Survey conducted in Elk Grove on controversial California Northstate University hospital called 'push poll' by respondent

Over the last five days, some Elk Grove residents report receiving telephone calls seeking their participation in a survey on the for...

Over the last five days, some Elk Grove residents report receiving telephone calls seeking their participation in a survey on the for-profit California Northstate University's proposed 400-bed hospital in Elk Grove.

According to one respondent who received the call on their cell phone at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10, the interview lasted about 13 minutes, and the caller's accent led them to believe it was coming from an offshore call center. The respondent noted the call came from 951-808-5295(6), which is domiciled in Riverside, Calif area.

The respondent who took the survey and whose identity is verified, but who asked not to be identified for this story, said the questions being asked led them to believe it was a so-called push poll. A push poll is a tool often used in political campaigns that use the premise of a survey to create a particular perception.

While this practice is usually done to create a negative perception of a specific candidate or issue, they can also be used to mold postive images. In this case, the survey participant thought the questions attempted to create a positive perception of CNUs proposed $750 million hospital.

"It was mostly favorable, unfavorable, so three times they asked if I changed opinion about the hospital when they were describing what the hospital was going to offer," the participant said.

The respondent said the caller asked them several questions about the CNU project. Additionally, the caller asked the respondent their perceptions of Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly and the four Elk Grove City Council members, Steve Detrick, Pat Hume, Stephanie Nguyen, and Darren Suen.

One of the descriptions given during the survey, according to the participant, was the already retracted claim that the project would bring 25,000 jobs to Elk Grove. That number was used during the December 2019 introduction of the project but was later changed to 2,400 new jobs would be created by the proposed hospital.

Other favorable, unfavorable questions asked were the respondent's views of former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, who is a public relations representative for CNU. Other questions involved traffic, whether the hospital would improve the quality of life in Elk Grove, if the respondent was raised in Elk Grove, how long they have lived in the city and other demographic information. 

Another question posed was if certain groups supported the proposed hospital, would they trust the endorsements. Of the entities cited were the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce, Elk Grove Police Officers Association, Sacramento Bee, the Sierra Club, and building trade unions.

"The only one I said I would trust is the Sierra Club," the respondent said.

The caller also posed other questions as believable or not. Those inquiries by the caller, without citing sources asked if it was believable or not that the project would, among several items, diminish residential property values, and hurt the quality of life in Elk Grove.

A reverse phone number search shows that is from Corona, Calif. One person on social media claimed the number is from Validity Research Company, although that could not be verified.

CNU's public outreach manager, Brian Holloway of Holloway Land acknowledge the school has commissioned the survey.

"The university has retained one of the leading survey research firms in the state to conduct a standard telephone survey to receive feedback from the community and gauge their interest in the hospital project," Holloway said in an email.

Holloway also rejected the characterization the survey was a push poll saying "It is my understanding that such polls are prohibited in California." He also said he did not know the name of the polling firm.  

Other parties questioned about their possible roles in the survey where Elk Grove City Manager Jason Behrmann and Joshua Wood, executive director of the Sacramento-based business advocacy group Region Business. Both said their respective organizations were not involved in the planning or financing of the survey.

All five members of the Elk Grove City Council were contacted by email asking if their respective political organizations were involved in the financing, or development of the survey. Only Nguyen responded saying she has no involvement. 

On social media, one person commented they received a survey call on the evening of Tuesday, July 9 and one of the questions was about the Elk Grove-based group NEST - Neighbors Ensuring Sincere Transparency - a grassroots organization that is opposing the CNU hospital.

The commentator said "One of the questions regarded NEST and whether I trusted information from that group." The commentator noted they trusted NEST. 

According to the Poynter Institute, one of the characteristics of a push poll is the callers "may not name the organization conducting the calls." According to the respondent cited here and comments on social media, when asked the call center employees would not identify who commissioned the survey.

The question of who financed the poll also arose on social media. One person commented yesterday they though that Holloway was behind the polling and ruled out perhaps the most controversial supporter of the project, former Mayor Davis. 

The commentator said, "I doubt if our 'Dear Leader - It’s My City' hired the survey company." (see video below for reference).

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Somewhere in the People's Republic of China...applause.....

(translated)...."good evening ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending this evening's investment presentation at the Mao Center for the Performing Scammers...translation error...should read Performing Arts. Remember to cash in your free voucher for a free AM/FM transistor radio at the end of the presentation, no strings attached!

Now please give a warm welcome to Dr. "No Homeland Security Investigations" Cheung; Elk Grove Mayor, Steve "My Father Was a War Hero" Lie...translation error...should read Ly; and Mayor Emeritus Gary "I Never Turn Down a Buck" Davis!

We have assembled this team of respected officials to explain to you how a simple $1 million dollar investment can let you be a part of a cutting edge hospital with easy access to an international airport and an aquatic center. Yes, and each investor will receive a signed baby swaddling cloth used in an actual baby delivery with a photo of a newborn-turned US citizen. We call it the sponsor-a-citizen program!

Your investment is risk-free. Please direct your attention to the Power Point video screen. Notice how a scientifically developed telephone survey indicates that the project has widespread community support. And one look at the grins of our panelists lets you know the big money and politicians also support the project. You can't lose!

We have a tight schedule with other appearances scheduled, so we must wrap it up. Please place your investment in one of the wheelbarrows placed by the exits and please don't forget your transistor radio as a token of our appreciation! Good night."

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Not being an elections attorney nor expert, as far as I can tell Mr. Holloway's statement that push polls in California are illegal seems dubious. I can't locate anything to validate his statement.

It seems even when he is talking to the media, he is spinning the truth and conducting a mini push poll. CNU's Mr. Cheung's is getting his money's worth it would seem.

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