Tonight Chris Berg interviewed Todd Reisenauer, the head of Telos Associates, the company behind that polling released on left wing talker Joel Heitkamp’s show earlier this week (video below).
The result was a metaphorical clown car full of sweaty, anxious failure driven directly into a ditch where it promptly caught on fire. Berg grilled Reisenauer about his firm’s motivations for conducting the polling, which has improbably garnered statewide coverage despite its shady provenance, and his responses amid the fidgeting and nervous tics were something less than convincing.
“Our purpose wasn’t political,” Reisenauer told Berg. But Telos is headed by Democrats – Reisenauer was the Democrat Public Service Commission candidate last year, and his partner Jason Matthews was the state party’s communications director through May of this year – and they produced a poll that just so happened to backup a narrative about the gubernatorial race that Heitkamp and Democrats have been working hard to manufacture, and then they gave the results of that polling exclusively to a left wing talk radio host and nobody else.
Reisenauer told Berg that they gave the results exclusively to Heitkamp because they saw it as a marketing opportunity for their firm and they wanted to reach the widest audience possible. All joking about Heitkamp’s shrinking, aging audience aside (Berg actually laughed out loud at Reisenauer’s claim) but if a firm wants to be perceived as releasing unbiased public opinion polling they craft a press release and then put it out to everyone in the media.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…Telos didn’t release the methodology to the rest of the media until three days after Heitkamp broadcast the results on his show. Even now what they’ve released is something less than satisfactory from a transparency standpoint.[/mks_pullquote]
As it is Telos didn’t release the methodology to the rest of the media until three days after Heitkamp broadcast the results on his show. Even now what they’ve released is something less than satisfactory from a transparency standpoint. You can see their entire polling memo below, which includes nothing about sample size or demographic breakdowns beyond party affiliation.
What’s more, Telos is apparently keeping their methodology a secret. “Asked about the poll methodology, Matthews said Telos has a proprietary method of dividing the state into population quadrants ‘to develop an accurate and reflective sample of North Dakota’s population,'” Mike Nowatzki reports for the Fargo Forum.
That’s utter bunk.
Meanwhile, at one point during Berg’s interview, Reisenauer actually seems to suggest that Telos made their own calls for the poll.
I’ve worked with professional polling firms before. They hire call centers, or own their own call centers, because it takes a lot of people a lot of time to make the sheer number of calls it takes to get to a 500 person sample for a poll like this. That’s why public opinion polling is so prohibitively expensive that it’s rarely done in a media market as small as North Dakota’s. There’s just not a lot of profit in it.
By the way, where did Telos get the database of phone numbers to call? You can’t get valid polling results by pulling numbers out of a phone book these days – hell, phone books almost don’t even exist any more – and you especially can’t do that if you’re including cell phones as Telos claims they did.
Did they maybe get a database from the Democrats?
It’s not unusual for political parties to have that kind of information available for their pollsters, but if Telos used Democrat data they didn’t disclose it. They should have disclosed whatever database they used.
I won’t belabor this story any more, but let’s just say that if Reisenauer and Matthews intended to show off their firm’s capabilities in the area of surveys and market research, they failed miserably. Anyone paying attention to this debacle would steer clear of their services.