Monday, July 25, 2011

Why American Research Group Poll is Suspect

Gov. Rick Perry leads a Republican presidential candidates in the American Research Group poll. This automatically struck me as fishy. Perry hasn't offically declared himself a candidate. The poll only sampled 600 people. The question's wording.

If the 2012 Republican presidential preference primary were being held today between (names rotated) Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Charles Roemer, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum, for whom would you vote?

Why include Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani? It is obvious they are not going to run. It would have been better to poll declared candidates and another polling question with declared candidates and potential candidates.

Go to the American Research Group web site. There is no information on who runs the company or its customers. Blogger Jacksonian did research and found AMG is run by La Fell Bennett aka Dirk Bennett.

AMG has a history of running polls for Republicans and getting the results wrong.

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.

Bennett only polls people with landlines. This leaves out young people and skews his polls to older conservatives.

Another interesting tidbit is Bennett's own attorney Kendall W. Lane turned against him. Bennett's father died. Bennett was a co-chair of a trust with his mother Jane Bennett. Bennent had his mother placed in a nursing home and declared mentally incompetent. Bennett's three sisters got suspicious about Bennett's reports of the value of the trust. The case went to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The Rules of Professional Conduct define "reasonably believes" to mean that "the lawyer believes the matter in question and that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable." N.H. R. Prof. Conduct Terminology (2005). The evidence indicates that Lane knew that Dick Bennett, along with Jane Bennett, was a co-trustee of the trust created after Robert Bennett’s death. Lane knew that in August 1995, Dick Bennett provided an accounting showing that the trust had over $300,000 exclusive of certain real estate. However, in March 1996, Lane learned from Ann Kunz Bennett that Dick Bennett was concerned about the trust finances. In May 1996, Lane learned of another accounting showing a balance of $65,917. In August 1996, Lane learned that Ann Kunz Bennett had discovered an invoice and a cancelled check indicating the existence of a John Hancock policy. Lane corroborated the existence of the policy by contacting John Hancock. Lane also learned that the $100,000 proceeds from the policy had been paid into a joint account in the names of Jane and Dick Bennett. Neither the existence of the policy nor the deposit into the account had been disclosed by Dick Bennett in any of the accountings for the estate or the trust. In addition, Lane knew that Dick Bennett had denied the existence of the insurance policy.

At the time of the disclosure, Lane knew that there had been a large, sudden and mysterious diminution of the trust assets between August 1995 and May 1996. Lane knew that there was a life insurance policy payable to Jane Bennett, that Dick Bennett knew about the policy, that Dick Bennett had not disclosed the existence of the policy, that the proceeds had been deposited into a joint account to which Dick Bennett had access and that, in fact, Dick Bennett had denied that there was any insurance policy. In light of the above facts, we conclude that Lane proved by a preponderance of the evidence the applicability of Rule 1.6(b) as an exception to Rule 1.9. Accordingly, the evidence supports the referee’s finding that Lane reasonably believed that his disclosure was necessary to prevent future criminal activity by Dick Bennett, see RSA 638:11, I.

In concluding that Lane could not have had a subjective belief that his disclosure was required to prevent the commission of a crime because he was aware of a possible innocent explanation for Bennett's conduct, the dissent places the bar too high. Lane's reasonable belief need not have been beyond a reasonable doubt. Lane's belief could well have been founded upon a conclusion that Dick Bennett was likely committing a crime, that of taking money from his mother or the estate, and would continue to do so.

Similarly, the dissent's conclusion that Lane could not have formed a subjective belief that Dick Bennett was currently or would in the future engage in criminal activity because all the evidence of suspected wrongdoing was circumstantial is without merit. Crimes can be established beyond a reasonable doubt with circumstantial evidence alone. Therefore, a mere reasonable belief based upon the preponderance of the evidence that a crime is now or will likely be committed could certainly serve as the basis for a subjective belief.

Lane was brought to the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a six month suspension for turning against his client Bennett. Fortunately for Lane, the court found Bennett's behavior so sleazy that he only got a public censure.

Considering Lane's past behavior with money, it is fair to ask who is paying for the ARG polls. If Bennett is being paid by by certain candidates that perform well in ARG polls then this should be known to the public. I have not seen Rick Perry lead in any Florida polls. It is fair to ask if Perry is a client of ARG. Sadly, the media and bloggers run this poll without asking these questions.

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