Hillary’s Pollster Polls Her E-mail List, Doesn’t Say Who Or Why

Interesting piece from TechPresident today:

“Hillary Clinton’s online operation is adapting the traditional tactics of polling and direct mail to survey subscribers of the campaign’s email list.  Political campaigns have always contacted donors and potential supporters via phone polls or direct mail appeals, but Clinton’s campaign is going one step further, applying similar techniques to obtain a potentially more honest portrait of its email list…

In early December, chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn’s private polling firm, Penn Schoen and Berland Associates (PSB), administered a nearly 100-question survey to subscribers of the Clinton campaign’s email list. The list members received an email from PSBSurveys.com, a website owned by PSB that pays people for participating in web surveys. The email, sent with the subject line “Election 2008: Who Would You Vote For?”, asked recipients to participate in a “fun and interesting” research study about their opinions on the 2008 election. The only explanation as to why people received the survey is a sentence toward the bottom of the email: “You received this email because you subscribed to receive emails about politics.”

Penn, Schoen, and Berland Associates is the Clinton campaign’s pollster.  PSB took what is currently understood by Internet strategists as an unusual approach for a political campaign’s online survey, emailing a web poll to subscribers of the campaign’s email list without telling recipients that the message or survey questions were from the candidate.”

When I read this, something here bothered me.  I didn’t know what, at first, besides the glaring issues about transparency.

Then I realized…

It’s because Mark Penn and his firm didn’t seem to understand Internet culture here when designing this survey.  They’re merely porting old world tactics into the Internet, not adapting and reinventing their old tactics to become successful in the realm of online culture.

I remember, of course, the Howard Dean blog in 2003, and especially the “comments” section.  Joe Trippi, the Dean campaign manager, mentioned this phenomenon in his book about the campaign.  The comments section of the Blog For America was used not only as a place for supporters to raise their voices about news and events, but as a place where ideas were solicited.  Trippi termed it as “open source politics,” where everyone worked together to create something bigger than what one person — or just one team of a few people — could ever create.

I suspect that had the Clinton campaigned mentioned who they were and why these supporters would have been contacted, poll recipients would have likely spent more time and energy in their responses.  After all, they’re dedicated in their allegiance to their candidate, and therefore would be willing and able to give as much input as they could.  Why?  To feel empowered.

But I don’t think that this is what the campaign was trying to do here.  Did they want ideas, and did they want to empower their base?

“About halfway through the survey, begins to ask specific questions about Hillary Clinton, including asking what it would take for the person to donate to Clinton’s campaign.”


If you’re looking for answers online, you’ll never be sort of responses, especially when you’re a campaign.  But the way to do this is to solicit this kind of feedback correctly.  The responses will be better, and if these voters are listened to, perhaps the campaigns themselves would be better, as well.

~ by Brad Levinson on December 13, 2007.

One Response to “Hillary’s Pollster Polls Her E-mail List, Doesn’t Say Who Or Why”

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