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'Frugged' By The Republican National Committee

Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele addresses a meeting of state party chairmen May 20, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Chip Somodevilla
Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele addresses a meeting of state party chairmen May 20, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland.

It happened to me a few days ago and was totally unexpected. There, in my daily mail stack of incredibly boring bills, coupon offers, and disgustingly early holiday catalogues, was a goldenrod envelope, addressed to me and warning me in large-font bold letters: “DO NOT DESTROY.” The Republican National Committee had sent me, according to the return address, the 2009 Obama Agenda Survey.

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I am not a Republican nor a Democrat nor a Libertarian nor do I belong to any political party. I am nonpartisan, undeclared, independent. But I was happy to weigh in on the president’s plans. After reading the list of 15 questions which allowed me a yes, no, or no opinion answer, I knew this was a ruse. In brief, the survey questions were weighted, and, in some cases, misleading and distorted. The accompanying letter from the national chairman was overflowing with skewed information meant to rile me enough so that I would open my wallet for the Republican Party.

So I called respected local pollster, John Nienstedt, president of Competitive Edge Research and Communication, who conducts polls for Republican causes. John told me I had been "frugged." Frugging is the professional pollsters’ acronym of sorts for fund raising under the guise of opinion research. There is also "sugging" or "soliciting under the guise of opinion research." Then there is push polling, the phone caller who appears to want your opinion and then turns out to be pushing a certain point of view. I think of this as “pugging” (my construction) or "propagandizing under the guise of opinion research."

As the campaign season advances into full bloom in 2010, the hot issues such as health care, medical marijuana, and same sex marriage will spring to prominence, nourished by polarized partisans. And we’ll see the frugs, sugs, and pugs multiply like dandelions. Professional trade groups such as the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the American Association of Political Consultants may frown on such questionable practices. But since their strongest sanction seems to be the censure, the most effective discouragement needs to come from the person who opens the goldenrod envelope or picks up the phone and says “no, thanks.”

Following are some of the questions from the 2009 Obama Agenda Survey by the Republican National Committee:

1. Do you agree with Obama’s budget plan that will lead to a $23.1 trillion deficit over the next ten years?

2. Do you believe the federal government has gone too far in bailing out failing banks, insurance companies and the auto industry?

3. Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?

4. Should English be the official language of the U.S.?

5. Are you in favor of granting retroactive Social Security eligibility to illegal immigrants who gain US citizenship through an amnesty program?

6. Are you in favor of the expanded welfare benefits and unlimited eligibility (no time, education or work requirements) that Democrats in Congress are pushing to pass?

7. Do you believe that Obama’s nominees for fed. Courts should immediately and unquestionably be approved for their lifetime appointments by the US Senate?

8. Do you believe the best way to increase the quality and effectiveness of public education in the US is to rapidly expand federal funding while eliminating performance standards and accountability?

9. Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington, DC?

10. Do you believe the quality and availability of health care will increase if the federal government dictates pricing to doctors and hospitals?