When Did You Stop Beating Your Constituents?
Intro by Andrew Tonkovich
On Friday, July 28, Assemblymember Kate Sanchez (R) of the 71st Assembly District emailed constituents, some of whom, post-redistricting, live and vote in Orange County. They were invited to answer a survey. “In an effort to assist our office in crafting our legislative agenda for next year, we are sending out this brief survey to get your opinions on things happening in our state. Your answers are important to us and we thank you for taking the time to fill out this survey.”
We reproduce the brief survey, below.
Of course, readers of Citric Acid will recognize a loaded question. It is a rhetorical tool, often clumsy or only provocative and obvious. A loaded question is constructed to attempt to limit answers to only those which serve the questioner's agenda. You knew that from Composition or Rhetoric class, or life experience, or perhaps because of the old, cruel, and misogynist joke about spousal abuse. Hard to answer!
In politics, the loaded-question survey is called a push-poll. The non-partisan PoliticalDictionary.com, founded by Taegan Goodard of the Political Wire blog, offers a helpful definition:
“A “push poll” is a form of interactive marketing in which political operatives try to sway voters to believe in certain policies or candidates under the guise of an opinion poll. More akin to propaganda than an actual unbiased opinion survey, a push poll is most often used during a political campaign as part of a candidate’s election strategy or by a political party to gain advantage over a rival or rivals.”
And because we’re OC’s unlikeliest journal, we share a helpful example featuring a favorite character with connections to our own regional political history.
“Richard Nixon was one of the pioneers of the push-poll, and in his very first campaign in 1946, he used the practice by hiring operatives in his California district to call Democrats and warn them that his opponent was a ‘communist.’”
That candidate was Jerry Voorhis, who later wrote a terrific book titled The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon. Sometimes a good title says it all.
But I digress.
Citric Acid inquired, and Pasquale Talarico, the Assemblymember’s representative, helpfully acknowledged that the survey lacked options for offering other answers, in other words, did not provide blank spaces. He explained that despite being an experienced pollster, media, and campaign director, "digital strategist/changemaker”) etc., he was new to government work and unfamiliar with the State of California Legislative software and had made a mistake, failing to include an "Other" option with room for comment.
Talarico also seemed to acknowledge the limited ideological, practical, quantifiable options which might have been included. (It’s possible that Citric Acid suggested that teachers, of all people, might be important in shaping children’s education. Go figure.)
Mr. T. is a nice guy and explained that he’d be sure to offer the “Other” option and a blank space next time. And he also promised, per Citric Acid’s request, to provide the “survey” results. And, yes, friends, the results are in. And, boy, are they not surprising. But they are surely lovely, and pleasingly represented in fall colors, just in time for the fall issue of OC’s unlikeliest online literary arts (and Rhetorical Studies) journal.
No kidding. 381 out of 480 respondents strongly disagree that California is headed in the “right direction.”
1025 respondents pretty much split evenly on the four “most important” issues.
Finally, yes, out of 500 respondents, 412 chose “Parent or Guardian” should be shaping their child’s education (82.4%) over “Government Agencies.”
In sharing both the original survey and its results, below, we strongly agree that Citric Acid is headed in the right direction. We feel that the most important issues facing our community involve honest inquiry, responsive elected officials, and available blank spots on surveys. Finally, we strongly, very strongly, indeed believe that Citric Acid: An Online Orange County Literary Quarterly of Imagination and Reimagination should be shaping everybody’s children’s education and invite parents, guardians, teachers to join our free subscriptions list.
In an effort to assist our office in crafting our legislative agenda for next year, we are sending out this brief survey to get your opinions on things happening in our state. Your answers are important to us and we thank you for taking the time to fill out this survey.
Do You Agree that California is headed in the right direction? *
What Do You Feel Are the most important issues facing your community? *
Affordability/ Prices of Goods
Drugs/ Fentanyl Crisis
Whom do you feel should be shaping your child’s education? *
Parent or Guardian
Andrew Tonkovich is the founding editor of Citric Acid and longtime editor of the Santa Monica Review. His fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Ecotone, ZYZZYVA, Faultline, Juked, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. He wrote for both OC Weekly and the Orange County Register. With Lisa Alvarez, he co-edited the landmark Orange County: A Literary Field Guide, and is the author of two fiction collections, The Dairy of Anne Frank and More Wish Fulfillment in the Noughties and Keeping Tahoe Blue and Other Provocations. His review of A People's Guide to Orange County appeared recently in Alta online.