Poll on Iowa judicial retention vote is in the field

At about 4:00 pm today a woman from Lawrence Research called with a survey on the upcoming elections. As always when I receive a political phone call, I didn’t hang up and took as many notes as possible on the poll. Judging from the question wordings, this was a message-testing survey commissioned by a group trying to oust the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who will be on the ballot this November.

The Lawrence Research polling firm is run by Gary Lawrence, who was active in California’s Prop 8 campaign against same-sex marriage. His firm recently conducted a poll purporting to show that Minnesotans want a governor who opposes same-sex marriage rights. The Minnesota Family Council and National Organization for Marriage publicized that poll.

I assume the American Family Association and/or the National Organization for Marriage commissioned the poll for which I was a respondent today. Those groups are lavishly funding the “Iowa for Freedom” effort to oust the judges. Television commercials urging a no vote on retention began running statewide two and a half weeks ago.

If this poll shows that Iowans are poised to vote no on retaining the Supreme Court justices, whoever commissioned it will probably announce the results. I’ll assume the numbers were good for the judges if I don’t see an Iowa for Freedom press release about the poll in the coming weeks.

After the jump I’ve posted as many details as I could about the survey questions.

Speaking of the retention elections, get a load of this brazen recruiting effort by a Sioux City church: “Pastors who join this effort are asked to commit to confront the injustice and ungodly decisions of the Iowa Supreme Court by boldly calling upon their flocks to ‘vote no on judicial retention’ for the three consecutive Sundays prior to Election Day.”  

The call came from the phone number (801) 823-2031 (a Utah area code). The caller from Lawrence Research did not ask for me by name; she asked for the youngest male eligible to vote in the household. I told her my husband was not available, so she asked if there were any other registered voters in the household. When I said I was, she asked if I would be willing to take the survey. I don’t think I omitted any questions, but I was not able to get the exact wording down. I’ve paraphrased as best I could.

Are you over or under the age of 45?

Are you over or under the age of 25?

Thinking about the last four elections, including primaries as well as general elections, in how many of those did you vote?

How likely are you to vote in the November 2 election (definitely, probably, possibly, probably not, not voting)?

Do you plan to vote by absentee, or on election day?

In the governor’s race, do you plan to vote for Chet Culver the Democrat, or Terry Branstad the Republican?

Do you know if there are any judges on the ballot in the upcoming election?

Caller then described what a retention election is (judges are on the ballot in the first election after being appointed and every so many years after that).

How do you plan to vote on the Supreme Court judges who are on the ballot in this election? (definitely yes, probably yes, probably no, definitely no, will skip that part of the ballot)

How closely are you following the the news about the Supreme Court retention elections?

[Somewhere in this section of the survey the caller said that there have been some radio and television commercials about the election and asked if I had seen or heard any of them. I said I had seen them on the internet but had not heard them on the radio or seen them on television.]

The caller briefly described the April 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that the state could not deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Then she asked whether I strongly supported, somewhat supported, somewhat opposed or strongly opposed that court decision.

Which of the following statements best describes your views: the Supreme Court legislated from the bench in their ruling on marriage, OR the judges interpreted the Constitution and arrived at an independent interpretation?

Which of the following statements best describes your views: a retention election is an opportunity for the public to hold judges accountable for their rulings, and it’s appropriate to consider individual rulings in that vote, OR a retention vote should only consider a judge’s fitness to hold office, and voters should not consider individual rulings.

Which of the following statements best describes your views: Iowans should have the right to vote on the definition of marriage, or we should leave this issue alone now that the court has ruled on it?

If there were a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, how would you vote if the election were held today? (definitely yes, probably yes, probably no, definitely no, would not vote)

If the judicial retention election were held today, how would you vote on retaining the Iowa Supreme Court judges? (definitely yes, probably yes, definitely no, probably no, skip that part of the ballot)

What is your age?

What was the last grade of education you have completed?

Do you vote all or mostly for Democrats, for a few more Democrats than Republicans, about evenly for Democrats and Republicans, for a few more Republicans than Democrats, or for Republicans all or most of the time?

Are you registered to vote as a Democrat, a Republican, or something else?

What is your zip code?

Somewhere near the end of the survey the caller asked a question that seemed strange to me:

What do you think about people who didn’t vote in the last election, on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being “something came up” on election day to prevent them from voting, and 10 being “they don’t appreciate our freedoms and rights” enough to vote. I asked whether she meant the last general election, but all she would do was repeat the question: how do I think about people who didn’t vote in the last election.

I assume it’s part of a likely voter screen. Respondents who judge non-voters as people who “don’t appreciate our freedoms and rights” are more certain to vote than respondents who assume non-voters couldn’t cast a ballot because something came up on election day.

  • I had another false 'poll'

    Really a fundraising call – it was again from Think Say Act 2010, this time starring Mike Huckabee, and hammering the ‘wasteful spending’ message.

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