Those partisan non-partisan groups

Date:October 4, 2004 / year-entry #357
Orig Link:
Comments:    31
Summary:Just because they say they're non-partisan doesn't mean that they're non-partisan. Friday night, I got a phone call from "Victor" at "Washington Counts" who came right out and asked me whom I was going to vote for. I asked him to repeat the name of the organization he represents, and he said, "Washington Counts, a...

Just because they say they're non-partisan doesn't mean that they're non-partisan.

Friday night, I got a phone call from "Victor" at "Washington Counts" who came right out and asked me whom I was going to vote for.

I asked him to repeat the name of the organization he represents, and he said, "Washington Counts, a non-partisan organization, working in cooperation with Emily's List."

I couldn't find any information about "Washington Counts", but I did find Emily's List, which is a blatantly partisan group. Their own About Page say that they are "dedicated to... electing pro-choice Democratic women".

I pointed out to "Victor" that Emily's List is a partisan group. He ignored me and repeated his question, asking me whom I was going to vote for.

I told him that I was unlikely to be inclined to assist an organization that start out by lying to me.

And then I heard a click and a recorded voice saying, "This survey was sponsored by Emily's List. On the web at"

Let's see what happened here. Somebody claimed to be from "Washington Counts", but in fact they were from "Emily's List". [Corrected identification 9:38am.] That person claimed to be representing a non-partisan group, but in fact the group is highly partisan.

I guess if you're going to lie, you may as well go all-out.

Of course, this could have been a double-fake-out. Perhaps it was really a pro-life Republican group pretending to be a pro-choice Democratic group?

These sorts of double-fake-outs are not unheard of. In California, anybody who pays the requisite fee can get a statement printed in the voter's guide. It has been known to occur that somebody who holds one position on an issue submits an incoherent or absurd statement in support of the opposition position, thereby making the opposition look stupid. During the 1996 U.S. presidential election primary season, Candidate X sponsored a telephone survey asking voters "If Candidate Y took <controversial position>, would your opinion of Candidate Y go up, down, or stay the same?" The intent here was to start the rumor that Candidate Y was actually considering taking said controversial position (which would have undermined Candidate Y's traditional support).

You can never tell where the dirty tricks are coming from in politics.

Comments (31)
  1. Chui Tey says:

    In Australia, it’s called "Push-Polling". I don’t know where it originates from.

  2. Brendan says:

    Don’t worry Chui, we too in the states know plenty about Push-Polling.

    Back during the 2000 election a number of calls were made to South Carolina voters and asked a question similar to: “Would you be more likely, or less likely to vote for Senator McCain if you knew he fathered a black child out of wedlock?”

    Of course the question is claiming nothing and cannot be refuted… and is so purely evil that it accuses something with out the liability of actually doing so.

    If I were to ever run for President (or any office), I want Karl Rove on my side… just because I’d be afraid of what other evil he might unleash.

  3. BalaGanesan S says:

    This is sick politics. Interesting to read about how to cought them though!

  4. Robert says:

    I don’t know about US, but in Aus, impartial pollsters frequently conduct paid polling for political parties and other partisan and issues-based groups.

    A pollster conducting a poll for a partisan group does not necessarily make the pollster partisan.

    Although, it does sound like the relationship may be a little closer in this instance.

  5. David Candy says:

    Washington Counts is a Print Magazine related to

    Though it covers County social and demographics trends where the web site covers economic trends.

    Research companies have strict codes of ethics, unlike where you work. So an MS employee should NEVER critise a ethics based industry.

    If you get calls there will be an industry based trade association that will veriy that the firm calling is a member and thus has ethical obligations towards both client and respondent. The firms take these seriously.

    Market Research firms NEVER sell anything. NEVER take part in sales campaigns. NEVER release any information on a client or respondant that can identift them without their express permission, and even with permission it is rare that anything other than "do you want someone to call you about this" and ONLY the name, not their responses, is passed of the (usually in this situation) unhappy customer.

    My market research firm employed another firm to do a staff satisfaction survey to evaluate our managers. My IS Dept had 6 employees. The other firm refused to release breakdowns with less than 5 employees (as they thought less than 5 would breach respondent’s onfidentially).

    We all gave our manager high marks as it would be too obvious if we didn’t.

    The real scourge are marketing companies pretending to be Market Research companies. That’s why MR companies will have ways of verifing their bona fides.

  6. quanta says:

    This is why I can never figure out how people can be so dedicated to one political group. Every politician will beg, steal, borrow and promise the moon to get a vote. :(

  7. Raymond Chen says:

    I’ve had pollsters lie to me on multiple occasions. I’ve learned to lie to them pre-emptively. When somebody calls you there is no good way to tell whether they are from a reputable market research firm or are a bunch of people out to scam you. But at least now I can ask them what industry trade association they belong to in order to verify their credentials. Thanks for that info.

  8. Mike Dunn says:

    You can never tell where the dirty tricks are coming from in politics.

    I usually make the assumption of "from everywhere" and I’m often right. ;)

  9. Karl says:

    This is why I’m glad that I only have a cell phone. They never call me. I also plan on voting around October 15th (absentee ballots in King County are sent out on the 13th) so that I can tell any last-minute campaigners that it’s too late. ;)

  10. Anon says:

    I think the more ominous point is – who is recording this data and what are they doing with it?

