Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Ryan Gierach
edited by Alyssa Erdley 

Sandra Fluke "Poll" Not What It Claims


October 6, 2014

Sandra Fluke

From an article by Ryan Gierach, edited by Alyssa Erdley

According to reporter Ryan Gierach of, a poll released by the Sandra Fluke campaign for State Senate seat 26, which claimed a 7-point lead over her opponent, SM School Board member Ben Allen, was not a legitimate poll, but a "push poll," one used to affect election outcome, rather than to gauge public opinion.

The poll, conducted by Garin Hart Yang Research Group also claimed Fluke commanded an 18-point name ID advantage over Allen. "This is an election that Sandra Fluke can and should win," wrote Garin Hart Yang Research Group, a Washington D.C. firm that has done work for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Congressman Henry Waxman.

However, the Fluke campaign was evasive about responding to questions about the poll from WeHoNews' Gierach. Abigail Gardner, an assistant campaign manager, told Gierach that answering your query "is a bit tricky as we wouldn't want to disclose all of our campaign's information to the Allen campaign- then they have all the info we paid for, and polls are expensive!...Are you asking for your own information so you can confirm the legitimacy of the poll or were you planning on sharing with the Allen campaign or publishing?"

Gardner then went on to deny the Garin Hart Yang poll had been a push poll. "...ours was not a push poll, it was to give us an accurate landscape of the district."

Push polls are defined by the American Association for Public Opinion Research as a "form of negative campaigning that is disguised as a political poll. "Push polls" are actually political telemarketing – telephone calls disguised as research that aim to persuade large numbers of voters and affect election outcomes, rather than measure opinions."

Contrary to Gardner's assertion, some who were called by the research group and actually took the poll can attest that it was not a legitimate gauge of public opinion. Deana Igelsrud, who lives in Windsor Village and is an avocational politico who has worked on a variety of campaigns for individuals and causes over the past 12 years, but is not active in this cycle, told us that over the years she had taken "many, many polls" and this one to her, she said, "was definitely a push poll."

She described it thusly. "It began with them asking about politicians... who made endorsements, if they were favorable or not favorable. Then they asked who I supported in SB 26.

"Then they made supportive statements about Sandra and if it made me feel more positive about her or made me more or less likely to vote for her." Ms. Igelsrud thought that, up to this point, the questions seemed "pretty fair" asking about her standing up to Rush Limbaugh..."

She related that the con part of the Fluke side of the polling – the search for negatives – included what Ms. Igelsrud called "not really negative. There were things like 'Sandra stood up for the Transgender community. Would that make you much more or less likely to vote for her?" Igelsrud could not quite see, however, how supporting the Transgender community in a district where leftists rule could be construed as a negative.

That said, the interview turned to Ben Allen. After stammering for a few moments to find words to describe the experience, Igelsrud settled and declared, "It got so comical that my fiancé who was in the house and was listening to me had to ask, 'what are you doing; what's this poll?'

"I had to say, "They're just making up lies. They just flat out made up lies about him and his positions and asked me if it would make me more or less likely to vote for him."

She is supporting Ben Allen, and prides herself on her knowledge of his campaign positions and associations. She called the poll "a shame, because we have two good candidates and I lost respect for one of them after that call."

She said the call left her feeling in need of a bath.

For example, one question Igelsrud recalled was an attack on Mr. Allen for accepting a campaign contribution from a Republican-turned-Independent who also supported George W. Bush and Sarah Palin named Bill Bloomfield. She said what was strange was that "they asked that question three or four times," in different ways in order to make him look bad.

Mr. Bloomfield has contributed over $600,000 to an independent expenditure committee to elect Mr. Allen, whom Mr. Bloomfield likes for his good government approach.

"Then they asked if I heard that Ben was responsible for creating a two-tiered system in the Santa Monica School District that would give preferential status to rich kids over poor kids... and if that would make me more or less likely to vote for him."

She laughed as she went on, saying, "and then they asked if I heard that teachers and staff in Malibu schools were losing their hair and the children were getting sick because of the pollution and Ben did nothing about it and would that change my opinion..."

She said "they twisted facts and made up lies and asked me if it would make me feel differently about voting for Ben. I can't remember all the questions, but I do remember being gobsmacked by the end of the call."

She allowed for the campaign's claim they were message testing, but said, "That's some awful strong message testing. I felt like it was a push poll, not a messaging feeler."

After seven days of negotiations, the Fluke campaign manager, Lindsey Bubar, called WeHo News to say that that they would read the introductory portion of their poll, the portion that gauges a person's level of interest, awareness and support. She refused to admit that the remainder of the poll was anything other than "message testing."

Local pol Ed Buck, a major Democratic Party donor and behind-the-scenes player, told WeHo News that he saw it as "a desperate act. Going negative early is an act of desperation. From the sound of it, I have to wonder if [Ms. Fluke] is in control of her own campaign."

While acknowledging his support for Ben Allen, Mr. Buck still felt that the Fluke campaign had made a major mistake in using the same "skullduggery [that] goes on all the time in campaigns, the dirty tricks and the nasty attacks."

While he said that a poll from one side will always slant toward their champion, "Fluke is taking it to the very edge – against a fellow Democrat," he said. "It's time for some voter education."

One pol, a longtime figure in the area with deep roots in the Democratic Party who asked to remain anonymous because of his position, piped up, "I got one of those calls. It was pure push poll. A real shame, because Ben Allen is the nicest guy."

Although not working on the race or able to vote in it, Steve Afriat, perhaps the most prominent of the Los Angeles political consultants and fundraisers, told WeHo News that word in his circle was that the reason for the silence surrounding the poll – by journalists and politicians alike – was "because I heard that it crossed the line. We all do messaging polling to test what works for our side and against it, but savaging the opposition like that is a form of campaigning, not polling."

Ben Allen

Sandra Fluke and Ben Allen, both Democrats, are running for the seat of State Senator for the 26th district, which includes West Hollywood and the coastal cities of Santa Monica down to Palos Verdes. Ms. Fluke, an attorney, does not state what she does for a living on her website, nor define her alleged "leglislative experience," but does explain that, "Sandra has lived and worked in California for years, building coalitions, advocating for legislation, and securing the passage of bills that will change lives for the better." Mr. Allen is an attorney in Santa Monica and a 5-year member of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School Board.

Ryan Gierach began writing for the Southern California and national gay press in 1999 before writing two books of history - Cedarburg: A History Set In Stone and Images of America: West Hollywood, both published by Arcadia Publishing Company. The latter book led him to found WeHo News as the first online-only hyper-local start-up news publication in the nation in 2005.


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