They're usually targeted to audiences that share the ideology of the commissioner. Some are genuinely intended to take the pulse of the people. Many of them are designed to get you to give money to the cause, in which case there's a beg at the end. Others aspire to gather data that will support their agenda.
A few weeks ago, J-Street, that self-defined "progressive alternative to AIPAC," commissioned a poll that I expect fits into the latter category (I doubt it had a beg). Among other things, it asked American Jews to rate the popularity of various political and quasi-political figures like, for example, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Pastor John Hagee. That part has gotten a bit more publicity than the rest, no doubt due to the efforts of J-Street itself.
According to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, Lieberman scored an unfavorable rating of 48 percent, compared to a favorable rating of 37 percent.
Hagee, the leading right-wing Christian Zionist whose endorsement of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) triggered a firestorm earlier this year, fared even worse: The pastor registered a 7 percent favorable rating, while his unfavorables came in at 57 percent.
The poll was based on interviews with 800 Jewish respondents between June 29 and July 3.
At least Hagee did better than the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But not by much.
J-Street has helpfully published the raw data for the poll and it's illuminating in so many ways. It provides insight into J-Street's agenda (in case you didn't know it already).
Q.6 Generally speaking, do you think that things in this country are going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?
It offers a pretty frightening glimpse into the opinions of what, I'm afraid, is a fairly representative segment of the American Jewish Left.
Q.32 Below are some pairs of statements. After reading each pair, please mark whether the FIRST statement or the SECOND statement comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right.
Q.41 Israel is more secure as a result of George Bush's presidency because this president understood that Israel's struggle is part of the war on terror, provided unwavering support for Israel, and removed Saddam Hussein.
Israel is less secure as a result of George Bush's presidency because America is militarily stuck in Iraq, we have less credibility and influence across the Middle East and Iran has become a stronger regional power.
And it supplies a magnificent example of how a poll can be used to shape public sentiment, as well as to assess it.
[400 Respondents] Q.35 (SPLIT A) Israel needs all the support it can get and it does not matter who lobbies the US government in support of Israel.
If right wing Christian Zionists are the most vocal lobbyists for Israel and set the agenda, they will lead America's Middle East policy in the wrong direction.
[400 Respondents] Q.36 (SPLIT B) Israel needs all the support it can get and it does not matter who lobbies the US government in support of Israel, even if they have their own agenda.
Israel needs all the support it can get, but we send the wrong message when Jewish organizations form alliances with right wing Christian Zionists who have their own agenda.
And then there's the stuff that's just downright dishonest. Let me be clear. I'm not a big fan of Hagee or CUFI. I find a large number of his positions and statements to be offensive and I don't trust his agenda. But that's a different issue and questions like this are just a cheap smear tactic.
Q.74 Below are some more facts and statements about Reverend John Hagee of Christians United for Israel. Please mark whether you think these facts and statements are CONVINCING REASONS TO OPPOSE forming alliances with Reverend Hagee and Christians United for Israel?That "quote" from Hagee is a cobbling together of parts of several statements he's made. Had they put a period after "certainty," it would have been an accurate representation (e.g., here). But J-Street is not about accuracy. It's the agenda, stupid.
[400 Respondents] Q.75 (SPLIT A) Reverend Hagee says, "the coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty and will lead to Armageddon and the second coming of Christ." To bring this about, Hagee has said Iran's President is the new Hitler and Hagee has made Israel the centerpiece of his campaign for America to go to war with Iran.
A final note. They didn't do so well on this set of questions.
[400 Respondents]Q.39 (SPLIT A) Established Jewish organizations like AIPAC do a good job of representing my views on Israel.They were looking for a vindication of their raison d'être there, for a vote of no-confidence against AIPAC and "traditional Jewish organizations." They didn't get it.
Established Jewish organizations like AIPAC do a poor job of representing my views on Israel.
[400 Respondents]Q.40 (SPLIT B) The traditional Jewish organizations do a good job of representing my views on Israel.
The traditional Jewish organizations do a poor job of representing my views on Israel.
Go see for yourself.