A Strategic Vision poll — and a letter of censure

Strategic Vision, the Republican-oriented polling firm based in Atlanta, came out this morning with another statewide poll on the governor’s race and health care.

John Oxendine and Roy Barnes still lead in their respective Republican and Democratic primaries, and most Georgians don’t agree with Jimmy Carter on the topic of race and Barack Obama.

We’ll get to those details in a bit.

First, it must be noted that, earlier today, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, a kind of brotherhood of pollsters, publicly censured Strategic Vision for its failure to cooperate in an investigation into voter surveys conducted during the 2008 presidential primaries.

New Hampshire was the main focus – you’ll remember that Democrat Hillary Clinton surprised everyone with her win there. Twenty-one organizations were asked to provide their statistical internals in order to help figure out what went wrong.

A final report was published in April. One finding: Techniques for developing polling models – weighting and such – are becoming increasingly murky. Often they’re declared to be trade secrets, and protected as such. The AAPOR argues that transparency is the only way to maintain public confidence in polling.

Said the association today, in a statement posted on its Web site:

Strategic Vision LLC was the only polling firm that did not provide sufficient methodological information (as defined by the AAPOR Code) about its surveys and refused to provide that information in response to AAPOR’s repeated direct requests.

For more than one year, AAPOR was unable to obtain the following basic information about Strategic Vision LLC’s polling in New Hampshire and Wisconsin: who sponsored the survey; who conducted it; a description of the underlying sampling frame; an accounting of how “likely voters” were identified and selected; response rates; and a description of any weighting or estimating procedures used. AAPOR considers the release of this information for public polls to be a minimum requirement for professional behavior among those who conduct public opinion research.

The AAPOR specifically said it did not challenge the accuracy of Strategic Vision’s polling.

Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson said his firm had wanted to appeal the judgment, and said a Sept. 17 hearing had been scheduled – and then canceled by the AAPOR. “We’ve asked for a copy of the complaint that was filed against us, and who filed it,” Johnson said. “How can you respond to something when you don’t know who filed the complaint.”

Moreover, he added, “We’re not a member of their organization. I don’t know anything about them.”

Johnson provided a June e-mail from the AAPOR in which the organization acknowledges that Strategic Vision provided some of the information that was requested, after the study of 2008 primary polling was completed:

…[T]thank you for the recent e-mail correspondence in which you provided some of the information requested regarding polls in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. This information about the survey sponsor, the organization that conducted the survey and the sampling frame will be shared with the task force that conducted the evaluation of the methodology of the 2008 pre-election primary polls. However, your actions now do not change the fact that Strategic Vision, LLC, was repeatedly noncompliant in response to prior requests for disclosure….

The AAPOR is a 62-year-old organization with about 2,000 members, drawn from commerce, politics, academia, and government statistical agencies. George Gallup was an early president, according to the association’s Web site.

The current president, Peter Miller, is a professor associated with the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. The AAPOR’s next president will be Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll since 1990.

Miller called this afternoon to say the AAPOR had sent Johnson notices four times asking him to confirm his attendance at that hearing last week, and finally ended up canceling because of the lack of any response.

He acknowledges that the head of Strategic Vision is not a member of the AAPOR.

“It really is irrelevant to us whether he or anybody else is a member. It’s a professional, a scientific responsibility for anyone in public opinion research to be transparent,” Miller said. “It’s our job, it’s our duty to try to encourage people to do that, and to basically disagree with them when they refuse to. It doesn’t matter if they’re our members or not.”

“What we are asking for is people in the profession to behave in a professional manner, and to release the methods through which they do their research – because these are crucial to understanding it,” Miller said. “That’s our whole interest. That’s all we care about. We’re not trying to make some claim about the quality of Johnson’s research or anybody else’s.”

Here’s the catch:

“We’re saying we can’t know anything about quality if we don’t know what you did,” Miller said.

Now, about those Strategic Vision polling results released today:

If the Republican primary for governor were held today, for whom would you vote?

John Oxendine 38%

Karen Handel 15%

Nathan Deal 10%

Eric Johnson 6%

Austin Scott 3%

Ray McBerry 2%

Jeff Chapman 1%

Undecided 25%

If the Democratic primary for governor was held today, for whom would you vote?

