Is Burns using illegal push polls?

According to Wikipedia, a “push poll” is a “political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll.”

Besides being nasty, they’re also illegal in Montana. According to Montana statute 13-35-225:

All communications advocating the success or defeat of a candidate, political party, or ballot issue through any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, direct mailing, poster, handbill, bumper sticker, internet website, or other form of general political advertising must clearly and conspicuously include the attribution “paid for by” followed by the name and address of the person who made or financed the expenditure for the communication.

So if someone “polls” your house, asking leading questions intended to campaign on behalf of a candidate, and the pollster doesn’t identify him/herself as being paid by the candidate, it’s illegal.

So today, imagine my reaction when I saw the text of an email from a Billings resident and Tester supporter:

Over the dinner hour on Thursday July 6th I received a phone call from a person who wanted to poll me. It turned out to be a push poll obviously commissioned by folks working for Senator Conrad Burns or those supporting him.The young man doing the poll was polite and had an Hispanic accent and he said he was located in New Mexico. He told me the name of the outfit he was working for, but it does not come to mind right now.

Then they dug in in earnest and started with a series of questions based on false premises or guilt by association to try to persuade me to vote for Burns.


Who do you think would be the best candidate:

To protect the flag?

To protect the sanctity of marriage to be between a man and woman?

To balance the national budget?

To make sure that Montana gets its share of money and projects from Washington? (or words to that effect)

To keep taxes down?

To help Montana farmers?

To protect us from illegal immigration?

Here you see a list of questions where the answer, for the first few, is obviously “Burns.” He’s made a loud splash attacking gays and flag burners, so the respondent, if they watch television or breathe, should say Burns’ name. Then come the judgment questions, the budget and pork. Because the respondent has been answering Burns – Burns – Burns, they’ll think all the questions’ answers are “Burns.” They’ll think Burns is the best candidate for balancing the budget (ha!) and bringing home appropriations to the state.

This is campaigning. This is a push poll.


Did I think the Democrats were attacking Burns on the Abramhoff issue just to gain a political advantage because they felt it would help them win or because they actually believed there was a problem?


Would you be more or less likely to vote for Tester if you knew that:

Tester favors setting a timetable for a pullout of Iraq?

Tester was supported by the ultra-liberal Council for a Livable World, and .(I can’t remember what else was in this statement)

Tester was supported by the Sierra Club and other radical environmental organizations that want to halt logging and tear out dams.

Now it’s time to smear Tester. The first question is reasonable, asking the voter, essentially, whether they favor a timetable on withdrawing troops from Iraq, and if that influences their vote.

The next questions are reprehensible. First the pollster characterizes the groups that support Tester as “ultra-liberal” and “radical.” These are intended to be pejorative descriptions of the groups and are thus intending to influence the voter. Again, this is a classic hallmark of a push poll.


Tester voted for a measure that would have given parents the right to be notified before a minor daughter had an abortion. (I asked him to identify that legislation. He said he could not. And I said he was doing something that was against Montana law. If a candidate is going to talk about a voting record of an opponent, he must state the measure the opponent voted on and give any mitigating votes. He said he didn’t know Montana law and that he did not write the questions. I don’t know whether the law applies to federal races.)

I don’t know the rules about citing specific legislation, but what’s clear is that the pollster is leading the respondent, and has no proof that Tester indeed voted for the measure. Got that? The pollster could be making sh*t up, only you can’t know because they won’t cite the specific incidents or legislation that back their claims even if you ask for evidence.

So, it now appears that Burns is breaking Montana campaign law. Let’s see if he’ll put a stop to his push polling and whether the law’s author, Mike Taylor, will make a peep.

I bet “no” in both cases.

  1. Mark T

    I suspect the Montana press is so intimidated by the Republicans and all their liberal press nonsense that they fail to report on stories like this for fear of backlash. But normally, an illegal push poll is news. Have they reported on this?

  2. Cant this be invesitgated? Obviously, it would be easlier if the emailer remembered the name of the ‘pollsters’, but the Burns campaign should have to disclose any pollsters it had hired. Unless of course it was cunducted by the Republican party or smoe support organization…

  3. Allegra G.

    To Mark T – Press in Montana intimidated by Republicans?Where are u from? You sound like an outside democrat who doesn’t know anything about MOntana and the way we do things out here. Push polls are nothing new and neither the democrats nor the republicans care about whether they use them. Local candidates use them all the time…Tester will do it to and nobody will investigate him either.

  1. 1 Your one-stop shopping site for conservative push polls and robo-calls « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] What gets me is that the site brags of its ability to create “push polls” – which are, at best unethical, and often illegal. […]

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