Several weeks ago, I ignited a controversy by pointing toward statistical evidence that Strategic Vision, LLC, a Blairsville, Georgia based public relations firm that until recently had issued political polls, may have been faking its results. Strategic Vision vehemently denied my interpretation of the evidence and made public threats to sue me. But no lawyer has contacted me, and in fact, Strategic Vision has not conducted any further public polling since that time.
The firm’s last poll was issued on September 24th — one day before the controversy arose. It was a poll of the governor’s race and other contests in New Jersey, a state which Strategic Vision has polled frequently for many years, including on 4/22, 6/24, 7/22 and 9/24 of this year. And yet, even as the race drew closer and began to receive widespread national attention, Strategic Vision did not issue any fresh polling. This contrasts with previous patterns in which they had accelerated their polling schedule prior to elections, including the previous gubernatorial election in New Jersey in 2005 when Strategic Vision issued its final poll of the contest on November 2nd of that year.
Strategic Vision’s CEO, David E. Johnson, was interviewed by the Washington Times about the Virginia gubernatorial race in late October. And Strategic Vision has issued a couple of press releases on matters unrelated to politics; on October 16th, for instance, they issued a press release to announce that they would be “offering people within the toy industry free thirty-minute consultations to jumpstart their marketing and publicity efforts for the holidays and Toy Fair 2010.” But in general, they’ve had very little public presence over the past several weeks.
One of the facts that may be significant here is that it appears that polling has never been Strategic Vision’s main source of income. A search of Congressional Quarterly’s Moneyline database sent to me by DavidNYC of Swing State Project turned up just $5,795 in disbursements to Strategic Vision from committees and candidates for federal office since 2004. All came in 2004 from Mike Crotts, a former candidate in Georgia’s 8th Congressional District, and none were for polling — instead, the expenditures were marked as being for website design and advertising. By contrast, the prolific and well-regarded Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies had more than $20 million in disbursements over the same period, covering more than 220 clients.
Now, Strategic Vision has clearly gotten some business from polling clients — the aforementioned series of surveys they did for the Friedman Foundation, for instance. And the CQ Moneyline database will not cover gubernatorial candidates or candidates for other state and local offices. Strategic Vision claims on its website to have conducted polling on behalf of candidates for the U.S. Senate in Kansas and Florida, and candidates for the U.S. House in FL-13 and GA-8, but the identities of the candidates are not specified. An e-mail sent to David E. Johnson inquiring whether the CQ Moneyline database accurately reflected the limited scope of their polling for federal candidates was not returned. In any event, their client list appears to be rather limited, especially when compared with the volume of public polling that Strategic Vision has released, which by its own estimation would have cost it a couple million dollars had it actually been conducted.
The reason this might be relevant is that it may give Strategic Vision more incentive to essentially adopt a “duck-and-cover” strategy and make a quiet exit from the polling business. If Strategic Vision were more dependent on polling clients for its revenues, then it would probably have wanted to make a more vigorous effort to defend its reputation. But in light of their unwillingness or inability to do so, it appears they may have concluded that releasing additional public polling would only invite renewed scrutiny and further damage their reputation. In other words, they may have decided to cut their losses and focus on their original line of business in public relations, presumably hoping that prospective clients in the toy manufacturing or literary services businesses are far enough removed from the political world that they won’t care about the possibility that Strategic Vision has faked some or all of their polls.