    Polls won’t work if people won’t participate!

  11. Peter says:

    I suppose its like the "commies for kerry" that got onto Fox News. Twice! Turns out the folks were a 527 organization which is really supporting GWB. But Fox fell for it, and broadcast it as if it were real news. And the right wing blogs are picking it up as if it were real news.

    I predict that 2008 will be the last presidential election actually held in the USA. Reason: the partisan attacks will be so bad that no one will run for the 2012 election (maybe Nader will finally win? haha).

    It is also possible that tribal bickering will get so bad it may break out into actual combat. This year, it has already gotten to the point where folks have had their cars vandalized for having the "wrong" bumper stickers. Some bloggers have actually advocated physical violence with folks they disagree with (adam yoshida, anyone?). Tutse? Hutu? Bosnia? Who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes? Answer: those guys from Sirius Cybernetics and the Knights Who Say NIH!

    If you want to get some more details about push-polling and the science of misinformation, may I recommend the book "Trust us, we’re experts?"

  12. rob says:

    The interesting thing about McCain’s "black child" poll is that it’s based on a lie. His child is Bangladeshi (I beleive) and he and his wife adopted her.

    Push polls are a way to plant lies and rumors in the public consciousness without actually technically lying, or starting rumors.

  13. Merle says:

    Raymond says: "I’ve learned to lie to them pre-emptively."

    Good for you.

    I got a call from some old lady who apparently volunteered to shoehorn registered Republicans into voting for Bush. I just flat-out lied and told her that yes, I was voting for him, and yes, so will my family. (what a question!)

    She hung up without even a thank you. Even if I had been planning to vote for him, this would count as a strike against him. It’s unfair to judge others based on their helpers, but that does not prevent me.

    And although in theory anyone can provide the text for California propositions, they only print one for, one against, and the two rebuttals. These are generally group efforts of two or three people. I have to assume that if five "for" arguments come in, that the one with the most prestigious names on it wins. Otherwise some freak would just submit horrid text for every single proposition and ruin the whole thing.

    (although I’m suspicious of who gets to write the quickie summary of the props — that text seems awfully misleading a lot of the time)

  14. David Candy says:

    It should work like this.

    You get a call and are suspicious. You ask how can I verify you are who you say. They will give the companies contact for this usually (for customer satisfaction it may be the client eg if MS is the client then the MSDN program manager may be the one who says "it’s ok it is for us" if the client doesn’t mind their identity being revealed).

    The interviewer will make an appointment to call you back after you’ve had time to check. You call the companies contact (either a supervisor or executive depending if it’s on washing powder or ERP software) and if still sus they’ll give you the trade association.

    Then the interviewer will call you back at the time stated for your decision.

    All countries take the international associations ethics so here’s a link to the brits (first in google)

    In social research ("Did your experience in Vietnam cause any of you children to committ suicide?") usually the contact is the client (eg Vet Affairs).

    In my experience 50% of research is social, 25% customer satisfaction (you were randomly chosen by the research company from a list supplied by the client), and onlt 25% is non social and where there is no relationship between you and the Research Firm’s client (What do you think of Oxy Bleach?, Did you see an ad for cars?).

    PS The main programming language, variables are named after the line number they are declared on. Even C++ looks readable after that.

  15. BrianS says:

    None of the polls matter until the one on 11/2.

    BTW why is it we don’t get calls like this on cell phones? I’m certainly not complaining!


  16. Brendan says:

    BrianS, the reason we don’t get these calls on cells is that they are not as listed as regular land line numbers. The problem is that once they have the #, they like to call. I’ve received 4 calls regarding Senator Tom Daschle in the last 2 weeks. No doubt the calls for Kerry will follow :( (I like the 1st, not the 2nd).

  17. James Curran says:


    Actually, the attack on McCain was much more subtle, closer to :“Are you be more likely, or less likely to vote for Senator McCain because he has a black child?". Senator McCain and his wife do in fact, have a black child (which they adopted), so the question was perfectly accurate, but just *implied* that he had fathered a black child out of wedlock….

  18. They’re telemarketers, basically. Lying is in their genes. I get things like this all the time:

    "Hello, Peter? I was talking to Bill Important-guy and I’m Joe Generic with Generic Company Name, Inc… and you’re the man responsible for buying printer supplies, right?"

    Right, I know how this game goes, he’s probably got a GREAT deal for me on reconditioned toner cartridges, but it *could* be someone who knows Bill… gets me to listen for a few moments longer, but pisses me off.

    I really dig the trick of googling callers as you talk to them. It’s amazing how much manure you can bypass.

  19. foxyshadis says:

    The fact that the guy simply hung up on you does not bode well for his career, not does it evidence much experience. Call center techs are trained to never hang up unless the callee requests it several times, and absolutely never due to frustration. It will always damage the cause or sales of anything you’ve mentioned so far.

    Unless of course it was faking you out.

  20. Brian,

    The reason you don’t get these on cell phones is that the cellular networks don’t (or can’t) sell lists of subscribers – just like they don’t print a phone directory.

