DES MOINES, Iowa – A highly anticipated release of the Iowa Poll, one of the most respected political surveys in the nation, was canceled Saturday night ahead of the Iowa caucuses after Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name had been omitted by a poll interviewer.
The Iowa Poll’s sponsors, The Des Moines Register and CNN, jointly made the decision in consultation with Selzer & Co., which conducts the poll, after determining they couldn’t verify that the results were valid.
Democratic presidential candidates were eagerly awaiting the poll results leading into Monday’s caucuses in the lead-up to determine who will challenge President Donald Trump in the fall.
“The Iowa Poll was founded in 1943,” Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Register, said in an interview Saturday. “It’s built its reputation over many decades for accuracy, and we feel the utmost responsibility to uphold that reputation.”
Buttigieg’s campaign complained of irregularities in the polling methodology that left out his name among the panel of candidates when a supporter was surveyed for the poll.
The campaign brought the problem to the attention of the pollster and its media partners.
“Our campaign received a report from a recipient of the Iowa Poll call, raising concerns that not every candidate was named by the interviewer when asked who they support,” Buttigieg campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
“We shared this with the organizations behind the poll, who conducted an internal investigation and determined not to release it. We applaud CNN and the Des Moines Register for their integrity.”
Since people are asking:
Our campaign received a report from a recipient of the Iowa Poll call, raising concerns that not every candidate was named by the interviewer when asked who they support (1/2)
— Lis Smith (@Lis_Smith) February 2, 2020
The decision could agitate Buttigieg’s rivals who are crisscrossing the state and were looking to use the survey as a signal to their supporters.
Chief among them is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was ahead in the last Iowa Poll released in January. The cancellation of the poll created immediate speculation among political observers.
“CNN should immediately begin a one hour special on what the Des Moines Register poll might have said,” political analyst Jeff Greenfield said sarcastically in a tweet.
CNN should immediately begin a one hour special on what the Des Moines Register poll MiGHT have said.
— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) February 2, 2020
Hunter said the decision should not affect Monday’s caucus outcome.
“The ultimate poll is always when voters go and make their own decisions,” Hunter said. “Our intent in polling is never to sway outcomes. A poll is simply a snapshot in time of Iowans’ opinions.”
The poll was conducted by live operators from a call center where respondents are read candidates’ names from a list to determine which candidate a voter planned to support.
CNN did an internal investigation and found that an operator had enlarged the font on their computer screen, cutting off Buttigieg’s name, which had been at the bottom.
The polling methodology randomly cycles candidates’ names so that they are read in a different order, making it impossible to determine which other candidates’ names might have been left out – or how many times it might have happened.
While the polling partners are aware of only one instance of a candidate’s name being omitted, the decision was made to cancel the poll because the same thing could have occurred with Buttigieg or other candidates.
“A respondent raised an issue with the way their interview was conducted, which could have compromised the results of the poll,” CNN said in a statement Saturday. “We were unable to ascertain what happened during the respondent’s interview, and cannot determine if this was a single isolated incident.”
Follow Phillip M. Bailey on Twitter: @phillipmbailey.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Poll pulled after candidate’s name is omitted during a call