Home > Democrats, Economy, John McCain, Obama, Obama Supporters > An Open Letter to RealClearPolitics.com

An Open Letter to RealClearPolitics.com

Previously, some of my readers prompted me to investigate the Diageo/Hotline poll.  After doing so, one of my readers suggested I pursue the matter further, so I decided to write the following letter:

To the employees and ownership of RealClearPolitics.com,

The RealClearPolitics National Average is arguably the most trusted polling compilation in the country.  It is both a valuable resource of information and highly influential over public opinion of the nature and condition of the presidential race.  It is for this reason that I believe it worthy of intervention should its integrity be impugned.  Being such, I have developed concern since it has come to my attention that one of the polls included in the average is conducted by a company whose stated interests conflict directly with the desire to conduct polling in a scientific manner, continually presents improbable data, has questionable ties including lobbying, and gives all impressions of partiality.

The poll in question is referred to as the Diageo/Hotline Daily Tracker Poll – named after two groups that sponsor it, Diageo and Hotline of the National Journal.  The company which conducts the actual polling is known as Financial Dynamics – an international financial consulting firm.

The poll has consistently generated extraneous outliers which invariably benefit the Democratic ticket and compromise aggregate data. The large majority of the disparate data occurs in general election daily polls and on economic questions.  For example, roughly a week ago both Rasmussen, one of the most credible polls in the country, and Diageo/Hotline polled the question, “Who would better handle the economy?” Rasmussen had McCain at 49% and Obama at 45%, while Diageo/Hotline had McCain at 36% and Obama at 47%.

Demonstrating that Obama is superior on the economy seems to be a recurring theme for Diageo/Hotline.

Currently, Diageo/Hotline has a question in which voters are asked to compare two short statements regarding the source of our economic trouble – one from McCain, one from Obama. Diageo/Hotline altered Obama’s statement to include a reference to Bush not present in the original speech. According to Diageo/Hotline, 46% of voters agree with Obama’s altered statement and only 31% with McCain’s.

Since the beginning of this month, all of the organizations you are using (at the moment I type this) to acheive your polling average have shown McCain with a lead in one of their polls at least once – except Diageo/Hotline. These organizations include:

Rasmussen
Gallup
NY Times
CBS News
CNN
Opinion Research
Battleground Research
ABC News
Washington Post
Ipsos

In fact, Diageo/Hotline hasn’t shown McCain in the lead once since the general election began on June 3rd. Considering the small sample size (300 daily) and high volatility of Diageo/Hotline’s general numbers, the closeness of the race, and certain events that gave McCain an edge, this is highly improbable.

It is difficult not to conclude that Diageo/Hotline is promulgating erroneous data. As former pollster Paul Zannucci said after reviewing their numbers, “[T]hey are definitely producing skewed results, but are they doing it intentionally?”

In 2005, Financial Dynamics acquired a PR firm/Lobbying group currently known as Dittus Communications. Dittus’s purpose in Financial Dynamics is unchanged since before its inclusion: It PR’s and lobbies for both corporate and political interests. From the company’s website:

In the summer of 1993, Gloria Dittus founded The Dittus Group, pursuing a vision of serving clients by melding her grassroots experience and her years in corporate communications and public relations. She envisioned a communications shop that was different from the rest – one that delivered policy victories as well as market conquests.

Today, FD Dittus serves national and international clients, with its primary focus on public affairs. We work daily with the journalists who cover the issues, the policy-makers who oversee industry and the thought leaders who influence the outcomes. FD Dittus is best known for delivering legislative and regulatory victories for clients on some of the most controversial issues facing the business community, ranging from obesity, terrorism insurance and media ownership to seatbelt safety, homeland security and trade relations with China.

The company is still being operated (under Financial Dynamics) by its founder Gloria Dittus. Both she and her company are deeply entrenched with numerous political interests and important policy makers in Washington. Many of the political interests which employ Dittus are aligned with the goal of a Democratic victory in November. Indeed, if her political donations and event schedule are any indication, she too, appears aligned with this goal. On May 19th, 2008, she hosted a party for “Madame Speaker”, a book celebrating Nancy Pelosi – in her home.

