Utah H.B. 44 “Push Poll” Bill Would Hurt Legitimate Research
In order to combat so-called “push polls,” House Majority Leader Greg Hughes introduced H.B. 44, which would require all polls in Utah regarding a candidate or ballot proposition to disclose the name of their sponsor. This would apply to survey and opinion research by phone, Internet or other means.
H.B. 44 passed the House on February 6, and the Senate Government Operations Committee on February 15.
H.B. 44 would bias survey and opinion research
Disclosure of who sponsored a poll can completely distort the answers respondents provide to research questions. Researchers go to great lengths to eliminate bias from all aspects of the research process, from the wording and order of questions to the accent of the interviewers. In most instances, the interviewer or programmer administering the questions is unaware who sponsored the research, or why.
While perhaps postponing the sponsorship disclosure until the end of the poll will avoid biasing that specific research interaction, it could potentially bias future ones in the same study. Any research participant informed of who sponsored and commissioned a poll, while the study is still ongoing, could share that information and potentially bias future respondents to the same study. In addition, the sponsor will be known to the interviewers or administrators, potentially injecting bias in how they run the survey and interact with respondents.
The bias that would result from such disclosure would make it extremely difficult to produce scientifically and statistically valid data in Utah.
H.B. 44 would stigmatize survey and opinion research
Research is not advertising or marketing and does not seek to influence a participant’s attitudes or behavior. The required disclosure of sponsorship would potentially taint all research studies by making them comparable in the eyes of the public to political advertising and advocacy. This would stigmatize all bona fide research (not just political-related research) and hurt participation in research studies (which already face all-time low response rates).
MRA and AAPC Position on Deceptive Political Techniques and “Push Polls”
The Marketing Research Association (MRA), the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) and the entire survey and opinion research profession are opposed to the practice of “push polling” and other deceptive political persuasion techniques, which are the actual intended targets of H.B. 44. “Push polling” is abusive to voters, candidates, parties, and organizations. More broadly, each such call abuses the research profession by giving recipients a misleading and negative view of what research is and how it works -- making them much less likely to participate in future research studies.
MRA and AAPC urge Utah to work with us in combating “push polls” instead of real research
We urge Utah to reject H.B. 44 as drafted and embrace the approach of Louisiana RS 18:1463.1, which requires disclosure in political advocacy calls, while explicitly protecting bona fide research calls. This would protect Utah’s voters and the scientific research process by targeting the bad guys who "push poll" instead of the good guys conducting real research.