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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Every now and then a columnist touches a nerve. Sometimes that nerve already has been plucked by a congressman. Such was the case with Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
Not long after his victorious re-election bid, the former freshman sent out a seven-question survey to his 9th Congressional District constituents.
Most of the questions were so overly simplistic and leading that they seemed insulting. So I had a little fun with them in a Jan. 8 column.
The response from readers was swift and severe. Most of it was aimed at Griffith.
Michael Bentley of Salem didn’t get the survey, but he responded to Griffith anyway:
“The wording of the survey that others received was … biased to produce responses that aligned with the views of right-wing extremists,” Bentley wrote. “Perhaps you need to hire a reputable pollster to supervise your next survey.”
Retired professor Carol Burger of Blacksburg was next. She has constructed and conducted surveys, and she found Griffith’s horribly lacking.
“Even the most skilled survey writer has to do a lot of editing before a survey is ready to collect the data that would be most helpful,” Burger wrote.
“My question is, ‘How does [Griffith] get away with this stuff?’ The only thing I can come up with is that if you repeat a lie enough times, people start to believe it.”
Then there was Susan Sweet, a graduate school administrator and resident of the 9th District. She copied me on her response to the congressman.
“The manner in which your questions were asked is at once confusing and misleading,” she wrote. “But I’m sure that was intentional so that you could get the answers you want rather than truthful answers based on clear questions that didn’t include any political bias.”
Toward the close of her response, Sweet wrote:
“The Republicans need to stop governing to their ideology and begin to govern for what’s the best solution. Those solutions may cost us money (more taxes), sacrifices will need to be made, many of us won’t like all of the solutions, but that’s life.”
What most upset Gene Gardner of Blacksburg was that Griffith spent taxpayer dollars to print and mail something that seemed more like an ad for the congressman.
“My main objection is that after all of the expensive campaign advertisements paid for by PACS I had to endure last fall, now I am required to pay for ads myself.
“Although disguised as a survey, Griffith’s mailing was really just a political advertisement prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense, as indicated on the back.”
Gardner added: “Why not just put the survey on his website, so people can respond without having to pay for a stamp?”
Frank Munley of Salem sent Griffith an email with long answers for each of the questions, rather than a simple “support” or “oppose” answer the survey asked for.
“If you want to know what your constituents think about important issues, give them the consideration they deserve by framing your questions in a meaningful and unbiased, and not a leading way,” Munley closed.
Wanda Walton of Clifton Forge agreed. “Some of the questions were written in such a way as to elicit a certain response, one very conservative and out there,” she wrote. “You’d have to be an idiot or wearing GOP blinders not to see it.”
Not all of readers appreciated the column. In a letter to the editor, Nancy McMahon of Salem praised Griffith for seeking out his constituents’ advice. Never before has a politician requested her opinion, she wrote. In that respect, Griffith is “one of a kind.”
“Griffith even asked for any additional comments he could address, so I believe it is Casey who is trying to sway public opinion by his column, not Griffith,” she added.
Les Reynolds of Martinsville took full advantage of the four blank lines at the survey’s end for “other comments or concerns.”
He filled them in passionately, in text littered with exclamation points. He scanned it and emailed that to me before he sent the survey back. I published his response on my blog.
“Quit playing partisan politics and do your job!” Reynolds admonished. “Pass a realistic budget! Reduce defense spending! No more wars! Ban assault weapons!”
Reynolds’ parting shot was “Pass term limits for Congress!”
I wonder what Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, would say about that?
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