With some interest in how the polls work, and some of the oddities thereof, I decided to take a look at a small group that sees some oddities in their polling: American Research Group. Not to be confused with America's Research Group, a whole different organization.
One of my first conclusions is that ARG is looking to be the true anonymous polling group! Really, they have very little in the way of public profile, and yet get their polls to be highly visible. So, when seeing things like that I do a bit of searching, and with names not coming up at their web site or any 'About Us' sort of deal, that means really searching. So the best place to start is: WHOIS domain name lookup. In this case I used Network Solutions looking for ARG and here is what I come up with (and these are public records):
Registrant:Now I see a few things pop out a me... first is the name Bennett L in the administrative contact and Dick Bennett in the Meta Keywords which are used for look-ups and search engines and such. Not much to go on, but a last name in NH showing up twice is a good start and from there I go to a good all-round source for things political which is the Newsmeat site and its campaign donations lookup. So I put in Bennett go to NH and go through the results coming up with one likely match that is ancient:
American Research Group
814 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101
Domain Name: AMERICANRESEARCHGROUP.COM
Administrative Contact :
814 ELM ST
MANCHESTER, NH 03101
Phone: +1 603 624 4081
Fax: +1 603 627 1746
Technical Contact :
American Research Group
814 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101
Phone: +1 603 624 4081
Fax: 999 999 9999
Record expires on 13-Apr-2012
Record created on 13-Apr-1999
Database last updated on 15-Dec-2007
Current Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
IP Address: 188.8.131.52 (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)-NEW HAMPSHIRE-NASHUA
Record Type: Domain Name
Server Type: Apache 2
Lock Status: clientTransferProhibited
Web Site Status: Active
DMOZ no listings
Y! Directory: see listings
Web Site Title: American Research Group
Meta Keywords: American Research Group, american research group, ARG, arg, ARG polls, arg polls, marketing research, polling, political polling, Dick Bennett, dick bennett, presidential polls, Presidential Polls, New Hampshire Poll, new hampshire poll, NH Poll, nh poll
Traffic Ranking: 4
Data as of: 12-Jul-2006
BENNETT, LAFELL OThat's right 1979 for John Anderson!!!
MANCHESTER, NH 03104
BLAKE & DICKINSON ANDERSON, JOHN B (IND)
ANDERSON FOR PRESIDENT COMMITTEE $125
Yowza! I can't think of anyone out of organized crime or terrorism that I have gone back that far on. Given that I now have *two* names, one definite (Dick Bennett) and the other probable (Lafell Bennett). BTW I do not place a high degree of faith on initials in the FEC records as those are done via scanning and OCR so that a number of letters tend to get cross substituted when left by their lonesome (ex. Y, T, I, or E, F, R or O, Q, D).
Next up is the listing at MANTA on ARG and here is what we get:
American Research Group IncAnd that clears it up, the man leading this is La Fell Bennett, and as we will see later aka: Dick Bennett.
814 Elm St, Manchester, NH 03101-2130, United States (Map) (Add Company Info)
Phone: (603) 624-4081
SIC:Commercial Economic, Sociological, and Educational Research
Line of Business:Marketing Research
Detailed American Research Group Inc Company Profile
This company profile is for the private company American Research Group Inc, located in Manchester, NH. American Research Group Inc's line of business is marketing research.
Company Profile: American Research Group Inc
State of Incorporation:N/A
Location Type:Single Location
Also Does Business As:N/A
SIC #Code: View Details
Est. Annual Sales: View Details
Est. Employees at Location:16
Contact Name:La Fell Bennett
Contact Title:President And Treasurer
Data above provided by D&B.
Total number of employees: 16?
So, needing to do some deeper background on individuals I decided its high time to look at where some of the polling problems come from, especially with regards to ARG. Luckily the New Hampshire Business Review has a couple of snippets from Dick Bennett on what his group sees, so those are worth extracting. First up is from 11 MAY 2007:
Dick Bennett: The New Hampshire pollster tells the Los Angeles Times, that Republicans are so disgruntled in the waning years of the Bush administration that he’s finding it difficult getting GOP voters to participate in surveys.Well that would present a problem now, wouldn't it? People not wanting to participate in surveys...
