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Senate passes bill targeting 'push polling'

By Mary Mellor | Posted - Feb 16th, 2013 @ 11:05am

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill intended to promote transparency in political polling and stop the practice of "push polling" passed the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee on Friday.

HB44, sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, would require the disclosure of the entity paying for polls about a candidate or ballot proposition. It also would impose a $100 fine for failure to do so.

"This type of disclosure is necessary to build public trust," Hughes said. "It's not meant to be a punishment. It's meant to make the process more legitimate."

But Marina Lowe, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said the bill could infringe on the First Amendment rights of political groups that administer non-advocacy polls that would not impact elections.

For disclosures to meet requirements of the First Amendment, "they have to further the integrity of the electoral process," Lowe said.

The bill would be on "much firmer constitutional ground" if it included a narrow definition of push polling like in other states with similar laws, she said.

Hughes said that by including all political polls in the definition, the bill increases free speech and fairness.

Brian Chapman, managing director of BCR Political, a political consulting firm, said his organization also opposes the bill.

Chapman said the bill would put an end to double-blind research, which keeps the interviewer from not knowing who paid for the poll and prevents any accidental bias.

He also said the bill would hurt legitimate candidate issue testing, where a campaign polls to test which issues will have traction.

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