Pollster Explains Why He Asked Voters Whether Conservatives Were Race-Baiting Obama

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 12 2012 2:38 PM

Pollster Explains Why He Asked Voters Whether Conservatives Were Race-Baiting Obama

Yesterday, Jennifer Rubin called out Public Policy Polling for adding this question to its Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Virginia surveys: "Do you believe conservative media want white people to think Barack Obama hates them?" That phrasing went into the field after the Daily Caller, the Drudge Report and Sean Hannity hyped newly rediscovered video of a 2007 speech that then-candidate Obama gave to black students. But the Democratic pollster, which endurses criticism from Republicans it posts a pretty good record of predictions, never used the results. I asked Jensen why that was.

"What we found was that no one has heard of Drudge, of Tucker Carlson, of the Daily Caller," said Jensen. "Not that many people have even heard of Sean Hannity. Look, sometimes we have poll questions, we don't get many responses, and we don't release them. We took a Virginia 2013 governor poll last weekend that we decided not to release."

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Was there nothing useful in the poll? "My main takeaway was really that voters haven't heard of this stuff," said Jensen. "This is something that people who talk about politics on Twitter all day focused on, that had no permeation in the public at large. Soemtimes we ask about these things junkies talk about, and they have no penetration. But I'm not gonna release a poll I don't have anything to say about. That video release last Tuesday seemed like a bit of a desperation move. For a lot of people it looked like the people releasing it were teeing to get white people afraid of Obama. So the questions we went in with were, A, are they having success, and B, is this the message? It seemed very topical before the debate. If the debate hadn't been so crazy, maybe we'd have been talking about it for the next few days."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.