Is Poll on Inslee Vulnerability Accurate? — Updated

At 6:10 Thursday evening I received in the inbox an e-mail from the James Watkins for Congress campaign saying that Jay Inslee, the Bainbridge Island Democratic incumbent congressman, was vulnerable in the First Congressional District race in November. That conclusion came from a survey done by Moore Information of Portland.

Here are some words of warning. I’m not at all saying Inslee isn’t vulnerable. That is entirely possible. Given the difference in national surveys we are seeing about the health care reform bill, it’s really hard for me to know. Plus, November is a long, long time away, especially in a non-presidential election year.

However, I feel justified being somewhat skeptical of these numbers. Watkins commissioned this survey, and we don’t have the questions, information about the demographics of the people surveyed, or any other information that would be helpful in deciphering these numbers. That kind of information is critical in trying to determine whether a poll accurately reflects what people feel.

That sentiment is confirmed by a blog posting by Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Small quotes Bob Moore of Moore Information in an earlier post.

Finding out who paid for the poll also is critical, said pollster Bob Moore of Oregon-based Moore Information. If a candidate has paid for it, then the numbers can’t be taken at face value, he said, and reporters should do everything they can to speak to the pollster about the results, not someone working with the campaign.

“The pollster may get some numbers that the campaign doesn’t like, and won’t release,” Moore said.

If we see the script with the questions, the demographic information and the cross-tabs from the survey, then that goes a lot farther in trusting the results. Last night I asked the Watkins campaign and the polling company for that information. I particularly want to see it in light of this item I found about surveys the company did in New Hampshire leading up to the presidential primary in 2008. As you read this info, bear in mind it does come from a site that is pro Democratic Party.

Friday, March 26, 4 p.m. UPDATE: I received an e-mail from the campaign saying they would check with the pollster. I got a response from the pollster saying I would have to get that information from the campaign.

Skepticism is not cynicism. I just want to see more data. Here are some other clips featuring Moore.

Here’s a 2007 story about polling Moore did for Dino Rossi. The company is still helping Rossi these days.

Moore Information was referenced in a 2003 column here about former Gov. Gary Locke.

When I added “push poll” to the search I got this 2004 column from Wisconsin on Moore Information polling in the presidential race.

Here’s a 2008 Newsweek story that mentions Moore, but is about negative campaigning generally.

After all that, I decided to go ahead and share the e-mail and the memo I got. If Inslee’s campaign wants to commission a survey and publish selective results, I’ll do the same. The rest is after the jump.

First District Poll Memo


To: Political reporters & bloggers
From: Mary Lane Strow,
James Watkins for Congress
Date: March 25, 2010
Re: New Moore Information poll in 1st Congressional District

The James Watkins for Congress campaign has just commissioned a 1st Congressional District poll from Moore Information. Jay Inslee should be worried, because the poll shows he is vulnerable…extremely vulnerable.

Attached is a memo from Moore Info’s Hans Kaiser discussing the results. Here are some of the salient numbers:

Only 37% say Inslee deserves re-election
In a first head-to-head, Inslee gets 41%; Watkins gets 27%
In a second head-to-head, after hearing the two candidates’ backgrounds, Watkins gets 44%; Inslee gets 42%
66% don’t know what Inslee’s greatest accomplishment is as a congressman
64% describe themselves as fiscal conservatives

The conventional wisdom on Inslee has been that he’s pretty much a shoo-in, given his easy wins in recent cycles. But these numbers put that notion to rest.

Inslee’s status as a career politican and his close ties with the highly unpopular House Democratic leadership make him a prime target of voter ire this cycle. James Watkins presents a strong challenge to Inslee: his career as an entrepreneur and small businessman in the tech sector makes him attractive as a political outsider, while his government experience as an FDIC troubleshooter in the ‘90s assures voters that he’s not wet behind the ears.

Watkins is uniquely positioned to take Inslee on given voters’ overwhelming concerns about the economy. Watkins can boast of having created jobs in the private sector, as well as having trimmed bureaucracy at the FDIC. Meanwhile, Inslee is forced to defend a wretched economy and an exploding national debt.

Clearly, the 1st District is no exception to the national trend of discontent with the Democratic-controlled Congress. And Jay Inslee, the career politician who has long dreamed of occupying the governor’s office, can no longer be so cavalier about the seat he hopes to make a launching pad for his gubernatorial ambitions.


3 thoughts on “Is Poll on Inslee Vulnerability Accurate? — Updated

  1. You’re kidding, right?

    You’re asking if a poll commissioned by an opposition campaign and conducted by a notoriously partisan research firm is accurate?

    Look at Moore’s track record – every poll they release has the Republican ahead. They had Rossi beating Gregoire, McCain beating Obama, they even had Mike! McGavick beating Cantwell.

    In short, they have no credibility whatsoever.

  2. In one way I was anticipating that this survey would be publicized elsewhere. I didn’t want it out there without some context. So far, only I and Sound Politics have referenced the poll. For those who don’t know Sound Politics, it favors the right side of the aisle.

    Moore has done polling for cities and in the 2003 story the numbers for Gary Locke, a Democrat, were quite high.

    Nonetheless, you’re right if you’re skeptical. I won’t categorically dismiss the information without further evidence, but I don’t want to publish it without establishing that we don’t have more details. So far I’ve heard from Watkins’ campaign that they would check with Moore to see if I could have what I wanted. Moore hasn’t responded.

    That survey in 2007 sure seemed like push-polling to me and it is true that Moore generally works for Republicans when the company engages in politics.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Caucus reference heater

  3. I am certain that it was these people who polled me. It was a Portland area code, and, when I laughed at one of the questions, saying “You know my telephone number and my name and you don’t know whether I vote Democratic or Republican? Don’t you have the internet?” the surveyor said that he did not know. I asked how they determined who to call and he said they were just calling registered voters.

    Given the way the questions were worded, it was a Republican push poll. I tried to ask the guy some questions about who was doing the polling and who was paying for it, but he was sharper than some paid poll takers, and dodged them.

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