Critical Iowa poll scrapped over apparent technical error
CNN and the Des Moines Register have scrapped the planned release of a key poll on the eve of the Iowa caucuses after concerns about an apparent technical error left one of the leading contenders out of at least one survey.
The media outlets decided to nix a planned live televised release of the survey after a supporter of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg received a call from the pollsters — and Buttigieg’s name was not one of the options offered.
A source with knowledge of the decision said a computer monitor in the call center used to conduct the poll was set to show font at a larger-than-normal text. That setting cut off the name of the last candidate listed in the randomized order testing potential Democratic candidates. In the case of at least one voter, the Buttigieg supporter, the randomized order placed Buttigieg last — and so Buttigieg’s name was not mentioned.
The New York Times first reported the network’s decision to cancel the poll’s release. The Des Moines Register said Saturday that the paper and CNN, along with their pollster Ann Selzer, decided not to release the poll.
“Nothing is more important to the Register and its polling partners than the integrity of the Iowa Poll. Today, a respondent raised an issue with the way the survey was administered, which could have compromised the results of the poll. It appears a candidate’s name was omitted in at least one interview in which the respondent was asked to name their preferred candidate,” wrote Carol Hunter, the Register’s executive editor.
Hunter wrote that the news partners were unable to confirm whether the omission of Buttigieg’s name happened during more than one interview.
Matt Dornic, a spokesman for CNN, confirmed the decision not to release the poll.
“We were unable to ascertain what happened during this respondent’s interview, and cannot determine if this was a single isolated incident,” Dornic said in a text. “CNN, The Des Moines Register and Selzer & Company aim to uphold the highest standards of survey research and therefore the partners decided not to proceed.”
The source with knowledge of the poll said the media partners were not able to determine how many interviews the call center employee had conducted, and how many could have been influenced by the final candidate’s name being cut off at the end.
“It was simply impossible to know how many of the interviews could have been affected. Unless we are 100 percent confident in the data, we aren’t going to release the poll,” the source told The Hill.
The Iowa Poll, conducted for years by Des Moines-based pollster Selzer, has long been the gold standard in a state that is notoriously difficult to survey. The last Iowa poll, conducted at the beginning of the month, found Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) jumping into the lead — the first indicator that January would be a strong month for the Vermont senator.
That poll found Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden closely packed near the top of the field. More recent polls have showed Sanders and Biden inching toward the top, while support for Warren and Buttigieg ebb.
No more public polls are expected before the Iowa caucuses, which begin at 7 p.m. local time on Monday.
Updated Feb. 2, 8:38 a.m.
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