IA-03: Someone is testing negative messages about Jim Mowrer

A poll in the field is testing some negative messages about Jim Mowrer, the Democratic challenger to Representative David Young in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Details are after the jump, based on a report from a Bleeding Heartland reader who received the call on Friday. I will update this post as needed if I get the call myself or other respondents share further details.

IA-03 is among the most competitive U.S. House races, with an even partisan voter index and an incumbent serving his first term in a district President Barack Obama carried in 2012. Early last year, the National Republican Congressional Committee put Young in its “Patriot Program” for vulnerable House members. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Mowrer to its “Red to Blue” program shortly after the June primary election. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 161,156 active registered Democrats, 172,272 Republicans, and 153,533 no-party voters.

The phone call came from 515-478-7246, a number in Adel (Dallas County). I could not link this number to any polling firm, but it seems to have been used for other surveys. My source said the live interviewer did not name any company or organization that commissioned the poll. The source also said there was no background noise as you’d expect to hear when the person on the other end of the line is working at a call center.

The questionnaire wasn’t very long. The caller asked typical questions, including whether the respondent approved or disapproved of President Barack Obama’s work, planned to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Senator Chuck Grassley or Patty Judge, before getting to the ballot test on the IA-03 race.

After the respondent stated plans to vote for Mowrer rather than Young, the caller tested three possible lines of attack against the Democratic challenger. Paraphrasing:

• Mowrer has taken thousands in campaign contributions from connected Democratic contributors and has served as vice-chair of the Iowa Democratic Party;

• Mowrer would bring thousands of Syrian refugees to Iowa;

• Mowrer will tax-and-spend.

The caller asked if each statement would make the respondent more or less likely to vote for Mowrer.

This early in a campaign, this kind of poll is probably a genuine attempt to collect information about effective messages. Push-polls aimed solely at disseminating smears to thousands of people usually are much shorter and happen close to election day. However, my source found it strange not to be asked the full range of demographic questions that would be at the end of many polls. The interviewer asked for the respondent’s age at the beginning of the survey, then asked for ethnicity and confirmed the phone number at the end. During a real message-testing poll, the caller will often collect data such as education level, household income range, and whether anyone in the home is a member of a labor union.

Only about 6,000 Syrian refugees had come to the U.S. as of June, and only a handful of families have settled in Iowa this year, so fear-mongering about “thousands” coming here from Syria is unrealistic as well as bigoted.

Demagoguing about Syrian refugees may not seem like Young’s style. That’s something State Senator Jason Schultz or Representative Steve King or Governor Terry Branstad would say, right? But remember, Young voted last year to “press the pause button on the Syrian refugee process.”

That said, I would guess the NRCC or some conservative group planning to make independent expenditures commissioned this poll. Young’s campaign will probably focus on positive advertising, letting other groups bash Mowrer with whatever weapon seems most promising.

If you were a respondent for this poll and took notes or remember additional details, please post a comment here or contact me privately (e-mail is near the lower right corner of this page).

Any thoughts about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

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