  21. Rabbit says:

    David: Here is Microsoft’s standard of business conduct. Among other things:

    "Our advertising, sales, and promotional literature seeks to be truthful, accurate, and free from false claims."


    "Violations of Microsoft’s Standards of Business Conduct cannot and will not be tolerated. Consequences for such violations may include disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Individuals who have willfully failed to report known violations will also be subject to disciplinary action."

  22. David Candy says:

    I don’t doubt that MS tries to follow the laywer’s advice. I did say "a reputation", I didn’t say if I thought it was deserved or not. You won’t dispute I hope that many see them that way. And I was defending another industry that has GREAT social utility.

    I once worked on a project for a software company on it’s developer’s programme. So any improvements for their customers in service, price, etc came because the customers answered.

    Anyway a case study. This is from the paper recently. And I know something about it when it started.

    The Woman’s Health Longitudinal Study reported last week that 33% of women have incontinence problems of some sort (but us men already knew that, didn’t we). Unusually for Woman they did not report this to their doctor. There’s various cures and means of slowing the progression incl drugs or excerise. So the Government will likely run a health promotion program improving the quality of live of up to 3.3 million Australian woman.

  23. Nah says:

    I’m voting Devil’s Advocate, the pro-Satanic, pro-baby eating party. 7 for 7:30. RSVP.

  24. HolyCoitus says:

    Doesn’t Microsoft do the same thing by sponsoring studies to "Get the Facts" about Linux?

  25. Cooney says:

    Our advertising, sales, and promotional literature seeks to be truthful, accurate, and free from false claims.

    Of course, misleading (but truthful) claims and distortions are A-OK. Also, you can always buy a study that says what you want, then shift the blame if you get too much heat.

  26. bobk says:

    I always tell the truth to pollsters.

    "I don’t have time to speak with you."

  27. John Goewert says:

    I got quite a few this year.

    On one, I asked the guy how many questions he had and said: "Mark the first three ‘yes’, the next two ‘no’ and the last one a maybe." without even hearing the questions.

    When some of the partisan ones call, I have a few made up trick questions handy like, "Does Kerry believe that the bright light near Damascus should be verified as a possible nuclear weapons test by the Syrians?"

    I can’t believe that one person realized it wasn’t serious and chuckled because she got the joke.

  28. Kevin McIntyre says:

    On the cell phone thing… has anyone noticed that the lack of cell phone numbers from polling lists completely invalidates all poll results? If there is a large segment of the population that is unreachable (such as the many people who only have cell phone service), it creates a very large statistical bias in the results. This is probably much larger than the stated margin of error.

    Throw in the fact that absentee voters are not on the lists either, and it’s easy to conclude that the polls are telling us nothing.

  29. BillT says:

    My standard response:

    "I prefer not to participate. Bye-bye."

    And (strangely), they’ve all said a quick polite goodbye and we ended the call.

  30. tsrblke says:

    Perhaps in my opinion the worst part of these "Non"-partisan groups is when the questions get really stupid. We’ve got one Ugly Governer’s campaign going here in Missouri. For those not following the long and short of it is that two Democrats beat each other with big sticks to death in the primaries, and the incumbant lost. Now we have a Republican and democrat using even bigger sticks. About 2 weeks ago I got a call


    "Hello I’m from X nonpartisan polling organzation and we want to know who you’ll be voting for in the Presidental Election"

    "Uhhh….right now, Bush."

    "And in the Governer’s race?"

    "I don’t know I don’t like either of them"

    "Well perhaps you’d like to volunteer to help on Mccaskill’s campaign?" (She’s the Dem).

    "Uhhh I thought this was non partisan?"

    "Well yes but we’re trying to help all people find their voice."

    "Yeah I’m gonna hang up now."

    It really destroys a young person’s will to even wake up on 11/2.

  31. There’s laws against telemarketing to cellphones because the victim pays. I don’t know if those laws include political polls, but I suspect most of the lists they start with are the same ones they use for selling home equity loans, so they’re pre-filtered to skip cellphones.

Comments are closed.

*DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN THIS CONTENT. If you are the owner and would like it removed, please contact me. The content herein is an archived reproduction of entries from Raymond Chen's "Old New Thing" Blog (most recent link is here). It may have slight formatting modifications for consistency and to improve readability.

WHY DID I DUPLICATE THIS CONTENT HERE? Let me first say this site has never had anything to sell and has never shown ads of any kind. I have nothing monetarily to gain by duplicating content here. Because I had made my own local copy of this content throughout the years, for ease of using tools like grep, I decided to put it online after I discovered some of the original content previously and publicly available, had disappeared approximately early to mid 2019. At the same time, I present the content in an easily accessible theme-agnostic way.

The information provided by Raymond's blog is, for all practical purposes, more authoritative on Windows Development than Microsoft's own MSDN documentation and should be considered supplemental reading to that documentation. The wealth of missing details provided by this blog that Microsoft could not or did not document about Windows over the years is vital enough, many would agree an online "backup" of these details is a necessary endeavor. Specifics include:

<-- Back to Old New Thing Archive Index