 2011 recalls... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and didn't do so well:

    I have nothing to say.

    by calistan on Tue May 15, 2012 at 06:04:38 AM PDT

    •  former Republican spokesman (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He's also been a spokeperson for Illinois Republicans:
      "He went on to work for politicians including former Illinois House Republican Leader LEE DANIELS and former state Treasurer JUDY BAAR TOPINKA. He was briefly a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation before joining the manufacturers’ association staff."

      I have nothing to say.

      by calistan on Tue May 15, 2012 at 06:10:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  political donations (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    here is a link showing the Illinois Manufactures Association political donations over the last several cycles.  As expected, they are in the tank for the GOP.  I don't put much stock in their polls.  I think they are purely propaganda tools

    •  Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      449 Republicans get $1,453,245 for 89.44% of total contributions, 2004 to 2012.

      Also employing 33 lobbyists in Illinois to the tune of $1,173,344 from 2006 to 2011.

      That's a lot of manufacturing! Maybe the polling arm of their professional services subsidiary is into manu"fact"uring, too.

      "All war is stupid" - JFK

      by jorogo on Tue May 15, 2012 at 07:31:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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