The Negative Consequences of Push Polls

There once was a politician from the Midwest who never attended law school or even graduated from high school, but he claimed to be a lawyer. His main advisor was a well-known alcoholic, his wife was found to have used public monies on frivolous personal items, and he was known to be crude and lacked even basic manners for public office.

Another leader never held a job, survived on the welfare system and was involved in a highly publicized scandal with a prostitute. He was also seen in the company of the worst criminals. He was, admittedly, soft on crime and showed a violent temper when he took on the bankers of his community.

Who would support such people? Well, the first individual was Abraham Lincoln and the second was Jesus.

This brings us to the need for voters to look at the whole picture, which includes human frailty, negative campaigns and push polls.

Recently, a poll funded by county supervisor candidate Teresa Alvarado ran a series of questions testing the “negatives” of Cindy Chavez. This is typical of pollsters in all races, but the push poll often telegraphs the messaging a candidate intends to use.

The problem, of course, is that the questions are asked without context and in a way that is designed to influence, absent any other knowledge.

For example: “Are you much more likely, more likely, less likely or far less likely to vote for a candidate who claims to be a lawyer, but who never even finished high school?” Abe Lincoln would have been screwed.

The question is designed not only to measure how much that information is likely to influence voters, but the intensity a voter would feel about the information.

The pollster assumes this question will elicit a negative response from voters and is gaging whether that message will resonate in relation to other negative messages being tested. 

But, when a question is asked in isolation, it does not provide the voter the proper context of a candidate’s background or past decisions they may have made. If the public already knows the candidate, the information may not have the same impact as it would on an unknown candidate.

In addition, when the poll question goes out to the public, it telegraphs potential negative messages that a campaign will use against the opposition. The Chavez camp is now preparing for an assault on its candidate, based on the questions used in the poll.

However, the campaign game has changed.

Negative campaigns used to be most effective when they were used at the last minute; when the candidate who was attacked did not have time to respond. With absentee balloting and votes taking place over a month instead of a single day, a successful negative campaign must be continuous and effective for an entire month.

In fact, the best negative campaign you can run is to say that your opponent is running a negative campaign. But there will be a backlash from voters. The person who fires first often loses in a highly contested race, as the public is suspicious and less tolerant of negative information.

Finally, no candidate for public office is perfect. Even Jesus and Abraham Lincoln can be attacked politically using the opposition research we have on them. Jesus’ support for the poor alone would cost him the Republicans. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself)

But in a five-person race, negative campaigning is not an advisable tactic, even though political consultants and pollsters often advise their clients to go negative based on their “research” results. Good candidates know how to say “no” to their advisors, and Teresa Alvarado knows how be a good candidate.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Executive summary:  So Cindy Chavez is Lincoln and Jesus, and Teresa Alvarado is scum.

    Not bad.  At least you didn’t try to say that Cindy Chavez was Mother Teresa.  That would have been too confusing, even for you.

    • Cindy has long been a friend and a tremedous leader in our community..

      But I also have enormous respect for Teresa—and her mother.

      That should not be confusing—even for you.

      Support for one person should never be viewed as hatred or disdain for another.


  2. My objection to these sorts of “push polls,” is that they indicate the candidate using them is fundamentally an empty suit who doesn’t stand for much of anything.  I mean, if you wish to win election to office, then why not formulate what you think of as the best set of ideas, and try running on that?  I don’t object to Teresa Alvarado being critical of Cindy Chavez, but she should criticize Ms. Chavez in the way she thinks is most important, not merely whichever ways test out the best in push polling, focus groups, etc.  Presenting these consultant-driven talking points as if they were her own opinions, is basically lying.

    Yet another reason to vote for David Wall in this race.

  3. I think this sounds like a ‘Push’ article.  Very clever mud throwing.  Let me give it a try.  Cindy did a poll that measured Teresa’s negatives.  Push polling is very bad because it can lead to negative campaigns.    Cindy is being pressured by her consultant to go negative.  Although Cindy is not Jesus or Lincoln, I’m sure she knows better.

    • The majority of the push poll calls I’ve received the past few years have been obvious labor backed candidates and initiatives.  That would land squarely in the lap of Cindy Chavez.  I guess she doesn’t know better either.

      Mr Robinson it is a challenge to take you seriously when you have such obvious bias.  Not to mention your complete lack of judgement when it came to Gluttonous George Shirakawa.  Sure you called for him to resign, once the Titanic had hit the iceberg.  You backed him for years, called him friend.  It it a huge stretch to expect the public to believe that all the smart and savvy people around George never noticed his thieving ways or out of control gambling (especially when so many accompanied him on those junkets) or never noticed the big PCARD on the credit card he’d use to treat you all to free lunches. 

      When you show remorse and are apologetic then you begin to earn your credibility back with the common voter, not before.

      • Yes it is.  I only use my real name in BLOGS.  And for really full disclosure I have supported by Cindy and Teresa an in the past.

  4. Is Rich Robinson being paid to work for anyone in the District 2 Supervisor’s race?  If so, he should have disclosed that he’s being paid, how much, and for what, exactly.  If not, he should have said so in the article. 

    And has Rich Robinson ever been a political consultant on a campaign that went negative?  Or that providing misleading information to voters?

  5. First, Rich Robinson, sadly,  is not being paid in the D2 race.

    Second, the analysis pertains to this race and the changing nature of campaigns.

    Third, negative informaiton can be a legitimate tool for a candidate and that view is not at issue in the blog.  I have used honest infromation that was negative in the past.  It was never misleading—those who have labeled it as such are wrong and I have always been available to explain how they are wrong.

    Fourth, with Independent Expenditures individual candidates don’t have to go negative and it is especually not advisable in a 5 person race.

    Finally, I don’t mind answering legitmate questions, but please do your own fact-checking. 


  6. “… the push poll often telegraphs the messaging a candidate intends to use. The problem, of course, is that the questions are asked without context and in a way that is designed to influence, absent any other knowledge.”

    There is only one context to be found in this city, county, state, and nation, and that is that the people are treated as dupes. The public is lied to by those elected or appointed to office, those running to replace them, and most of all, those claiming to be objectively reporting it all.

    Push polls? They are mere push pins, shoved painlessly into the trusting posteriors of a perpetually puzzled and perforated public. In a nation that has duped the public into surrendering its children and national honor to concocted wars, its identity and traditions to culture-destroyers, the fruits of its labor to a growing mob of ungrateful dregs who refuse to labor, why sweat little pricks from the likes of the daughter of this valley’s most accomplished racist?

    Mr. Robinson, you are but a player in a very dark comedy, reciting lines to an audience that has been conditioned to consume them without context. As pointed out by Aware D5, referencing your relationship with Mr. Shirakawa, you delivered your soliloquy against unethical politicking as if it weren’t the stock in trade of your own vocation, just as would anyone accustomed to playing to a house full of dimwits. To you, Sir, context is a set design.

    Giving voters the choice between Chavez or Alvarado is like a diner that offers a choice of two kinds of stale bread on its signature sh## sandwich.

    • > Mr. Robinson, you are but a player in a very dark comedy, reciting lines to an audience that has been conditioned to consume them without context.

      And what lines would the unremorseful Rich Robinson be reciting?

      Why, Mr. Globalist’s Narrative for the Masses.