New Iowa poll testing negative messages about Hillary Clinton (updated)

Someone is paying to test a series of negative messages about Hillary Clinton among Iowa Democrats. Our household received a call from a Michigan-based polling firm last night. The interviewer asked for my husband by name, indicating that the pollster was working from a list of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers or reliable voters. After typical likely voter screening questions, a ballot test among Democratic candidates, and a few statements about President Barack Obama, most of the the poll focused on unflattering messages about Hillary Clinton. My notes are after the jump. Some messages appear multiple times, because there was quite a bit of repetition in the survey.

I haven’t been able to identify who paid for this poll, but I’m confident it didn’t come from Clinton’s inner circle or any group supporting her presidential ambitions. Unlike two other recent polls of Iowa Democrats, which Bleeding Heartland covered here and Iowa Starting Line covered here, this survey tested almost no positive statements about Clinton or her record. Then again, Pat Rynard suspects the Clinton campaign did commission this poll, citing similarities to the call he received last month.

In theory, a group favoring a different Democratic candidate for president would want to test lines of attack against Hillary. But to my ear, this poll sounded like the work of a Republican or conservative advocacy group. The questionnaire didn’t include any positive messages about any other potential Democratic candidates. Near the beginning of the survey, my husband was asked about his first and second choice if the Iowa caucuses were held today. But after the laundry list of negative statements about Clinton, the poll didn’t repeat the ballot test to see whether respondents now would be inclined to caucus for Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O’Malley over Clinton. (I don’t think Jim Webb was included.)

I don’t know how long this poll has been in the field, but the questionnaire must have been finalized before this week, because there were no questions about Clinton using her personal e-mail account for work during her tenure as secretary of state.

UPDATE: Maybe this poll originated within the Clinton circle after all. Patrick Ruffini pointed out that the call my household received came from the same phone number as polling calls backing the Democratic candidate in a New York Congressional race last year. If the survey firm mainly works for Democrats, then Clinton’s team or a group supporting her aspirations must be behind the poll. No rival Democratic candidate would have paid for a lengthy questionnaire including zero positive messages about alternatives to Clinton.

MARCH 10 UPDATE: According to the latest edition of HuffPollster, “many reports of calls from 586-200-0157 from recipients nationwide who were told they had been called by Mountain West Research, a call center used as subcontractor by campaign pollsters.” Several past Democratic candidates have used the firm.

Call from (586) 200-0157 received around 8 pm on March 5. Interviewer said she was from a national research firm and asked for Mr. desmoinesdem by name.

I didn’t catch the first part of this call. The interviewer asked expected questions: are you registered to vote, how likely are you to participate in the next Iowa caucuses, and so on. Respondents were asked whether they had very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable feelings about a series of prominent Democrats.

If the Iowa caucuses were held today, would you support Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren. Who would be your second choice?

A few negative statements were tested about Barack Obama–for example, did respondent agree that he didn’t do enough to fix the economy.

There was also a question about whether the Benghazi affair is a real concern or mostly an issue raised for political reasons.

At this point I was able to start taking notes on the call while Mr. desmoinesdem continued to participate on speakerphone.

I’m going to read a list of qualities that could apply to a president. For each one, give a number between 1 and 7, with 1 meaning it strongly applies to Hillary Clinton, and 7 meaning it doesn’t apply to Clinton at all.

Honest and trustworthy

In touch with the needs of average people

Will keep America safe

Is responsible with taxpayer dollars

Has been tested

Puts the American people ahead of personal ambition

Will hold Wall Street accountable

Is a strong leader

Is ethical

Is straightforward with the American people

Now I am going to read a few negative statements about Hillary Clinton. For each one, tell me whether it makes you much less likely to support her, somewhat less likely, a little less likely, or makes no difference to you.

She said she and Bill Clinton were “flat broke” when they left the White House, even though they had an expensive home, car and driver, etc.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton flew all over the world but had no achievements. She downplayed ISIS as not a serious threat. She made concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he responded by invading Ukraine. Iran moved closer to developing nuclear weapons during her time as secretary of state.

She voted for the Wall Street bailouts, and the Clinton Foundation took lots of money from Wall Street sources.

The State Department couldn’t account for billions of dollars spent during Clinton’s time as secretary of state. Some government contracts went to companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation.

As a senator, Clinton supported NAFTA, and as secretary of state she supported new trade agreements that are bad for American workers.

She refused to stand up against the Keystone XL pipeline, and a company that stood to gain from the project did an analysis for the State Department.

Middle Eastern governments donated $30 million to the Clinton Foundation, so Hillary Clinton won’t be able to stand up to foreign leaders as president.

Something alleging that Clinton paid women employees less than men, and that women who work for the Clinton Foundation earn less than men.

Next the interviewer said she was going to read another series of statements about Hillary Clinton. This time she wanted to know whether the statement makes you more likely or less likely to vote for her. Strangely, “makes no difference” did not seem to be an option during this part of the poll–to my husband’s frustration. If he tried to answer “doesn’t make any difference,” the interviewer would prod him to say more likely or less likely.

She supported Obamacare [the word “Obamacare” was used, not “health care reform” or “Affordable Care Act”]

Hard statement to understand–something about Clinton creating a foundation that maybe didn’t give enough money away

She refuses to stand up against the Keystone XL pipeline

She was involved in the Whitewater and Travelgate scandals when Bill Clinton was president

She allowed Iran’s nuclear program to advance when she was secretary of state

She only paid women on her staff 72 cents for every dollar earned by men

She didn’t protect diplomats in Benghazi

She wants to end ethanol subsidies, which support 50,000 jobs in Iowa

She charges [didn’t catch exact amount] dollars to give speeches

She voted for the war in Iraq

She wasn’t able to account for billions of dollars spent at the State Department while she was secretary of state

The Clinton Foundation took $30 million from Middle Eastern governments

[I think there was something about Clinton allegedly not driving a car for the last 20 years, so can’t relate to average people–notes don’t indicate where that was in the survey]

The interviewer then returned to the list of qualities that could apply to a president. For each one, give a number between 1 and 7, with 1 meaning it strongly applies to Hillary Clinton, and 7 meaning it doesn’t apply to Clinton at all. [same list as earlier in the call]

Honest and trustworthy

In touch with the needs of average people

Will keep America safe

Is responsible with taxpayer dollars

Has been tested

Puts the American people ahead of personal ambition

Will hold Wall Street accountable

Is a strong leader

Is ethical

Is straightforward with the American people

[note from desmoinesdem: I found it strange that the poll didn’t return to the ballot test to find out whether respondents would lean toward someone else as a first or second choice in the Iowa caucuses.]

Finally, list of questions for statistical purposes, such as: year of birth, last year of education completed, race, whom did you support in the 2008 Iowa caucuses (John Edwards, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton).

Interviewer confirmed respondent’s name and home phone number to end the call.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that after reading the long list of negative statements, the interviewer asked, “Of the things that you’ve heard, what bothers you the most about Hillary Clinton?” It would be interesting to know where the Iowa Democratic caucus-goers come down on that question. My hunch is that “supported the war in Iraq” still registers as more of a concern than most of the other negatives mentioned in this survey.

  • You take these calls ?

    My goodness! Not only does someone actually answer these questions but they also listen in while their family members answer them. (and take notes to boot)

    What was your motivation?

    My guess would be that if it was not from the Clinton camp they would have asked about Bill’s relationship with Dershowitz. These simply sound like questions to inoculate the public to things that will obviously be brought up in the campaign. The theory being that if these things are ‘old news’ anyone bringing them up will simply seem like they are beating a dead horse.  

You need to signin or signup to post a comment.