Right-wing news outlets have eagerly repeated any and all poll rumors — no matter how flawed — indicating that Jewish American voters are abandoning President Obama and expressing frustration over his handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship. A new poll [PDF] released yesterday by pollsters John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell appears to show that “only two in five Jewish voters (43% ) say they would vote to re-elect President Obama,” except the methodology of the poll and the neutrality of the pollsters is now seriously in question.
Over at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent reports that the Post’s polling manager slammed McLaughlin and Caddell’s poll — an uncommon move for a major news organization’s pollster — as “a clear example of advocacy polling.” But ThinkProgress looked at the organization commissioning the poll — Secure America Now — and uncovered a potential conflict of interest for the pollsters.
The poll on Jewish voters was commissioned by Secure America Now, an organization seeking to call attention to “[o]ur national government’s policies of engagement of sworn enemies like Iran and North Korea have failed and are allowing these outlaw nations to progress in their plans to attain nuclear weapons.” (North Korea actually successfully tested a nuclear weapon during the Bush administration.)
Think Progress asked John McLaughlin about Secure America Now and he told us:
Pat [Caddell] and I worked with [Secure America Now] to do the survey. [...] They paid for it.
When asked yesterday if he could provide a contact name for the organization, he responded that he would have to get back to us since “I don’t want to give you the wrong information.”
A little research revealed an article on the conservative Big Peace website from February, discussing how Secure America Now was founded by John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell to “inject national security issues into the public dialogue.”
McLaughlin acknowledged his leadership role at Secure America Now in a phone conversation today, and explaining to ThinkProgress why he didn’t provide a contact name yesterday because:
We don’t have any staff yet so that’s what I was looking for. You know, we’re just putting [Secure America Now] together.
The poll makes no mention of the fact that an organization Caddell described as “a grassroots place where people can join up and begin to do things to force [national security and foreign policy] issues into the debate,” commissioned its own founders to conduct the poll.
When asked why the poll didn’t reveal his overlapping roles as the commissioner of the poll and the pollster, he responded:
McLaughlin and Associates is a separate firm, and we do polling and consulting. It’s my own business. But [Secure America Now] is a 501c4 advocacy group discussing issues.
ThinkProgress asked pollster John Zogby about this omission. He called the move “clumsy” and said McLaughlin and Caddell “should know better”:
Frankly, I don’t understand why two names like John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell can’t just say “Hey, we did a poll.” So it’s the old watergate question, who actually paid for it? [...] It is odd. These are two experienced, credible pollsters. Let’s lay that out and that’s accepted. This is clumsy. They should know better than to do something this way.
While McLaughlin candidly provided details of the poll and his relationship with it, he declined to offer details about the funding of Secure America Now.