Tag Archives: sarah palin

Are PPP’s Alaska polls pure propaganda?

lies The Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, also known as PPP, is once again proving that it values publicity above all else. And in Alaska right now, the interest is the looming race against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. Throw in an off-the-cuff statement that Sarah Palin made about considering running for Senate, and you’ve got the makings for some screaming headlines, no matter that the numbers buried under the headlines are suspect, at best.

A recent poll that the firm conducted via robo calling shows support for Begich’s job performance at about 42 percent. That might make it sound that Begich is in a little bit of trouble. However, Alaska-based pollster Marc Hellenthal, who actually knows the state and uses real-live people to do his polling, has Begich’s approval rate at about 60 percent in a recent poll.

Hellenthal’s got some other numbers which contradict PPP’s poll, but before we get into all of that, let’s get the elephant out of the room: Palin might have considered running for Senate, in the same way that I have considered taking belly dancing classes. I’m not going to take belly dancing classes. Palin is not going to run for Senate. She would lose.

According to PPP, most Alaskans want Palin to run. That might be true, in the way that dogs think they want that car that they’re chasing. But from the headlines the poll has generated, you would think that Palin is still popular in Alaska. Palin is not popular in Alaska.

In fairness, PPP’s numbers show that she’s got a high disapproval rating here. And the firm can be forgiven for not understanding the intricacies of Alaska’s politics, nor is it responsible for a lazy media. What isn’t forgivable is that the group’s polling methodology stinks. In this particular poll, Democrats are way over represented, as are women and older people. Law dictates that pollsters aren’t allowed to robo-call cell phones, so there goes about 50 percent of the population that use them all the time or most of the time. And those are just a few of the problems with using machines to do the work that humans should.

Alaska, as uber poll cruncher Nate Silver points out, “is perhaps the most difficult state in the country to poll. Its residents are in a strange time zone and keep strange schedules; it has very high rates of cellphone usage; it has highly unusual demographics.” (It should be noted here that Silver himself has used Alaska PPP polls and therefore gotten Alaska horribly wrong in the past).

Couple Alaska’s idiosyncrasies with PPP’s sloppy work, and you might as well throw numbers on a wall.

PPP isn’t a stranger to using such suspect methodology. It conducted an absurd poll in May that showed that Sen. Mark Begich actually lost support in Alaska as a result of voting against Obama’s gun control bill. In that poll, Democrats were over represented by a whopping 9 percent, women were over-represented by 12 percent, and the firm just couldn’t figure out the nonpartisan/Alaska Independent Party thing.

They got it a little better on this one. But the sampling error is still way off. Dems in this poll are over represented by six percent, women by 10 percent, and the ages are all screwy. The numbers show it.

Hellethall’s poll was conducted for a private citizen who is not involved in any of the races.

Here’s a few examples of how Hellenthal’s poll numbers compare with PPP’s:

  • Begich has 60 percent approval and 24 percent disapproval rating. Prior to the gun control vote, Hellenthal had Begich at a 53 percent positive and 35 percent negative. In other words, Begich’s vote helped him enormously, which is in direct contradiction to what PPP reported.
  • Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has a 30 percent positive approval rating, a 16 percent negative rating, 30 percent had never heard of him, and the remaining are neutral about him. PPP reported a 29 percent unfavorable rating.
  • As for unannounced Senate candidate (DNR Commissioner) Dan Sullivan: PPP has his negatives at 28 percent, which is absurdly high for a commissioner. Hellenthal didn’t poll him, but the only thing that could figure is that people are confusing Commish Sullivan with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.
  • Gov. Sean Parnell’s approval rating is 57percent positive and 26 percent negative.PPP has those numbers at 44 percent and 42 percent respectively.
  • Both Hellenthal’s poll and PPP’s poll show that Democratic Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Hollis French would have a way to go in name recognition if either chooses to run for governor.
  • Rep. Don Young’s wetback comment didn’t seem to hurt him much. He’s got a 56 percent positive and 28 percent negative approval rating. PPP has Young at 47 percent approval 43 percent disapproval rating.

PPP didn’t poll on her, but another interesting finding from Hellenthal is Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s numbers. According to Hellenthal, she is the most liked politician in the state with a whopping 69-24 approval/disapproval rating. This number might just quell the squirrels who are chirping that Murkowski is so unpopular that she’s not going to run again in 2016.

Another pollster in Alaska, Matt Larkin, who has taken over for long-time Republican pollster Dave Dittman, declined to take on the PPP poll, saying that he didn’t want to get into the back and forth of who was a better pollster. He did say that generally bad polls “undermine the integrity of the whole field.”

He also reminded me how wrong PPP got the 2010 Senate race. In the last poll PPP conducted before the vote, it had Scott McAdams tied with Lisa Murkowski. It showed that Miller would take it by 7 points. On election night, Murkowski had 40 percent of the vote. Miller got about 35 percent and McAdams 23 percent.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Thank God it’s Friday: The shut the f#%k up edition

Thank God it's Friday facts Wednesday was not the best day for Wilda Laughlin, the legislative liaison for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. In fact, it might be forever remembered as “F-bomb Wednesday.” As many in the state knows by now, Laughlin thought her phone was on mute when she was listening to a House Finance Committee hearing on the department. The hearing was not going well. Legislators were getting frustrated by the lack of answers to their questions. And as legislators are wont to do, they didn’t hide their frustration.

In the middle of a scolding of the department by Chugiak Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze, Laughlin blurted out over the phone, “shut the f#%k up.”