Moving along to NHBR on 28 SEP 2007 we see this:
Dick Bennett: The Manchester-based pollster defends the omission of cell phone users in polling, saying that the people without landlines – mostly young people – “don’t vote.”Yes, the 'cellphone' blind spot phenomena, where those without a land line don't get called. I have some bad news for Mr. Bennett on that - a lot of folks have had it with landlines and are shifting over to a cellphone only lifestyle. He might want to look into that.
Finally, to remind folks of how good ARG does, here is an article from the WaPo in 2004 looking back a bit at the 2000 race:
New Hampshire: Graveyard of PollstersThey actually did much better in 2004, missing the actual results for top spot by only 4%. The question is: luck or changed methodology? And with the problems they are seeing this year on R side, plus the 'non-voting cell phone users' concept, which would tend to skew for Obama on the D side, just how reliable is ARG?
By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 23, 2004; 7:55 AM
In 2000, the headline on an AP day-before-the-primary story was "Nearing the N.H. finish line; Polls declare GOP dead heat. . . . " John McCain then went on to beat George W. Bush by 18 percentage points.
The New Hampshire-based American Research Group's tracking poll ended up buried deepest in the snow bank: They had Bush winning by two the day before the primary, merely 20 points off the mark. On the Democratic side, the losing pollster at least got the winner right: The Quinnipiac poll predicted Gore would win by 17 percentage points, but he actually won by four.
It was the second debacle for ARG in as many New Hampshire Republican primaries. The day before the 1996 contest, ARG's Dick Bennett told the Union Leader, "It looks like Dole's going to win," based on the Kansan's seven point advantage in their tracking poll. He didn't, losing to Pat Buchanan by a single percentage point.
There appears to be an interesting factor in this with Lane's Case which is a review of a lawyer's work when he became aware of a client's misrepresentation, to the lawyer, about a case and the lawyer then letting those who had brought suit know that this was the case. The case involves the death of Robert Bennett in an car accident and the ensuing mental deterioration of his wife, Jane Bennett, and the executor of his estate Lafell D. Bennett (Dick Bennett). During the time that Jane was deteriorating, Dick Bennett gave two different accountings of funds available to care for her:
The guardianship proceedings were terminated when, in March 1996, Jane Bennett became very ill and the parties agreed, out of necessity, to place her in a Keene nursing home. Additionally, Dick Bennett agreed to provide his sisters an accounting of the trust assets. The accounting indicated that, as of April 30, 1996, the fund balance was merely $65,917, compared with the almost $309,000 balance reported a half-year earlier. The sisters were suspicious and asked Attorney Little to investigate.There is further examination of the part of lawyers in such things in Hinshaw & Culbertson but that does not address the activity of Dick Bennett in this case (which may be a criminal matter). As I am unaware of any criminal matter taken up in this case, it is left up to the individual, knowing what has gone on, to decide for themselves a few things:
1) Given Mr. Bennett's attempt to hide a substantial amount of cash from his deceased father's estate that should have been used for the care of his mother, is this sort of individual trustworthy as a head of a polling organization?
2) Given the facts in (1) and the small size of the company (16 people) what sort of influence does Mr. Bennett have within his company?
3) Given the facts in (1) and the problems Mr. Bennett himself cites in polling, is there any conflict between his activities and the problems in the polling data?
For an organization that is widely described as 'non-partisan' that should not inherently mean: ethical and above-board. There is something relatively disturbing in having such a small company given such wide credence having such an individual capable of lying to his siblings in the case of his deceased father and mentally incapacitated mother that go unquestioned.
I have problems believing that there are TWO Lafell (Dick) Bennetts in New Hampshire. There is only on Lafell D Bennett in the Manchester, NH whitepages or for all of NH in general.... so a second one would have to be a 'cell phone only' individual, which if he wasn't then he is the only one listed in the white pages and if he *was* that would put his outlook on cell phone users into serious disrepair and be quite disingenuous.
Only if he was the one listed and another, unlisted or 'cell phone only' Lafell Dick Bennett could be found would I be entirely mistaken and I would apologize for that and deeply so.
Until that time, then, I can no longer consider polling done by an organization headed by such an individual to be reputable: the ethical questions of being able to perform such activities for a private trust within his family puts a dark shadow over his public trust of running a non-partisan organization. If he had put someone else in to head up the company while holding financial interest, but taking his hands off day-to-day affairs, I would consider that an ethical act so as to not bring his private problems into the public arena. As it stands I find such activity to be distasteful and harming to his reputation and that of such a small, private concern that he runs.