Clout Research is back; and their latest Oregon poll has some issues

Clout Research has as spotty history, specifically in Oregon. I’ve written repeatedly about their many issues. I’ll briefly summarize for anyone who isn’t aware:

  • Clout Research is a rebrand of the polling firm Wenzel Strategies. This pollster was notorious for being wrong. They had an especially horrific record in 2012.
  • Clout scored a C in FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings (that’s up from the C- they garnered several years ago).
  • Clout has made two Oregon claims that were beyond wrong and were known to be so at the time the claims were made. First, Clout claimed Donald Trump was ahead of Hillary Clinton in Oregon 44.5% to 42.3% in May of 2016. 2. They released a poll showed Bud Pierce nearly tied with Kate Brown (44% for Brown to 42% for Pierce). Both of these polls have long since disappeared from Clout’s website. I was fortunate to have obtained copies elsewhere.

Clout’s latest poll on cap and trade is an interesting exercise — first, some simple background on polling.

A poll of a legislative district should have something like 300 respondents or more to achieve a margin of error +/- 5% or less. This calculation is a bit complex but can be seen using SurveyMonkey’s simple sample size calculator.

Clout has done something unfortunate in their latest poll. They claim to have surveyed the following four Oregon Senate districts for their opinions on Climate Change and resulting legislation: Senate Districts 1, 5, 12, and 16.

Their claim appears correct, but if we dig a bit deeper, we’ll see it is ultimately flawed. If Clout had done what they claimed, they would have essentially commissioned four polls. Each of these polls would have required a minimum 300 registered voter sample size (300 sample size * 4 districts = 1200 total sample size). Why didn’t they do this? The simple answer is that the cost of conducting four polls is more significant than conducting one.

So what did Clout actually do? Clout conducted a regional poll — of Costal Oregon —that while technically covering four Senate Districts, produces results that don’t represent any of the districts surveyed. If they conducted and released results for each of the four districts, you would see different numbers in each. The poll only tells us what all four of them think as a group, but not how they will vote in statewide or local elections. 

Only one of the four Senate districts even comes close to the political makeup of the poll overall. This presents another question the survey doesn’t answer. Why was Senate District 12 included at all?

Senate District 12 (represented by Republican Brian Boquist) has a voter registration that matches very closely to the overall poll: GOP 33% to DEM 31%. I find the inclusion of SD 12 in the poll suspect to begin with since this district doesn’t represent anything most people would consider coastal areas. SD 12 includes parts of Hillsboro, Dallas, Sheridan, and rural Benton County.

Unfortunately, it appears the reason this poll exists isn’t to be accurate. The poll itself tells us that in Question 10: 

Rural legislators are facing pressure from special interest groups to vote yes on a carbon tax, even though it could have a disproportionate impact on their communities due to higher gas and utility costs, and potential job losses in the timber industry. If you could tell your lawmaker right now how you’d like them to vote on a carbon tax, how would you tell them to vote?

Clout Research Poll — Jan. 24th, 2019

It appears the poll exists to convince each of the Senators that their respective districts oppose cap and trade legislation. However, since the significant flaw of the poll is that there are only 150 respondents per district, it doesn’t really even do that correctly. Breaking down these results on a per district basis means the margin of error in each district would increase to 8%. And even if we wanted to break down the data on a per district basis, Clout doesn’t release the crosstabs that would be necessary for us to see that information.

I’ve heard good things about the accuracy of Clout’s internal polling. Unfortunately, their public polling is all we have to judge them on. Clout Research continues to provide — at best — questionable results in Oregon.

The poll appears to be paid for by Unified Business Oregon.

Reagan Knopp is the Editor in Chief of Oregon Catalyst and a conservative political consultant.