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It’s Called Market Research

Having been the owner of a marketing and communications firm, and for a brief stint having dabbled in political consulting, I find the “push-poll controversy” going on at Joe Monahan’s blog somewhat amusing.  More specifically this statement:

We also had some email questioning whether this was a “push poll” as we called it–one designed to move voters off of Martinez and over to Weh–or a poll to test negative messages against Martinez for use in future advertising. To us, it’s pretty much a distinction without a difference.

Joe’s been around politics for a long time.  He should know there’s a big difference. Political consulting is just another type of marketing consulting.  Anyone who pays attention to what goes on in the marketing world knows that if the budget exists brand messages are tested with the targeted demographic group. It’s just good business.  In fact, it is such a commonly accepted practices, that they even have commercials depicting focus groups evaluating product messages.

Politics is no different, and I’m really kind of shocked that Joe is pretending not to know that.  In fact, in politics the stakes are a lot higher.  You spend a whole lot of limited funds in a very small period of time to “make the sale.”  You’ve got 30 to 60 second soundbites to tell your story, or that of your opponent. Most people are more complicated than a 60 second soundbite, so it’s critical that the folks creating the message know what’s most important to the voters and allow the candidates to address those issues.

The only way you can do that is by asking (polling) a representative sample of voters what’s important  before you put the significant investment in production and media purchase. Now, the candidates that decide their policy based on what the voters want to hear are flawed at best. But, those that prioritize their message based on what’s important to the voters are just being smart.

One final obvious problem with this make-believe “push poll” conflict trying to be created.  Is that if you were actually going to do a push poll, you would do it immediately prior to a vote, not a couple of weeks ahead of voting.

Just my two cents.