Joe Malone, a potential Republican candidate for Congress, refused to release today, in compliance with professional public opinion survey disclosure guidelines, the details of a poll reported in the Boston Herald that shows him in a favorable light against Democratic incumbent William Delahunt.
“We don’t give that out,” Mr. Malone told jackgately.com this afternoon, “could fall into the wrong hands.”
Brian Larkin, Director of Qualitative Research at McLaughlin & Associates, Malone’s polling firm, also refused to release the polling information.
However, Evans Witt, President of National Council of Public Polls (NCPP) stated in the respected professional association’s October 2009 New Call for Disclosure: “A refusal to disclose can ignite the suspicion that there is something to hide.”
And with proliferation of the lower cost automated polling, how does a voter know if the poll is legitimate?
Trust but verify.
American Association of Public Opinion Research agrees, even in cases of which the survey firm is not a member organization: “The AAPOR Code represents ethical standards that apply to all public opinion researchers. If a complaint of non-disclosure is received, AAPOR can and will censure researchers (and research companies) who fail to disclose their methods as specified in the AAPOR Code, whether or not the individuals are AAPOR members.”
Neither Mr. Larkin nor McLaughlin & Associates were listed as members of AAROP or NCPP on the McLaughlin & Associates, AAPOR or NCPP websites. Many pollsters note their professional memberships on their websites.
Mr. Malone, former Republican State Treasurer, added, “ninety-nine out of hundred campaigns would not do that [release the details].” Disclosure requirements apply only to polls publicly released by campaigns, not internal non-released polls. Malone released the poll to Hillary Chabot of the Boston Herald.
Mr. Malone, how can we believe your poll? Or was it more press release than poll?
And Ms. Chabot don’t you owe your readers a more critical eye?
What was the wording of the poll prior to asking the horse race question?
Did you poll on the Republican primary which you would first have to win?
With a 5.7% moe, what is the confidence level?
The AAPOR minimum disclosure requirements include:
1. Who sponsored the survey, and who conducted it.
2. The exact wording of questions asked, including the text of any preceding instruction or explanation to the interviewer or respondents that might reasonably be expected to affect the response.
3. A definition of the population under study, and a description of the sampling frame used to identify this population.
4. A description of the sample design, giving a clear indication of the method by which the respondents were selected by the researcher, or whether the respondents were entirely self-selected.
5. Sample sizes and, where appropriate, eligibility criteria, screening procedures, and response rates computed according to AAPOR Standard Definitions. At a minimum, a summary of disposition of sample cases should be provided so that response rates could be computed.
6. A discussion of the precision of the findings, including estimates of sampling error, and a description of any weighting or estimating procedures used.
7. Which results are based on parts of the sample, rather than on the total sample, and the size of such parts.
8. Method, location, and dates of data collection.
Many polling firms do comply with these ethical standards including SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Reports.
Polls should meet “standards of disclosure designed to insure that consumers of survey results that enter the public domain have an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results reported,” according to NCPP.
The NCPP standards are clear: In the event the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by the client, the survey organization (a) shall make the information outlined above available to the public upon request and (b) shall have the responsibility to release the information above and other pertinent information necessary to put the client’s release into the proper context if such a release has misrepresented the survey’s findings.
Further, AAROP states in the Disclosure FAQ section of their website:
Q: One of my political enemies [or commercial rivals] has asked me to disclose details of our survey. This person is going to use the materials to try to make us look bad. Do I need to disclose my survey methods to someone like that?
A: Yes. The Standards for Minimum Disclosure apply to requests from any member of the public.
Mr. Malone and Mr. Larkin were informed prior to their interviews that jackgately.com would be writing an article for publication on the topic.
Membership of AAROP and NCPP include many of the premier polling organizations and professionals in the country: Gallup, Field Research, The Pew Center for Research, Nielson Media Research, Princeton Survey Research and RAND.