Don’t Call it a Push Poll: Bernie Sanders Campaign Edition

Posted February 20, 2016 at 9:46am
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during her campaign rally at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater in Las Vegas on Friday night, Feb. 19, 2016, one day before the Nevada Democrats' presidential caucus. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater in Las Vegas on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Arguing about the term “push poll” is a biennial tradition and, thanks to the Bernie Sanders campaign, we get to do it once again.

On Thursday, ABC News wrote about a recent poll conducted in Nevada by a group that favors former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The headline, “Recording Suggests Hillary Clinton Backers Testing Attack Lines Ahead of Nevada Caucus,” was provocative and the availability of the audio was unusual.

It’s not surprising that someone heard negative messages being tested and thought something was improper. What was surprising was the criticism from Sanders’ pollster.

“In my view, it is one-sided and that is what you call a push poll. A whole battery of negatives against Sanders and then, ‘Would that make you more or less likely to vote for him?,’” Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin told ABC News. “You have to try to maintain some sort of balance and they didn’t even try.”

That may sound reasonable, but it goes against bipartisan agreement on the definition of the term “push poll” that goes back over 20 years.

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who has done extensive polling in Nevada for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, was quick to respond on Twitter: This is “testing negative lines of attack” as @taddevine says; it’s NOT a “push poll” as @TulchinResearch suggests.