After a long silence, Stoltze recovered gracefully. It’s unclear, however, if Laughlin will, which might seem unfair. The political arena is full of “hot mic” gaffes, and many have committed more serious ones than hers, both inside and Outside. The difference, however, is that Laughlin’s fate is left up to bureaucrats, who tend to be less forgiving than voters. And of course, she is a she and people tend to be less than sympathetic to foul-mouthed women than they are to men.

Below are some more well known “hot mic” mistakes made by both Alaskans and national figures. Some of them were punished for their mistakes. Others, mostly men, were forgiven.

  • Dan Fauske, the director of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, once called the Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Frank a “moron,” after a private telephone conference, when he thought the line was dead. Fauske is now the state’s highest paid worker.
  • During the Hickel administration and the huge retroactive back tax fight, there was a teleconference between BP officials and the Speaker of the House Ramona Barnes, who was supporting the industry’s position. She changed her mind quickly after someone from BP called her a “bitch.” He assumed the line was dead. It wasn’t. The mistake looked like it might cost BP billions. However, after an extensive lobbying session, Barnes calmed down, resumed her pro-industry stance and saved BP billions.
  • In South Korea following a 90-minute meeting between Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, journalists overheard Obama tell Medvedev, on a hot mic, to give him “space” on missile defense, saying, “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility.”
  • During his 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush called New York Times reporter Adam Clymer a “major league asshole” just before a campaign speech to Vice-President Dick Cheney, whose response “big time” was also said on a hot mic.
  • Before a Fox-News interview in 2008, a hot mic picked up Jesse Jackson telling a fellow guest that because Obama was talking down to black people, he wanted to “cut his nuts off.”
  • In October 2010, a voice-mail was accidentally left on Joe Miller’s spokesperson’s cellphone. The voices belonged to KTVA reporters, who were discussing a Miller campaign event. At the event, could they find a registered sex offender, they wondered? Will there be violence? And if so, how best to publicize it? Though even Fox News said that there was no bias in the stories that the station produced, two producers were fired after Sarah Palin got involved, calling them, not so originally, “corrupt bastards.”
  • Speaking of corrupt bastards. Who could ever forget oilman Bill Allen getting caught on tape telling former legislator Pete Kott that he “owns his ass?” Or former Rep. Vic Kohring, who is now running for Wasilla City council, all but begging Allen for money for his child’s Easter eggs?
  • Speaking of sex offenders? Unfortunately, there was never a hot mic moment when Bill Allen was allegedly having sex with teenagers in his hot tub.
  • Speaking of animals and Sarah Palin: Everything was going fine. Thanksgiving 2010 was right around the corner. It was a beautiful day and the turkey was pardoned. The trouble started, as it’s likely to start with Palin, when she decided to give an interview to a local TV station. As she spoke about freedom, this great country, blah, blah, the camera focused in on a worker in the background, shoving turkeys neck first into a grinder. That’s not quite a hot mic moment, but anytime a writer can get animals and Sarah Palin into the same paragraph, he or she should stretch to make it work.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


The session that dismantled Palin’s legacy

It took awhile to purge Gov. Sarah Palin. It took longer than people expected. After all, what could one governor do to a state in less than two years?  Ask those who are busy in Juneau dismantling her two big initiatives, ones that she ran on as a vice presidential candidate: oil taxes and her attempt to incentivizing the building of a large natural gas pipeline.

Palin, for better or for worse, was an active governor at a time when the public was ready for action. As most know, she swooped in on the heels of what appeared at the time to be an Alaska-sized corruption scandal. She swooped in on the heels of a split in the Republican Party between the more urban chamber of commerce Republicans and their more ideological brethren. She swooped in during record high oil prices. She swooped in as the first female governor. And swooped with the public firmly on her side.

That gave her a lot of leverage to do big things, for what at the time seemed to many like really good reasons. She pounded the oil industry with a huge tax increase, and she passed law to get a large diameter natural pipeline built by sidestepping the industry. Now Palin in the rear-view mirror, oil production on the decline, and a large diameter pipe dream once again sound asleep within the arms of the industry–those so-called good ideas don’t seem so great anymore.

None of the alternatives are perfect — any policy in reaction to another piece of policy won’t be — particularly ones that’s been leveraged on the state. More specifically, the oil tax revamp probably gives too much away to the big producers — ConocoPhillips, BP and Exxon. It will likely result in budget deficits before production increases, if production does indeed increase. And it has, once again, showed how weak the state has become by allowing itself to be nearly completely dependent on oil revenue. (It should be noted that if oil prices drop, which many predict, this bill gives the state more protection than current law.)

And then there’s House Bill 4 which will facilitate the development of a small diameter pipeline running from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska. The bill provides funding to bring the project to open season, at which time the economics will dictate if it makes sense, or at least tell us what kind of state dollar infusion it will need. In other words, it’s not a done deal yet, but it’s a big statement that the big dream of a big pipeline is all but dead, as is Palin’s big pipeline plan, AGIA.

HB 4 too is less than perfect and it only passed in tandem with, SB 23, the LNG trucking bill, which has its own problems. The plan to truck LNG to Fairbanks is just a band aid. Everyone knows that, and an expensive one at that. There are likely cheaper, more efficient ways to help solve Fairbanks’ energy crisis. But state leadership is so weak, ideas have been put off for so long, it’s the only short-term, politically palatable solution left.

In any case, no matter the flaws in the bills, this legislative session put the last nail in the Palin-regime coffin. And she’ll never again be able to point to what she did in Alaska to further any political aspirations she has left.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com