Another R2K Smoking Gun: Bargain Basement Pricing

In my previous post on Kos and Research 2000 I noted how weird it was that Kos could afford to commission dozens of campaign polls given that by (his own admission) he runs a low seven-figure operation and the polls are likely far from his main traffic driver -- though I'm sure they don't hurt eyeballs-wise.  

I put this question to a pollster, who said R2K's claimed methodology and the likely cost of doing such polls legitimately raised immediate red flags. The pollster pointed me to this massive, 2000-person survey limited to Republicans back from January, commenting thusly: 

Take, for instance, their large January 2010 survey aimed at proving Republicans were all kooks.  They did a sample of about 2000 Republicans - a totally absurd sample size, most pollsters wouldn't in good conscience have a client pursue a survey of that size unless they had microtargeting aims and really needed a lot of subsample detail.  Unless you really, really want a big sample for the smaller cells (say, you want 100 interviews from female Hispanic Republicans age 18-34) there's no reason to do a survey of that size.  1000 interviews will do for a national. Sometimes we go up to 1250 with our bigger clients who really need that level of detail on a few key subsamples.  The difference in margin of error from 1000 (+/- 3.1%) and 2000 (about +/- 2%) is not a huge deal, not worth spending 2x as much on a poll.

Now, even weirder, it is just of Republicans, AND it wasn't done from a listed sample.  When you want to do a survey of, say, primary voters in a statewide, a listed/voter file sample is a totally acceptable practice because the alternative is unbelievably costly.  Think about it - not only did they call 2000 people, but they randomly dialed people, and turned away anyone who didn't identify as a Republican.  This will crush your incidence rate (meaning the number of folks who pick up the phone who are eligible to take the survey) and send costs through the roof.  We're talking at least tripling the costs.  

A survey of the length of that January 2010 survey, about 25 short-ish questions, plus a handful of demographics, is probably about a 10 minute questionnaire (I'm just eyeballing it and assuming an introductory statement and guessing on the # of demos asked, I could be off by a few minutes).  Fielding a 10 minute questionnaire to 1000 registered voters is going to run you in the $25-30 range.  Fielding a 10 minute questionnaire to 2000 voters? Probably 45-55.  But with the crazy drop in incidence caused by the Republican screener?  That survey could not have been done for less than six figures.  Period.  

Remember now that Research 2000 never claimed to be a robo-polling outfit. They claimed they did live interviews. And most polls are of likely voters, not registered voters. More screening means more cost. As far as what R2K claimed was its methodology, we're pretty much talking the Cadillac in terms of what the polls should cost. 

So, the question is did Kos really pay high five-figures, or low-six figures, for a single poll to drive eyeballs to one or two blog posts to prove Republicans are nuts? Huh?

I'm guessing no. I'm guessing R2K sold it to him for far less, say $10,000? And anyone with a rudimentary understanding of polling would have known you can't do a poll like this for that amount of money. So the question now is what this says about what Kos should have known about this. Is he so rich he can drop 100K on a single poll to drive a single day's news cycle -- something not even the major networks would do? Is he simply gullible? Or was he negligent in not checking out what what I can only guess were R2K's absurd price quotes compared to live operator pollsters? 

It wasn't just (relatively) deep-pocketed new media sources like Daily Kos who were spending money on Research 2000 polls. R2K did polling for state-level liberal blogs like Blue Mass Group in the run up to the Massachusetts special election. On January 14, R2K produced a poll showing Coakley with an 8-point lead (while other polls were showing Brown pulling ahead), and in touting the "good" news, Blue Mass Group proudly noted that "Research 2000 does live interviews, unlike robo-pollsters Rasmussen and PPP." My polling source had this response: 

A simple ballot test and a handful of demographics wouldn't be very long.  But even if that was only a 4 minute survey, you're still talking at least at least 6-8 grand for the raw interviewing costs without any additional markup. 

Did a Massachusetts progressive blog pay more than $6,000 for a top-of-the-line survey when maybe a half dozen other pollsters were polling the race by that point? Really? This begs the question of what Blue Mass Group really paid. And what did Kos really pay? And if the numbers are within what seems like their modest budgets (by mainstream media standards), it should have raised red flags if they did any shopping around for other pollsters. 

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RE: "And what did Kos really pay?"

 

Kos, by unceremoniously firing R2K and by later suing it, doesn't seem to be motivated by an intention to hide his financial dealings with the polling firm,  whose revelations, if your suspcions and math are right, might make him look like an even bigger fool (and possibly nail him as an inadverdent accomplice in the fraud).

Since the bluemassgroup comissioned only one(?) R2K poll, i wouldn't consider this a strong evidence to the basement pricing theory either.

