Push Polling: The Ugly Begins

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(See update at the end of this post: Ben Smith finds the group behind the calls.)

There are at least two reports, one today and one yesterday, of push polling, that despicable, below-the-radar campaign tactic that is more about spreading misinformation than collecting data. This effort seems to be aimed at Jewish voters. One person who got the call was the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, who lives in Michigan, and he took notes:

But soon enough I understood why they were asking about Carter. After going over some more issues and confirming the fact that I was likely to vote for Obama, the caller made a series of rather pointed inquiries. Would it affect my vote, he said, if I knew that

Obama has had a decade long relationship with pro-Palestinian leaders in Chicago

the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yousef, expressed support for Obama and his hope for Obama’s victory

the church Barack Obama has attended is known for its anti-Israel and anti-American remarks

Jimmy Carter’s anti-Israel national security advisor is one of Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisors

Barack Obama was the member of a board (sic) that funded a pro-Palestinian chartiable organization

Barack Obama called for holding a summit of Muslim nations exlcuding Israel if elected president

At Politico, Ben Smith reports this has been happening elsewhere, including Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey:

Jewish voters are complaining of a poll that, after confirming their religion, asks a series of questions that appear aimed at alarming Jewish voters, including linking Barack Obama to Palestinian terrorist groups.

Debbie Minden of Pittsburgh described receiving the call from “Research Strategies” late yesterday afternoon. And a Key West woman, Joelna Marcus, reportedly received a similar-sounding call from the same group, according reports from the Obama-backing organization JewsVote.org and from a liberal blog.

Minden, a psychologist who lives in the Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, said the poll — which came from an identified number — began with relatively inocuous questions about what organizations she belongs to, whether she prefers CNN or Fox News, and how Obama and McCain compare on a range of issues, from national security to hte economy to education.

The caller also asked whether she was Jewish.

“It sounded like a real poll,” Minden, 56, asaid.

Then the caller asked, as she recalled: “Would it change your mind about Obama if you knew that his church was anti-Israel? Would it change you rmind if you knew that the leaders Hamas had endorsed Obama? Would it change your mind if you knew he had met with the leaders of Hamas?”

She also said one question asked whether it would change her mind if she learned he were a Muslim, though she didn’t recall the precise wording.

The poll lasted about 15 minutes, she said.

UPDATE: Smith finds the group behind the calls, which it insists are not a push poll:

A Republican group is taking responsibility for a poll that has roiled the Jewish community by asking sharply negative questions about Senator Barack Obama.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which is launching a campaign against Obama on behalf of Senator John McCain, sponsored the poll to “understand why Barack Obama continues to have a problem among Jewish voters,” the group’s executive director, Matt Brooks, told Politico.

The poll asked voters their response to negative statements about Obama, including reported praise for him from a leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas and a friendship early in his career with a pro-Palestinian university professor. Some Jewish Democrats who received the poll – including a New Republic writer who lives in Michigan – were outraged by the poll, describing it in interviews as “ugly” and disturbing. A group that supports Obama, the Jewish Council for Education and Research http://www.jewsvote.org even staged a protest outside the Manhattan call center from which the calls originated Tuesday.

“If the RJC is responsible for these calls, which are designed to frighten Jews and sow mistrust, they have forfeited their place at the Jewish table,” said the co-executive director of the group, Mik Moore. “It is incumbent upon the McCain campaign to speak out forcefully against this and ongoing efforts by his supporters to scare Jews into supporting his candidacy.”

Brooks, however, denied that the poll was meant to influence Jewish voters, and said it was a traditional poll meant to gauge the opinions of Jewish voters.