People are fed up with negative campaigning, so much so that states have attempted to protect constituents with various state laws that pertain to negative campaign tactics. However, in several states, laws against the practice known as “push polls” have led to some serious difficulties for legitimate market research companies and political consultants to conduct their research.
Push Polling, as stated in the Marketing ResearchAssociation (MRA) and American Association of Political Consultants’(AAPC) joint letter to Attorney General Michael Delaney of New Hampshire, “is not polling at all – it is a form of negative phone banking disguised as polling…It is not a test but rather an effort to communicate those messages by giving that communication the appearance of polling.” The calls, disguised as polls, last a short time and are meant to influence the receiver for or against a particular candidate. Both organizations maintain Codes of Ethics and do not condone this practice.
Many states have laws against push polls, yet a recent story in The New York Times brought to
light the battle in New Hampshire. The law, which originally passed in 1998, has been enforced more recently, resulting in fines for several large market research companies. The difficulty is that the law is written too broadly, and includes almost any mention of a candidate’s positions. It also asks that any poll that asks leading questions disclose its sponsor, which can bias results in a true research
project that may be doing message testing. The real danger in the law as it is written is that it was leading many firms to exclude New Hampshire from their projects, thereby causing further
problems for legitimate market research to take place.
MRA and AAPC advocated that New Hampshire change the wording of its law to match a similar one in the state of Louisiana that allowed for market research firms to continue to operate in their state while outlawing the practice of push polling. As of last week, the Chairman of the New Hampshire Election Committee had contacted the MRA to consider changes to its law to allow for market researchers and pollsters to continue to conduct their work in New Hampshire.
Has the New Hampshire law affected the way you conduct your business? How does your firm handle research in states with laws that pertain to polling?