Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Poll Me Once, Poll Me Twice

Since its founding, J Street has employed polling as a central tactic in its effort to convince people that American Jewish opinion on Israel is ideologically aligned with its own far-Left views. The three-step is simple but shrewd: if Jewish opinion does not support your agenda, 1) create some polls to show that it does; 2) declare yourself the new mainstream; 3) accuse the traditional organizations of being the real extremists.

Much skepticism of J Street’s polls has accompanied their release, and many have pointed out their clever, results-oriented phrasing. But this hasn’t diminished their ability, when people accuse them of advocating an agenda that has little support among American Jews, to point to their own polling and declare themselves the true representatives of Jewish opinion.

J Street’s polls have always been conducted by Jim Gerstein, who runs a far-Left progressive political consultancy in Washington. As J Street says on its polling pages, “Survey analysis from Jim Gerstein, Principal at Gerstein | Agne, the firm that commissioned the poll.”

Now J Street is an advocacy organization, not a newspaper or a judge, so it need not police its conflicts of interest with fastidious rigor. But Jim Gerstein is not simply a principal at the firm that conducts polls for J Street. He was J Street’s vice president.

You’d never know this from J Street’s staff page or the voluptuous promotion that accompanies the release of a J Street poll. You wouldn’t know it from all the mentions of Gerstein on J Street’s website, in which he is always portrayed as an independent actor. In order to know that he was J Street’s founding vice president, you’d have to look at J Street’s 990 IRS form.

So J Street not only commissions polls—it writes the questions, conducts them, analyzes the results, and then carries out promotional campaigns with the findings. If you were wondering how it was possible that J Street could repeatedly produce “polling data” that almost perfectly complements the group’s political agenda, now we have one important clue.