Roy Barnes 45%

Thurbert Baker 30%

David Poythress 5%

Dubose Porter 2%

Undecided 18%

Former President Jimmy Carter said recently that much of the opposition to President Obama and his health care policy is based upon racism. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Agree 23%

Disagree 69%

Undecided 8%

Do you support or oppose Congress passing health care reform legislation before the end of the year?

Support 35%

Oppose 55%

Undecided 10%

Do you believe that all Americans should be required to have health insurance?

Yes 34%

No 56%

Undecided 10%

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

21 comments Add your comment

Steve

September 23rd, 2009
6:41 pm

David Johnson was a fraud in Tallahassee. I cant imagine that he has changed.

Bob

September 23rd, 2009
7:31 pm

Wrong David Johnson – the fraud is still in Tallahassee

Republican Gut Check

September 23rd, 2009
9:26 pm

Kudos to David Johnson. He is a good guy, and why should he comply when an outside entity that he doesn’t even belong to asks him to bend over? The proof is in the pudding. Strategic Vision has a solid track record, and let’s just see how they do in 2010. The elite and arrogant attitude of this group may be part of the reason that many of the member’s polling results are so skewed!

i'm not surprised

September 23rd, 2009
10:05 pm

No one should be surprised at a republican polling firm being non-compliant. Arrogance breeds arrogance. They just put out numbers like the lottery. That’s why Mary Norwood is showing a lead in the Atlanta Mayoral race. That’s who the Republicans want to win. They are all backing her like their life depended on it. It doesn’t matter that Mary is inept. She’s the female Bush.

Bob

September 23rd, 2009
10:49 pm

Actually they don’t poll on the Mayor’s race. That is Insider Advantage. AAPOR is a joke. They wanted company trade secrets from the firms and the companies that were willing to join their association and pay the membership fees were not investigated. Strategic Vision wouldn’t join AAPOR – thus the investigation.

Mike

September 23rd, 2009
11:09 pm

Bob, you have no clue…AAPOR is not a joke at all! What is a joke are those healthcare questions. They obviously did not release them all or else they wrote them one sided

Tim

September 24th, 2009
7:01 am

AAPOR should be investigated especially as the people who conducted the investigation were government employees – either state or federal. AAPOR = ACORN

John

September 24th, 2009
8:44 am

This post is funny. An organization that calls for transparency won’t let the accused see a copy of the complaint against them or face their accuser. Yet they are for transparency. Next members of the organization who are investigating this company serve as consultants for competitors of the company and asked for trade secrets. Finally members of AAPOR told clients of this company prior to this announcement what they were going to do and steered them to a company that the members of AAPOR serve as consultants for. Hmm, maybe AAPOR should investigate that if they are all for transparency. Don’t hold your breath.

GatorBait

September 24th, 2009
10:55 am

So it seems to be narrowing down to Ox, Barnes and Baker. Cool stuff!

JG

September 24th, 2009
2:50 pm

Reading that the CEO “never heard of AAPOR” is significant. There are extremely few public opinion professional associations, so if that statement attributed to Mr. Johnson is true, I would think he is not a serious person by any dimension in survey research. I suspect he is a marketing person at best, but doubt even that much. As I recall, individuals are members of AAPOR and the group-level professional association for opinion research is CASRO. It is unfortunate that people – academics, marketers, hucksters, hacks, and know-nothings from every political stripe and corporate purpose push bad/flawed data into the world; more’s the pity that so many news agencies and data consumers are willing to accept it. I for one value peer-reviewing, standard-bearing organizations like AAPOR and CASRO and ARF for making others accountable for published findings.

pollster

September 24th, 2009
3:49 pm

Do you as a reporter know enough about the methodology -and therefore accuracy-of this poll to be reporting the results? I think that’s AAPOR’s point.

Philip

September 24th, 2009
3:54 pm

Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com looked into this as well and had these questions for Mr. Johnson:

1. Are you actually polling anyone at all? Or are you just throwing some numbers up on a webpage and hoping nobody calls you on it?

2. What is the location of your “offices” in Tallahassee, Madison and Dallas? Why is there no street address or phone number listed in association with them? How come none of the locations show up in a Yahoo! or Google search?

