UPDATE: On the We Ask America Illinois Polls

So a new pollster, We Ask America, has been running some gaudy numbers for Republican candidates and issues.  They released a slew of Illinois House polls with the following results:

IL-08 – Walsh (R) 38, Bean (D) 38

IL-10 – Seals (D) 40, Dold (R) 37

IL-11 – Kinzinger (R) 42, Halvorson (D) 30

IL-14 – Hultgren (R) 38, Foster (D) 36

IL-17 – Hare (D) 39, Schilling (R) 32

So here’s the rub.  We Ask America has Obama approval at 47-50 … IN ILLINOIS!!!


Rasmussen had Obama approval in Illinois at 56-44 on March 10, just one day before We Ask America’s 47-50 finding.  The pollster.com average NATIONWIDE is 48-48.  Illinois was 20 points more Democratic than the nation as a whole in 2008, so if we crudely extrapolate that, we get 58-38 Obama approval in Illinois.

But let’s take Rasmussen’s 56-44 approval rating, which is 15 POINTS better than We Ask America’s 47-50 in Illinois, and (again crudely) reconfigure the We Ask America polls:

IL-08 – Bean (D) 46, Walsh (R) 31

IL-10 – Seals (D) 48, Dold (R) 30

IL-11 – Halvorson (D) 38, Kinzinger (R) 35

IL-14 – Foster (D) 44, Hultgren (R) 31

IL-17 – Hare (D) 47, Schilling (R) 25

Seems more realistic to me given the probable differences in name recognition.  IL-11 is a close race, and the others are competitive – incumbents (and Seals who has run twice before) below 50%, with the challengers needing to play catchup in the name recongition department.

Kinzinger is an impressive candidate, and it would not surprise me if he is polling close with Halvorson.  But up 12?  Halvorson won an open seat by 20+% in 2008 and has represented a largely overlapping State Senate district for years.

If you look on the We Ask America website, they are also running some daunting healthcare numbers for members who voted yes, with roughly 60% or more of people in swing districts being more likely to vote against the incumbent for the “yes” vote.  I would love to know We Ask America’s Obama approval numbers in those districts.

I am not writing to disparage We Ask America.  I know nothing about them.  I have expressed my concerns about Rasmussen before, but I am even more concerned about new pollsters coming out of the woodwork and creating favorable narratives for one party.  I am reminded of the gaudy numbers for Scott Brown from Pajamas Media and Merriman River Group during his election, not to necessarily disparage either of those outfits either.  I just cannot remember this phenomenon happening in previous cycles.  In previous cycles, we seemed to get fairly consistent and credible polling information from a narrow group of seemingly reliable pollsters.

Something feels wrong here.  Certainly, polling seems very different and more partisan than it ever has before.  I hope that people with more expertise and bigger soapboxes than me will continue to vet these pollsters carefully and call them out if something is amiss.  

What I do know is that Obama at 47-50 approval in Illinois is embarrassingly inconsistent with all of the other information out there.  It would probably put Obama’s nationwide approval into the 30’s.  Things are tough for the Democrats, but they’re not that tough.

UPDATE: So I did some research on the identity of We Ask America.  Its website only discloses that it is a division of “Xpress Professional Services, Inc.”  But it does not tell the reader what exactly that means, which turns out to be quite significant.

Xpress Professional Services, Inc. is a subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, which is an anti-union, anti-tax, and anti-Health Care Reform industry advocacy organization.  

Its CEO is Greg Baise, who was a 1990 Republican candidate for Treasurer, losing to Pat Quinn by 11%.  He is also Treasurer of the Economic Freedom Alliance, which has targeted Democrat Bill Foster with advertising labeling him as a “job killer” for his support of card check legislation.

Its COO is Gregg Durham, a former spokesman for the Illinois Republican House Caucus and Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka.  

The bottom line is that this is a partisan Republican pollster and an arm of the pro-business Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.  There is nothing wrong with being a Republican pollster or being an arm of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.  However, there is something wrong with the half-ass disclosure on the website of an affiliation with “Xpress Professional Services, Inc.,” which could be anything, instead of a full disclosure of the direct link to the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association and its Republican principals.

Here are two local Illinois news articles on We Ask America’s ties: