Last night, I was minding my own business, when the phone rings. “Does the person of the house who is over 18 years of age have time to take a survey?” Annette was out, and Will and I were watching Will’s favorite show on the Food Network, Unwrapped. (Yes, my seven year-old has a favorite show on the Food Network; he takes after his old man.) “Sure,” I say.
The poll starts out normal enough, and I figure out quickly that the general focus of the poll is politics in Michigan. Then it starts to get a bit more specific in talking about Debbie Stabenow, who is the junior Senator for Michigan. I don’t know a whole lot about Stabenow; she’s a Democrat, she hasn’t done anything bad enough to show up in the newspaper, but I can’t name anything that she’s done to distinguish herself, either. Anyway, they were asking me if I supported her or not (I do), and if I would vote for one of three different types of Republican candidates who are (apparently) gearing up for a run against her in 2006 (I would not).
Then it took kind of a weird turn. The pollster said something like “I’m going to tell you about a series of issues and Senator Stabenow’s position on them. For each item, I’d like you to give me a rating of 0 to 10, where 0 means the issue would strongly consider changing your support for Stabenow, while 10 would mean you would continue to strongly support Stabenow.” Ah, okay, I guess. The pollster then proceeded to tell me about all kinds of “positions” held by Stabenow I was supposed to react to: the way the gun lobby groups have given her a failing grade because of her support for gun control, her vote against giving the troops adequate support in Iraq, her efforts to raise the retirement age and the social security tax, her support for partial birth abortions, the fact that she’s being supported by gay rights groups, and so forth.
After about ten of these, I stopped the pollster. “Excuse me, excuse me,” I said.
“How many more of these am I going to ask you?” she anticipated. “Not many more.”
“No, no, that’s not it. You’re not really conducting a poll, are you?”
“These questions you’re asking. They aren’t poll questions. They are designed to get me to react to the positions that you say Stabenow holds and to potentially change my mind about my support for her.”
“Ah, I don’t know what you mean.” And I don’t think she did.
“This isn’t a real poll. This is a campaign call.”
“I’m just asking the questions on the sheet.”
“Who hired you?”
“Oh, I have no idea. And it’s, you know, one company or person behind another one behind another one. I don’t know if you really could find that out.”
“Where are you, anyway?”
“Could I speak to your supervisor?”
And I did, though the supervisor didn’t know a whole lot more than the person who called me. I did find this out though: It’s a company called Central Marketing and they’re located in New York, NY; based on the address they gave me (which checked out with a simple web search), here’s where they are indeed located (according to Google). The folks I talked to were all perfectly pleasant and professional and just doing their job. I just wanted to figure out who hired them to do this job in the first place.
I don’t know who hired them, but I have my suspicions. And I think I know two other things:
- Debbie Stabenow probably didn’t hire this firm.
- It’s gonna be a bumpy 2006 in Michigan if these are the tatics they’re starting with.