Both the press and the public have already been punked several times by the newish right wing org, the MacIver Institute. In their early stages they pretended that Scott Jensen was not involved, but then it turned out that he was actually writing their press releases. Then MacIver launched a deceptive effort sending one of their right wing staffers around pretending to be a legitimate TV news reporter. While MacIver's attempts to punk the press and the public have been fairly direct, their older cousins at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) have chosen to take a behind-your-back approach. Thanks to the work of our friends at One Wisconsin Now, we now know that WPRI has been punking the press and the public with their polls.
Last year WPRI and the University of Wisconsin-Madison's political science department announced a new joint polling project. When it was announced many objected pointing to the fact that WPRI is little more than a Republican cheerleader, skewing facts to fit a rigid right-wing ideology. Nonetheless, the polling project moved forward and the media soaked up and reported the results – often times without mentioning WPRI's ideological bias.
On Tuesday, One Wisconsin Now announced that they had obtained emails that showed how political calculation was front and center in a September 2009 poll conducted by UW and WPRI. The emails and other documents that OWN obtained through an open records request allow us a behind-the-scenes view of internal discussions between UW-Madison professor Ken Goldstein and WPRI President George Lightbourn (a former Republican state official). OWN reports that the emails and other records show some of the following:
- Emails from Lightbourn to Goldstein expressing concern over specific statewide poll numbers showing opposition to private school vouchers. In the emails Lightbourn expresses concern that "WPRI's own data as showing a lack of support for choice." He then appears to suggest departing from standard operating polling procedure by hiding the unfavorable data.
- Integrity be damned, Lightbourn gets his way and the statewide numbers opposing private school vouchers were kept from the press release and deleted from a PowerPoint presentation of the poll's findings.
- Later Lightbourn expresses his thanks to Goldstein saying, "It helped immensely with my correspondence with my board and other consumers of WPRI material."
How many media outlets reported the filtered results of this partisan poll? Will the fact that they have been punked by yet another right wing organization give them second thoughts when the next fake item comes around? While Lightbourn claims that the filtered poll results helped with his board and "consumers" of WPRI material, what has the arrangement done for UW-Madison besides compromise its integrity? Although they ignored some warnings when this joint effort was first announced, now the press and UW-Madison have a clear example ideological bias. The only question remaining is whether these various entities will allow themselves to be punked again by yet another right wing org.