Pollsters John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell defended their Jewish voters poll against heavy criticism today, charging that a recent Washington Post article disputing their findings was a biased “hit job.”
“I probably know more about polling in my little finger, over 40 years, than that person [Washington Post polling manager Peyton Craighill] has ever,” Caddell told me during a conference call with reporters.
On Greg Sargent’s Washington Post blog, Craighill claimed the McLaughlin-Caddell survey was “a clear example of advocacy polling” that did not “represent neutral, independent research.”
The poll — which found that only 42 percent of Jewish Americans would vote for Obama in 2012 – stirred controversy because it was released at a time when Obama has been trying to downplay the perception he’s losing Jewish support.
Caddell stood by his findings during the conference call, and said the Post’s Craighill is in no position to attack other pollsters.
“The Washington Post poll for 20-some years has been at the extreme outlier of results between their polling in presidential election racing and where the results were,” said Caddell. “I hardly need a lecture from them.”
The Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor also challenged Sargent and Craighill to a public debate saying, “I have no problem arguing this.”
Caddell and McLaughlin went on to respond to the two major criticisms of their poll: that it allegedly had a skewed sample, and that it asked unfair and leading questions. For example, only 65 percent of their poll respondents said they voted for Obama in 2008, which conflicts with the exit polling data claiming 79 percent of Jews voted for him. Caddell said the sample’s demographics were solid, but it’s common for many people not to admit voting for a president when he becomes less popular.
In a Washington Post blog, Adam Serwer alleged that certain questions in the poll “primed” respondents to view Obama negatively. For example, one question seemed to suggest Obama had called on Israel to return to the 1967 borders, divide Jerusalem, and accept the right of return. According to Serwer, this question may have tainted the rest of the answers from respondents.
McLaughlin denied this, saying the question was asked late in the poll and wouldn’t have had a big impact. Caddell said the question was simply meant to gauge the respondents’ reaction to a particular argument.
As for the substance of the question, McLaughlin said, “Whether the president supports those ideas or not, we’ll see. But he definitely raised those issues at his speech at the State Department.”
The pollsters have already issued a lengthy Power Point that goes into the details of the survey, but they said they will also post the full questions and the order the questions were asked on the McLaughlin & Associates website. Jewish community polls are notoriously tricky to carry out, and judging the reliability of a poll with such a small sample size (600) is always difficult. But the results do support recent anecdotal evidence that the Jewish community is growing uneasy with Obama’s Israel policies. Maybe Caddell and Sargent can hash these issues out at their debate.