I have a few thoughts on The Forum's Aug. 31st story about Measure 3. To avoid burying the lead, here's the main one, right up top: The president of the company that created the legalization poll is Kevin Cramer's US Senate campaign manager.
There's more. Have a seat.
First of all, as a general rule, be wary of polls. By choosing who you ask a question, and how, you can make any poll look the way you want it to.
Secondly, let's take a gander at some numbers. The poll consisted of 400 hundred people. The state population as of 2017 is 755,393. This means the people polled account for 0.05 percent of the state population.
Thirdly, according to Odney, the company who did the poll, 60 percent of those 400 people were polled by landline, the rest by cell phone. Meaning that, of the 400 people who were asked, 240 of them were asked by landline. Take a moment and think of every person you know who has a landline. I'd wager that number is well below 240. Take it a step further and think of what age group and political affiliation the landline users you know fall into. The majority of the people asked to answer this poll fall into those categories.
Fourthly, always know who is creating the poll. This particular one was created by Odney, a marketing firm from Bismarck. Not a government agency, not anything official, not a journalist...a marketing firm. Marketing is about making sure the message you and your client want is the one the public sees.
The very first sentence you'll read on Odney's homepage is this: "In the business of persuasion, it's good to be creative." For real.
The president of Odney is a man named Pat Finken. You may know that name, you may not. Finken is Cramer's campaign manager. He's also, at Odney, employed former tax commissioner Cory Fong (Republican), and is a "family friend" (Finken's words) of current state tax commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger (Republican). He also donated $5,000 to Rauschenberger's campaign circa 2014.
So, it's not hard to extrapolate that Odney, who takes pride in their ability to be creative in the business of persuasion, has created this poll to make it appear that North Dakota's residents are opposed to legalization, either independently or, more likely, at the behest of the Republican party. It's certainly not going to make Cramer look very good to his Republican brethren in Washington if North Dakota legalizes marijuana, so Odney has real motivation to prevent it from passing.
But, you may ask, how does this poll help stop marijuana's legalization? Quite simply, it's meant to demoralize supporters. If we learned anything in the 2016 presidential election it's that voter apathy is maybe the most powerful political tool there is. So if you're a legalization supporter you're more likely to toss up your hands and say, "Well I guess that dream's dead" and not even bother voting in November. And if you're on the fence on the issue, you're naturally more likely to subconsciously gravitate to the perceived winning side.
Always check your facts. Polls are often advertisements in disguise. Vote.
Wells lives in Fargo.