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Despite attacks, bill targeting 'push polls' advances

Published February 15, 2013 5:01 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Surviving claims that it may hurt freedom of speech and legitimate survey companies, a Senate committee endorsed a bill Friday designed to slow down a dirty campaign tactic called "push polling" that aims to sway — not measure — public opinion.

The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee voted 5-1 to endorse HB44, which would require any surveys about elections or candidates to disclose who paid for the poll.

Its sponsor, House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said that would help residents have an idea who may be behind fake polls that ask loaded questions such as, "If you knew that candidate A was a scoundrel, would you be more or less likely to vote for him." He said legitimate polls would not be hurt by disclosing — after questioning — who paid for them.

But since that bill passed the House, some polling firms have intensified attacks on it.

Brian Chapman, managing director of BCR Political, a polling company, said it would hurt legitimate companies in two ways. It could spread word that a candidate is conducting a poll, which could taint how others answer as it continues in the field. It also lets people who ask the questions know who is funding it, which could alter — even unintentionally — the tone and way they ask questions.

Marina Lowe, an ACLU attorney, said the bill could be an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. She said courts allow forcing disclosures of funding only when they may affect elections — which she said push polling does, but not legitimate polling.

Hughes said defining push polling is difficult, so he is seeking disclosure of who funds all polls. He argues that his bill is not much different than requiring disclosure of political donors.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it could receive final passage and be sent to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.




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