 

 

One of the AWOL owners have been sighted!

Pause for a moment and think about all of the events currently unfolding and all of the issues that surround us. And then ponder the fact that the owners of this site have, effectively, gone AWOL. And then suddenly the DK/R2K affair (which, by the way, Kos is handling with aplomb) prompts TWO posts from Ruffini in two days. I guess there is nothing else going on that piques your interest?

I'm sure it only a matter of time before you shut this embarrassment down "in order to spend more time with your family", but before you do, could you offer your thoughts on why Republicans are happy only when operating in closed, controlled environments where no one ever challenges the prevailing orthodoxy?

Gee, A John Smith "The Economy is Growing" sighting WOW

Give us some more Lofty Future predictions to go with this R2K story, we have missed your stupidity for the last two weeks.

You must have been out growing the Economy with Pelosi and Friends. Nice work, The DOW Jones keeps Passing 10,000 over and over again, its got another 300 pts to go this Qtr and it will be 10000 AGAIN !

UPDATE on Kos/R2K financial dealings...

 

 

Latest from Nate Silver:

Kos Legal Filing Raises Further Questions about Research 2000

 

Via the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, Daily Kos has followed through on its plans to sue Research 2000 for what it alleges to be misrepresentation and fraud; a copy of their complaint can be found here.The bulk of the complaint consists of legal boilerplate or charges which have already been made publicly. However, there is also a new set of facts that raises potential red flags about the financial terms of the deal. It concerns Research 2000's willingness to provide Daily Kos with a substantial amount of "free" polling, in exchange for modifying the payment terms.

[...]

Again, the dollar figures surmised here are hypothetical, although the proportions are the most important thing. If, for instance, Research 2000's polling was twice as expensive as I hypothesized, or twice as cheap, it would still be incredibly generous to increase the amount of polling you were doing by 40 percent, in exchange for receiving some fraction of the payment a few months earlier. If the facts are as Daily Kos has alleged, then, this is another troubling set of circumstances for Research 2000.By the way, the absolute amount that Daily Kos was paying for the polls is not immaterial. There is a threshold below which it would have been physically impossible for Research 2000 to conduct the volume of polls it claims to have been conducting; traditional telephone polls are fairly labor-intensive, and call center operators can only work so fast, even if they are working for not much more than minimum wage. Daily Kos did not detail the overall cost of the polling in its complaint, but it is possible that those figures themselves would raise red flags. (EDIT: Patrick Ruffini has made a similar point).

Also:

Is Research 2000 Merely Mangling Its Data -- Rather Than Fabricating It?

 

Its a Global Economy

Given the name Delair Ali and the repeated comments on the bad grammar, I'm not sure that it can be discounted that Ali may be using overseas call centers and/or bringing in relatives from overseas to do the call work for him which would lower his costs significantly.

I'm obviously assuming a lot by the name, but these practices would be common among people of Indian or Pakistani ancestry.

I'm also not sure one outlier poll in Massachusettes makes the case for fraud either, as one would expect there to be outlier polls.  A lack of outlier polls would be an indicator of fraud.  If he was making up numbers, wouldn't he pick numbers a bit closer to the other polling firms?

I agree though that this all seems to be about Kos choosing a bargain basement polling firm and getting spotty results, though it would seem to be easy to find out how much Kos paid for these polls, as we can just call R2K and ask.

 

busy doing other things

Patrick, like other true conservatives including myself, have been very busy and unable to answer all your posts.  We've been answering the Republican leadership's call to pray for the end to the oil gusher in the gulf. After all, man has failed, alas there is nothing we can do!, it is completely in the hands of God.  Yea, tear out your hair and rend your clothes! 

But we have gone old testament on this problem. Yes that's right, we've been looking for beasts of burden, (non-pork variety) to sacrifice. I have and many like me have chosen chicken.  They're a lot of work!  You have to build the chicken coop, go to the grocery, buy some eggs and sit on them for a while. After a week, I figured I had a bad set of eggs. So I just captured some pigeons and used them.

I know that pigeons on the scale of diety payment plans are not as high as chickens (I know this because I checked with my doctor and he said he would accept two pigeons in leiu of a chicken under the Chicken HMO Plus plan. Unfortunately I enrolled with the Illegal Alien option where I just have to identify two brownish looking people as potential illegals for my copayment. But anyhoo, my prayers were answered!  You remember that huricane that was headed directly at the oil volcano?  My pigeons worked! I have it on high authority that my sacrifice was accepted and Neptune sent the the huricane to Mexico! 

All hail Neptune God of the sea!