Are Campaign Polls Sleazy?

Charles Cook is editor of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for the National Journal and CNN. William Saletan is a Slate senior writer. Earlier this week Saletan penned this “Frame Game” arguing that “every campaign poll that asks about an opponent’s flaws is a push poll,” and that “real polls” can be just as invidious. In response, Cook posted the message below in “The Fray,” Slate’s reader feedback forum. Slate has asked them to continue their discussion about the merits and perils of campaign polling in this “Dialogue.” 

Like so many other journalists who don’t cover politics full-time and have only a limited understanding of how campaigns work, Mr. Saletan doesn’t get that campaigns are about arguments and issues. By road-testing arguments and issues, campaigns can determine which issues are most salient, which ones will work. So-called push questions on polls are widely used and widely accepted tools of survey research to determine what works. In fact, they are often used to test arguments against the candidate sponsoring the poll, to see what he or she is most vulnerable on.