Of course, the management of Financial Dynamics would have to be complicit in releasing information to aid Democratic political interests.  I have researched the contributions given by the management team (excluding Gloria Dittus) of Financial Dynamics and found the following:

Money given to Democrats by management:

$18,900 given by Ed Reilly (CEO)

$16,700 given by Declan Kelly (Chairman, U.S. and Ireland)

$5,600 given by Paul Keary (Director of development)

$4,600 given by Gordon McCourn (Vice Chairman, Senior Director)

$4,600 given by John Quinn (CFO)

$2,500 given by Neil Dhillon (Senior Vice President)

$2,300 given by Sarabjit Walia (CEO)

$1,500 given by Christine Mohrmann (Industrials)

$750 given by Raoul Bhavnani (Consulting Services)

$500 given by Jeannine Dowling (Senior Vice President)

Money given to Republicans by management:

NONE.

Indeed, in 26 years of operation, out of over 1,000 current and past hired employees, only one employee has given to the other side of the aisle.  Mr. Wild gave $250 to John McCain in 1999, a year in which Democrats were rooting for McCain to knock out Bush in the primaries.  It leads one to wonder what sort of questions come up in the company’s job interviews.

The regions the company operates in are diverse, and its employees are primarily involved in finance – a profession that disproportionately attracts Republicans. The odds of such a political makeup with a decent sized company as Financial Dynamics arriving by chance are significantly less than 1%.

In conclusion, it is highly unethical for Financial Dynamics to conduct polling meant to inform public opinion on political entities while simultaneously being employed to influence public opinion by political entities. It is highly questionable for such an unusually partisan corporation to claim to conduct an unbiased poll. Ethical problems aside, it is statistically improbable that the numbers given by the poll are accurate.  For these reasons, I ask that you disabuse the public and the integrity of RealClearPolitics.com of this questionable data.

Your loyal reader,

Fred Shelm

9/24/08

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  1. BA
    September 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm | #1

    I have no difficulty with this letter.

    It might be a good idea to divide your polls in categories according to the number of voters polled by an organization and to give each of them a weight in accordance with the number of voters they polled. In other terms, a Gallup Tracking poll, which involves 3,000 voters, could be given 5 times the weight of a poll involving 600. This will diminish the misleading impact of outliers or opportunistic polls.

  2. fredshelm
    September 24, 2008 at 7:18 pm | #2

    I agree 100% BA.

  3. September 24, 2008 at 11:03 pm | #3

    The weighting should factor in more than the size of the sample. When the variables are combined with the dubious methodology of the polls it all gets messy. The most interesting thing you bring up here is the ethical conundrum. Methodology gets questioned often in polling, but ethics?

    The numbers you dug up regarding the political contributions of Financial Dynamics are stunning. Zero percent. Really?

    We may as well have all the polls be conducted by the RNC and the DNC, if polls like this are to be included in national averages.

  4. fredshelm
    September 25, 2008 at 12:02 am | #4

    Yea, the extreme partisanship in the donations was really surprising. Indeed, I found more donations for independents than Republicans. (A board member gave Lieberman $500).

  5. September 25, 2008 at 3:25 am | #5

    Good job!

    I hope RCP takes note.

  6. October 1, 2008 at 9:14 am | #6

    Having a degree in Journalism, I find it very interesting when people take all of the information in the polls to heart, as I was always taught to take the polls with a grain of salt.

    Why?

    Well, take into consideration that a “sample” population may consist of any small amount of people, ranging from 50 to 1,000. I think the largest poll I’ve seen yet, is one that was taken from the views of 855 people. Don’t ask me how they conjure up the amount of people questioned in these polls.

    Secondly, they are not objective, anymore. You will find that a majority of the time that they are biased, in order to point in favor of the left. They have their own agenda.

    My conclusion? These polls are NOT credible and are therefore, inconclusive.

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