We saw it in 2014. And, here in 2018, the same ole tactic is back. The Establishment, when it fears a strong conservative contender, will always resort to skewed polls to dissuade voters who are more prone to back the challenger. But, to be brutally honest, this wasn’t actually a poll; it was propaganda disguised as one.
In 2014, the Establishment ran polls that showed Thad Cochran way ahead of Chris McDaniel, one appeared at the tail end of 2013, and the other in the spring of 2014 giving Cochran a 17 point lead. Yet despite these “big leads,” the Cochran camp kept up the attack on McDaniel, which should have told anyone with a thimble full of brains that the polls in question were not honest, and they weren’t. Primary Day on June 3, 2014 disproved every poll the Establishment released.
Now here we are in 2018 and the Establishment, via its favorite mouthpiece, Y’all Politics, has released a new survey. Here are the results:
In the four-way ballot test, Cindy Hyde-Smith polled at 41% over her primary rival Mike Espy, who polled at 27%. State senator Chris McDaniel is polling a distant third at 15%. There are still a fair number of voters undecided as we head into the home stretch of the campaign cycle (16%).
Digging deeper into the numbers, Hyde-Smith led her opponents in three of the four congressional districts. She had 41/33 fav/unfav. Espy led his opponents in his former congressional district and featured a 33/30 fav/unfav. Chris McDaniel remains underwater with an overall 16/49 fav/unfav.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this poll, even without knowing anything about the particulars, is garbage!
But don’t take my word for it; check out what other companies had to say. Chism Strategies, a polling firm in Jackson, ripped Y’all Politics and Triumph Campaigns, which conducted the survey, for their “embarrassing” poll:
Y’all Politics released a poll today that should be embarrassing to all those involved, as it fails to even attempt to mirror the demographic profile of the state’s electorate.
The poll falls short in the typical ways IVR can be problematic. Automated polls go only to landline phones, so respondents tend to be much older than the actual electorate, people of color are under-represented and women are over sampled. Reputable IVR surveys weight the results to more accurately reflect the likely demographics turnout in the upcoming election. Additionally, each respondent’s self-identification of party affiliation is the norm, rather than an arbitrary constraint at the outset that Mississippi voters identify themselves as Democrats and Republicans in equal numbers and that there is a static 20% of “independent” voters.
In this poll, 71% of respondents are age 65 or older, and 91% of respondents are at least age 55. 60% of respondents are women and only 12.4% are African American. Even in the 2nd Congressional District, which is nearly two-thirds African-American, only 20% of respondents to this poll were black.
These errors matter a great deal no matter where one polls and are even more egregious in Mississippi where voting is often racially polarized.
As for the US Senate Special Election, Chism Strategies had this to say about the Y’all Politics poll:
Similarly, in the special election for Senate, Cindy Hyde-Smith is in deep trouble if she can only muster support from four in ten voters in this poll’s electoral mix. This poll assumes nine in ten voters qualify for an AARP card and African Americans are polled at about one third the rate of likely turnout in the fall. When properly weighted this survey suggests that Espy almost certainly leads Cindy Hyde-Smith outside the margin of error.
This is nothing new for Y’all Politics; they’ve used Triumph Campaigns before. It’s a polling company based in Jackson and headed by Justin Brasell, who is currently Roger Wicker’s campaign manager. Brasell is deep within the bowels of the Establishment and in 2008 ran Mitch McConnell’s Senate re-election campaign.
The strategy behind his company is to reach out to help struggling Establishment candidates by providing positive polling data, even where none exists. He did it in Kentucky in 2015. Hal Heiner, McConnell’s man, was behind in the race but not after Triumph Campaigns rode into town. In their poll, Heiner miraculously led with 33 percent support, while conservative Matt Bevin was in third with just 12 percent of the vote. This was in stark contrast to every other poll taken in that race. In the end, Bevin won the primary with 33 percent of the vote. Heiner finished third.
In this year’s race for governor of South Dakota, Brasell’s name has come up in association with nefarious polling tactics. Brasell is the campaign manager for Kristi Noem and he was accused by an opposing campaign of running “fake” polls.
Earlier this year, Chris McDaniel heavily criticized Y’all Politics for running a “fake” poll from Triumph Campaigns. The company is, in fact, so bad that the FiveThirtyEight Blog gave them a grade of C- for their less-than-honest polling.
These polls should tell us all we need to know about the 2018 special election race. Putting out polls with dubious methodology, while continuing to attack an opponent, who is supposedly in the basement in support, is not the strategy of a campaign that is in the driver’s seat. It’s a sign of a campaign on very shaky ground indeed.