Thigpen criticism hits a nerve at FDU

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind poll has no comment on recent criticisms of their polling by PoliticsNJ.com, except for a brief e-mail from Professor Peter Woolley, the FDU polls: “I like to limit my interaction with hooded men — or women. You are in the wrongful position of attempting to hold others accountable while avoiding accountability yourself.” That hasn’t stopped Wooley in the past. Twelve days ago, PoliticsNJ.com asked Wooley to explain how one of the U.S. Senate campaigns had obtained their polling data the day before it was released to the public. That promoted him to send this response: “I already forwarded your e-mail to my top two suspects with a note saying such a thing is ‘unacceptable.’ But you can help me narrow it down to one person. If you would like that new information to be ‘just between us’ it can be.” This website told Wooley that an FDU poll associate, lobbyist Rick Thigpen, coordinated his analysis of the Senate campaign poll with Robert Menendez’s campaign staff and provided the Menendez campaign with polling numbers the day before they were released to the public. To Wooley, “just between us” meant telling Thigpen that PoliticsNJ.com was his source. In the past, PoliticsNJ.com has taken issue with several aspects of the FDU polling operation: * Old Numbers: FDU staggers the release of their data, rolling out the results of one section of the same poll over an extended period of time. It’s not a bad way to generate more media attention for their poling, but at the expense of having the most current possible data. For example, the U.S. Senate poll they released on November 2 was in the field from October 25-31 — so some of their data had been obtained as much as nine days earlier. (That’s a long time in the final week of a statewide campaign.) A survey on eminent domain released on November 13 used that was as much as twenty days old. * Appearance of Conflict: Thigpen, who has been affiliated with FDU since 2001, was among the Democratic operatives who participated in regular conference calls with the Menendez campaign to determine a media spin strategy during the U.S. Senate race. Thigpen was also among the Democrats on regular spin calls for Jon Corzine’s campaign, at the same time he was providing analysis for FDU’s polling of the 2005 gubernatorial campaign. For Republican analysis, FDU occasionally uses Michael Torpey, who is Thigpen’s business partner. This website also questioned the use of Trenton lobbyists who have business dealings with the Governor’s office to analyze polls concerning the Governor’s approval ratings. Thigpen was effusive in his praise of Corzine in an FDU poll conducted after the state budget was passed, and even the Republican Torpey said that Corzine “should be relatively happy with the data in this survey.” Methodology: FDU does not poll registered voters; they make random phone calls and identify likely voters from that pool. One Senate campaign staffer said: “We honestly didn’t put a lot of stock in any of the public polls — each one had its own flaws.” The Kean campaign said they had not been given any FDU polling numbers in advance, and suggested that providing the data to one campaign and not others gave the Democrats an unfair advantage. PoliticsNJ.com strongly stands behind our report — and our source — that FDU had considered terminating their relationship with Thigpen and pays little regard to any public comments by Wooley to the contrary.

Thigpen criticism hits a nerve at FDU