3. Why would you pick the name “Strategic Vision, LLC” for your company when the name “Strategic Vision, Inc.” was already in use by an extremely well regarded, San Diego-based research firm that has been in business for more than 30 years? Are you deliberately trying to confuse your potential clients and leverage Strategic Vision, Inc.’s much stronger brand name?

RLP

September 24th, 2009
5:33 pm

AAPOR, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, yesterday reprimanded Atlanta-based PR firm Strategic Vision, LLC for failing to disclose even basic information about their political polls:

For more than one year, AAPOR was unable to obtain the following basic information about Strategic Vision LLC’s polling in New Hampshire and Wisconsin: who sponsored the survey; who conducted it; a description of the underlying sampling frame; an accounting of how “likely voters” were identified and selected; response rates; and a description of any weighting or estimating procedures used.

This is a highly unusual step for AAPOR, which tends to be a conservative (lower-case ‘c’) organization that would not ordinarily be inclined to call out an individual pollster by name. But Strategic Vision brought the criticism entirely upon themselves, being the only one of 21 polling firms contacted by the organization that did not respond to the request, in spite of having literally months’ worth of time to do so. As Mark Blumenthal notes, moreover, this is hardly an isolated incident: Strategic Vision has a long history of failing to disclose anything at all about their methodology, obfuscating around repeated requests from places like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Nor is Strategic Vision any better about disclosing such information to the general public. By contrast, they never provide any demographic detail, cross-tabulations, methodological disclosure, or other supporting evidence in conjunction with their polls.

So let me ask a few more questions of David E. Johnson, Strategic Vision’s CEO. I don’t purport to have answers to these questions, but I think they deserve to be asked.

1. Are you actually polling anyone at all? Or are you just throwing some numbers up on a webpage and hoping nobody calls you on it?

2. What is the location of your “offices” in Tallahassee, Madison and Dallas? Why is there no street address or phone number listed in association with them? How come none of the locations show up in a Yahoo! or Google search?

3. Why would you pick the name “Strategic Vision, LLC” for your company when the name “Strategic Vision, Inc.” was already in use by an extremely well regarded, San Diego-based research firm that has been in business for more than 30 years? Are you deliberately trying to confuse your potential clients and leverage Strategic Vision, Inc.’s much stronger brand name?

I await a reply from Mr. Johnson. But quite honestly, I’m not really expecting one.

John

September 24th, 2009
5:33 pm

The story should be follow the money with AAPOR. They are paid consultants for a competitor of Strategic Vision’s. They have a vested interest in harming the company. Indeed several members of AAPOR contacted a client of SV’s before this report and suggested they go and use the polling firm they consult for. Also if they are for transparency why won’t they release the complaint. I thought in America one had a right to face their accuser. Finally isn’t Stephen Blumberg with AAPOR also the guy who got caught stealing the library books. Great organization.

Ed Marshall

September 25th, 2009
9:46 am

Just FYI, Nate Silver has done some analysis of the polling results from Strategic Vision over the past few years, and there’s definitely something fishy about their results…

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/09/strategic-vision-polls-exhibit-unusual.html

Doodlebug McPherson

September 26th, 2009
2:05 pm

Witch hunt in progress, perhaps? Does anyone else out there think that the liberal pollsters are trying to eliminate competition by attacking a conservative entity YET AGAIN??? Enough already! Obama is a failure. Accept that, liberals, and move on.

rick

September 27th, 2009
3:49 am

Stupid Liberals and their facts and logic. Let’s investigate the people who noticed things instead of the wrongdoers. There is already too much tattling out there.

Rick

September 27th, 2009
6:45 pm

rick,
So you think Liberals have stupid facts and logic, ah. Yes, let’s investigate the “wrongdoers” and let’s start with corrupt polling firms that spew out bogus data and claim it to be “fact” in hopes that voters will see and read their bogus data and follow like good little lemmings to their slaughter. Wrong, not happening anymore. If this Administration really cares about Democracy, they’ll send the FBI after ever corrupt politician that special interest money has bought off and give us a chance to replace them with something hopefully better. And hopefully the professional trade association will publicly call out all their bad actors; “trade secrets”, who you kidding! They’re not doing heart transplants, they are asking simple questions of the public, supposedly.

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