Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran 'telephone poll' bogus

Every so often a smart alec pops up on CNN touting his 'telephone poll' of the Iranian electorate which indicated that Ahmedinejad was in the lead running up to the poll.

Tehran Bureau takes the telephone poll apart. They point out that the last poll was taken over a week before the election and that over half the people called refused to give a response.

Given the absurd and undemocratic conditions in which the election was held, only a simpleton or a government shill would claim that people called at random would give their honest opinion to an unknown stranger. While 'undecideds' typically break fairly predictably in US elections, the people called up by Gallup and co do not face retribution by Baiji thugs if they give the 'wrong' answer.

The 'results' of the 'survey' were that 34% of respondents said they would vote for Ahmedinejad, 14% for Mousavi and 27% refusing to answer. The survey was taken May 11th through 20th, immediately after the four candidates to be allowed to contest the election were announced and before Ahmedinejad was exposed as a clown in a series of television debates.

The US election takes place over a period of 18 months, the candidates are well known to the electorate at least a year in advance. Late shifts in opinion are rare. The Iranian election takes place in a three week period, outside of which the opposition candidates are non-persons as far as state media are concerned. Presenting the results of this survey as anything other than a description of the state of play at the start of the campaign is deceptive and dishonest.

While the 'survey' predicts an Ahmedinejad win, it certainly does not predict a blow-out 66-30 win. No observer of Ahmedinejad's performance in the debates was of the opinion that he had increased his standing, quite the opposite.

Given the fact that every telephone call into and out of Iran is monitored, respondents had reason to believe that they would face reprisals for giving the 'wrong' answer. But in fact this was probably a misplaced fear as once the authorities became aware that a poll was being taken they would quickly redirect calls so that they would be answered by trusted government supporters.