Debate Audience Selected by Firm Squeezed by Obama Justice Department

Think the deck for Tuesday's town hall debate might have been stacked? The firm hired to select the audience asking questions is under pressure from the Obama Justice Department, and some observers suggest may have already succumbed to that bullying.

After the Gallup Organization refused to cave to Chicago-style pressure from the Obama gang -- which according to internal memos published by the Daily Caller had company officials comparing it to a "Godfather situation" -- the Obama Justice Department suddenly joined a three-year-old lawsuit against Gallup. Within weeks, facing the full weight and power of the U.S. government and potential expenses in the millions of dollars, Gallup made changes to its polling methodology that seem to favor Obama.

The whistleblower lawsuit, claiming that Gallup knowingly overcharged the government for work done, was brought in 2009 by a former Obama campaign operative who was later briefly employed at Gallup.

The suit languished for almost three years, until -- after Gallup didn't cave to haranguing from the Axelrod & Co --- the Obama Justice Department revived it in mid-August. At the time, Gallup's daily presidential tracking poll showed Obama's approval at 46%. That number increased a couple of points during the Democrat convention, the sort of bump one would expect. But, as Jay Cost notes, writing at the Weekly Standard, they didn't go back down; they jumped. Up above the 50% landmark.

And while Gallup on average had found Obama's job approval around 47 percent with adults through most of 2012, for the last five weeks it has been regularly above 50 percent. (October 10) it stood at 53 percent, a number we have not really seen since 2009.

What has changed? According to Frank Newport, Gallup's Editor-in-Chief:

We have instituted some slight changes in our weighting procedures, including a weight for the density of the population area in which the respondent lives. (Emphasis added.)

Other specific reweighting details were not provided, but one other change Newport outlines could logically result in an oversampling of younger (more likely to vote for Obama) folks:

We increased the proportion of cell phones in our tracking to 50%, meaning that we now complete interviews with 50% cell phones and 50% landlines each night. This marks a shift from our Gallup Daily tracking, which has previously been 40% cell phones. This means that our weights to various phone targets in the sample can be smaller, given that the actual percentage of cell phones and cell-phone-only respondents in the sample is higher.

And Newport admits:

(I)t is possible that these changes in methods, which we believe increase the representation of our overall samples, may have some impact on political or other measures included in the surveys. Although it's too early to tell definitely, for example, we're looking to see if these improvements in the survey methods have, for example, had an impact on the average values of our presidential job approval rating. (emphasis added)

So, shortly after the Obama mob -- which had been critical of Gallup's methodology -- gets the Justice Department to do its dirty work and lean on the polling firm, Gallup makes changes to that methodology, changes which Gallup actually admits could have an impact on Obama's approval rating. And Obama's approval rating goes up.

It could be coincidence. Yes, it could. I guess.

Which leads us to Tuesday night's town hall. What organization was chosen to select the, supposedly undecided, 80 people in attendance to question the candidates?

The Gallup Organization.

William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author.