The polling project between the UW-Madison Political Science department and the states shrillest right-wing, corporate-friendly think tank has turned out to be as suspicious as we first feared.
Documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now through the states open records law reveal that political considerations were front and center in the decision making surrounding the polling project and the publication of the polls results. The results of the poll showed statewide opposition to private school vouchers, but the press release from both UW and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) played up figures that showed support for school vouchers in Milwaukee.
According to the email we obtained, in the day before the release of materials on the poll, the head of WPRI pushed to have the statewide opposition to vouchers to be removed and to use the Milwaukee County numbers instead. When UW professor Ken Goldstein pushed back, saying the change would go against standard operating procedure, George Lightbourn of WPRI pushed back even harder, saying:
Im not concerned about journalists. Im concerned about the Scott (sic) Ross types who would enjoy being able to portray WPRIs own data as showing lack of support for choice. I know its a pain in the ass but Ive been burned a couple of times and I dont need to be the one holding the gas can.
WPRI and other right-wing groups in Wisconsin have long pushed school vouchers as a part of a long-term strategy to discredit public education and move tax dollars from public school to private, for-profit schools. When the poll it commissioned showed opposition to its scheme it has worked so hard to advance, WPRI manipulated the data and erased the information from the final analysis.
When caught red-handed, George Lightbourn, former Gov. McCallums top economic advisor and now head of WPRI said yesterday I dont know how you could do it more intellectually honestly. Heres an idea on where to start, Georgie: how about not manipulating the data of the poll to support your conservative agenda?