We received a call from the Canadian market research firm Opinion Search asking for the woman of the house. My, wife, being a long-time leader in the opinion and market research world, was glad to take it, although she figured she would be screened out. She wasn’t and it became obvious why. They didn't really care what she thought.
Yesterday I might have accidently gotten an inside view of the strategy the XL pipeline lobby/PR organization is is planning for January. We received a call Sunday from the Canadian market research firm Opinion Search asking for the woman of the house. My, wife, being a long-time leader in the opinion and market research world, was glad to take it, although she figured she would be screened out. She wasn’t and it became obvious why. They didn't really care what she thought.
The first question:
Do you think the US should reduce oil imports?
Do you think the US should rely more on North American produced oil, including oil from our neighbor Canada?
Followed by :
Do think that expanding America’s domestic energy infrastructure with projects likes the XL pipeline is a good idea?
When she objected to the question because it was full of assumptions, i.e. expanding energy infrastructure is only for oil, the XL pipeline is part of US energy infrastructure, and what a “good idea” means and is it needed, the researcher said that was the question and she could only take a yes or no or don’t know answer.
The survey went on to ask the usual questions – age, race, income and political party. When she answered Democratic, the follow up was : “strong , moderate or weak Democrat”.
In analyzing the survey with my wife afterward we drew the following conclusions:
This may be a one shot survey but is more likely part of a larger project with focus groups and interviews to develop data for a full-out lobbying, advertisement and PR campaign in January when the XL decision is hot again.
2. The questions seemed geared produced the follow talking points and ad themes:
1. Although they oppose imported oil, a majority of Americans approve of buying North American oil from our friend, Canada.
2. American’s energy infrastructure is in need of modernization and the XL pipeline is a critical part of that modernization (and not a separate project)
3. “Research” shows that most Americans , including women and Democrats, support building the XL pipeline as part of upgrading our energy infrastructure.
I suspect that we will see:
1. Talking points distributed to Members of Congress and the Admin that are owned by the oil industry and the Koch brothers with those three statements.
2. A PR campaign to imbed in the public consciousness, and in the minds of Members of Congress up for re-election, that “Most Americans support the XL pipeline (as part of an energy infrastructure upgrade).
3. Slick TV ads like the pro-fracking gas industry ads that say we need to upgrade our energy infrastructure of which the XL is a key part, and most Americas favor that.
So what do we do? The best strategy is to debunk the claims before they are made:
- Alert media contacts and Congressional staff that they will be seeing talking points and PR that made the above false claims; explain the deceptive wording of the survey
- Get out our information with counter claims before they can mobilize – put them on the defensive before they put us on the defensive. If we don’t have research showing that Americans reject XL, do some quick surveys and get the data out there.
- Meet with Congressional staff and Members on break and inoculate (or threaten) them against the coming lies.
By tipping their hand, the XL supporters give us an opportunity to put them on the defensive. If you work for an environmental or progressive organization that has the flexibility and resources to take action, now is the time.