My last column for 2009 takes a look back at the strangest and most troubling polling story of the year: The allegations of fraud swirling around the firm Strategic Vision, LLC in the wake of a rare censure from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) for a failure to disclose basic information about its weighting procedures and response rates. Please click through for all the details.
The most troubling aspect of this story may be that so little has happened since early October. Most notably: Strategic Vision abruptly stopped releasing polls.
Back in October we decided that in the absence of significantly better disclosure from Strategic Vision, we will no longer include their releases in our charts or publish them among our "poll updates." We were ready to announce that policy when they released a new survey, but...they never did. Our general philosophy has been to include any survey that purports to provide a representative snapshot of voter or adult opinion, but given the troubling questions raised about the integrity of the numbers released by Strategic Vision, we really have no choice but to make an exception.
Not that it appears to bother anyone at Strategic Vision, LLC. One odd epilogue of this story is that, for whatever reason, we can no longer access www.strategicvision.biz from our offices of the National Journal Group and Atlantic Media. Attempts to load their site from any computer that accesses the internet through the Atlantic Media corporate IP address -- and that includes the computers used by The Hotline and anyone at The Atlantic -- produces a "403 - Forbidden" error. According to wikipedia, "The 403 Forbidden HTTP status code indicates that the client was able to communicate with the server, but the server won't let the client access what was requested."
What makes this especially odd is that I am able to connect to www.strategicvision.biz through every other internet connection I have tried. On Friday, I also posted queries on Twitter and in our 'outliers' item asking followers and readers to report if they had any trouble accessing the Strategic Vision website (David Johnson did not return my call requesting comment). No one reported receiving the 403-Forbidden error. I followed up with those who got error messages produced by the apparently over-capacity tr.im URL shortening service asking them to enter www.strategicvision.biz directly. Everyone was able to access the site. So far,no one outside of the Atlantic Media offices has reported receiving a 403-Forbidden error.
Now beyond this circumstantial pattern, I cannot prove that Strategic Vision is intentionally blocking access to their site by Atlantic Media and the National Journal Group. If anyone reading this post encounters the same error, please comment or email me and I'll gladly update this post. But like everything else involving the Strategic Vision story, it is very strange.