Political polling now dominated by PR firms and special interests

Polls weren’t reliable before but now they are almost completely worthless — thanks to a proliferation of politically motivated polls, some funded by slanted special interests.

Public relations firms like Democratic consultant Doug Rubin’s Northwind Strategies and organizations like the conservative Mass Fiscal Alliance are conducting polls now like the 2024 Senate matchup pitting Elizabeth Warren against Charlie Baker.

Those polls not surprisingly produced vastly different results — with the Mass Fiscal poll showing Baker ahead and the Northwind survey putting Warren in the lead.

And a recent poll by a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis showed shockingly that DeSantis is ahead of Donald Trump in Georgia.

So what are voters to believe?

Who sponsors a poll and why is very important.

And it’s very easy to manipulate a poll to get the results that serve your interests or client. Slanted questions and weighted results can alter the poll in favor of the answers that the firm or organization wants.

In addition to the Baker-Warren Senate matchup, which the media dutifully reported, Mass Fiscal’s recent poll of 750 Massachusetts voters also showed they supported the Chapter 62F tax rebate law — a cause that the organization has been pushing.

“That should send a clear warning to Speaker Ron Mariano who is leading the effort to change the law, that a majority of voters do not support the Speaker’s attempt,” Mass Fiscal said.

Northwind Strategies funds polls conducted by Change Research. Back in April, the Northwind poll found Warren ahead of Baker by five points — indicating she’s not as vulnerable as the Mass Fiscal poll showed.

“It seems like there are fewer and fewer (polls). We thought there was a void we could fill with this,” Rubin, who consulted for Warren in 2012, tells the Herald. “There’s not a lot of hard data about where the voters are.”

Rubin’s firm has conducted polls on rent control and the millionaires’ tax as well as pitting candidates against each other.

“We have a lot of confidence in our results, our data,” said Rubin, who stressed that the polls are funded by his firm and not by clients.

Paul Craney, spokesman for Mass Fiscal, told the Herald “The Fiscal Alliance Foundation has regularly conducted polls on policies and other matters so that decision makers, media and the public have a good sense for where the voters are at on these topics.”

The DeSantis PAC, Never Back Down, showed the Florida governor beating the former president by a 48-38% margin in a head to head matchup. A few weeks later, another poll, conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, had Trump leading DeSantis by more than 20 points.

Go figure.

The PR firm Seven Letter also has been producing polls lately for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Protecting Americans Coverage Together and the Boston Business Journal.

Seven Letter Insight’s poll for the pro-employer health insurance organization Protecting Americans Coverage Together (PACT) showed not surprisingly that Americans overwhelmingly “prefer to receive health insurance directly from an employer rather than through other means,” according to a release by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“I expected there to be a high level of satisfaction with employer health benefits, but I was stunned by the level of intensity,” said Matt George of Seven Letter Insight.

So believe what you want. But don’t count on polling these days to accurately predict anything. Just ask President Hillary Clinton.

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