A telephone poll testing out messaging techniques on fracking and creating American jobs through expanded fossil fuel drilling and refining, apparently paid for by the American Petroleum Institute (API), was interrupted Tuesday by a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shaking the outsourced calling center near Davao City in the Philippines.
Tuesday evening, I received a call from a pollster calling from a number showing up as (801) 899–4119. The woman identified herself as calling from Survey Sampling International and asked if she could ask me some questions about national issues. The questions focused almost entirely on energy policy and asked for reaction to a series of mostly pro-industry statements.
Among the topics included in the survey were queries about:
- Whether the EPA should be stripped of its authority to promulgate regulations without Congressional permission.
- Whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should be built to create jobs and promote “North American” energy independence.
- Whether corporate taxes should be kept low to promote job growth.
- Whether offshore oil drilling should be expanded to reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil.
- Whether protecting the environment should be a higher priority than meeting America’s energy demand.
- Whether hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) should be expanded to produce more natural gas.
Six minutes into the survey, the interview was interrupted by sounds of screaming. The woman apologized, explaining that she was experiencing an earthquake, and requested permission to call back and finish the interview later. Despite the Utah area code, an Internet search of seismology sites quickly revealed that the interviewer was calling from the Philippines.
Wednesday evening, a different woman with the same caller-ID number, called to complete the poll. She noted that no one from the company had been physically injured by the quake, but that her colleague who had begun the interview was sufficiently shaken up by the events of the night before that she had taken the day off. Three minutes later, the remainder of the survey was complete.
At the conclusion of the survey, the pollster reiterated that it had been done by Survey Sampling International and noted that it had been paid for by the American Petroleum Institute, 1220 L Street, NW, Washington, DC.
Following a series of personal Tweets noting the ironies that the survey about “American jobs” was apparently outsourced and that questions about fracking (which some scientists believe may cause earthquakes) were interrupted by a significant quake, the API responded. The staffer running the industry trade association’s official Twitter account Tweeted: “I believe you are mistaken” “- that we polled you.” API did not respond to a Tweet and a phone request for a further explanation as of press time.
API has made the industry’s role in creating American jobs a frequent talking point in its messaging. The group’s materials boast that the oil and natural gas industry supports 9.2 million American jobs and claim that “our vast domestic oil and natural gas resources is vital to bolstering our nation’s economic recovery and energy security, while serving as a vital bridge to our energy future.”
Survey Sampling International did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about their call centers, but the company’s 2013 corporate fact sheet boasts that it employs “2,500+ skilled interviewers throughout an integrated network of call centers in the US and Philippines.”