Communication Consultants in Political Campaigns: Ballot Box Warriors

By Robert V. Friedenberg | Go to book overview

dium tax backers identify their strongest argument, the economic impact of the stadiums on the community, and the voters who were initially least responsive to that argument, women. Moreover, polls and focus groups helped to identify the individual best positioned to make this argument, Mayor Roxanne Qualls. When the campaign shifted its advertising to make use of Qualls to voice the economic argument, polls illustrated that this strategy change was working. When an unexpected event impacted dramatically on the campaign, Marge Schott's ill-timed comments that gave new life to opposition charges that the taxes were little more than a public gift to a big business, polls indicated the effect of that event, and suggested a possible resolution, that the public wanted to see the team make a commitment to Cincinnati, as well as Cincinnati make a commitment to the team. Those same polls helped motivate Bengals owner Mike Brown to do just that in the form of a $25 million pledge toward the stadiums. When ads featuring that pledge were combined with those featuring Mayor Qualls, polls illustrated that the new strategy was working. In sum, at every critical step of the way, polls were involved in this campaign.

As this case study has indicated, polling is essential in political campaigns. Throughout the remainder of this book we will examine the communication practices of a wide variety of political consultants: speech and debate coaches; narrowcast media consultants who use demographic data to direct phone banks and direct mail; consultants who specialize in using newspapers and radio; and of course, consultants who focus their efforts on harnessing television on behalf of their political clients. In well-run campaigns, to no small degree, the efforts of virtually all of these consultants are affected by polling.


NOTES
1.
Quoted in Andrea Spring, "Alan Secrest: All in the Numbers," Campaigns and Elections ( October/November 1993): 61.
2.
Frank Luntz, Candidates, Consultants, and Campaigns ( Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 1988), p. 15.
3.
For background on the first crude survey research conducted in the United States, as well as additional details concerning the 1824 newspaper poll discussed in this paragraph, see Charles W. Roll Jr., and Albert H. Cantril, Polls: Their Use and Misuse in Politics ( New York: Basic Books, 1972), pp. 6-8.
4.
See Susan Herbst, Numbered Voices: How Opinion Polling Has Shaped American Politics ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 69-89 for a history of the use of straw polls in nineteenth-century American newspapers.
5.
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The National Experience ( New York: Vintage Books, 1965), p. 140. Boorstin quotes a British traveler who observed that this method of measuring the strength of the parties was "most imperfect."

-63-

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