Liljenquist Campaign Focus Group Update

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by Daryl Acumen

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking directly with the political consultant who moderated the Liljenquist focus group.  I asked him to send me an email with his side of the story, but I’m so busy right now I haven’t had time to digest and re-write it in my own words.  To void any further delay in getting this out, I decided to post his email as is.  The consultant’s name has been removed at his request.

I am an independent government affairs/political/communication consultant out of Salt Lake City. The Liljenquist campaign, where I have many friends (as I do other places), asked me to moderate a couple of focus groups specifically because I have not been involved in their campaign. They obviously wanted an objective view. I am not a professional facilitator, but I have sat in on, and designed, dozens of focus groups here and around the country. Most have been political, but not all. I have moderated a few groups in the past. I agreed to do it as a favor, and I prepared all the materials for the groups.It is important to state that the Liljenquist campaign did not provide or influence any of these materials. It was left to me to use my experience and judgement. This included my own discussion guide (attached) as well as any questionnaires or answer sheets. I did not consult with the campaign on the specifics of any of these materials, and they did not specifically ask me to test “negative” messages. I simply regarded that as standard practice, and have seen such discussions provide valuable information in the past. The questions I asked to test negatives are fairly obvious. As I mentioned, I would expect Senator Hatch’s campaign people would have tested such messages themselves, but I do not know this to be true.

I composed 14 questions. Of those, I believe 13 are objective, publicly-known facts that may or may not reflect negatively on the Senator. Their positive or negative value would be in the “eye of the beholder,” which is the point. The question I have highlighted in the attached – also composed solely by me – is about an issue I believe to be factual, but not publicly known or available. As a matter of personal judgement, I did not ask that question of either group. The campaign did not  have access to my guide prior to the actual group.

Finally, I have participated in focus groups in which there is full disclosure and some where there is not. It was never my intention to act deceitfully when I was asked at the end who had paid for the group, and I don’t believe I did. However, if a participant got that impression, I apologize. I saw no reason to withhold that information, and the campaign had not asked me to do so, so I disclosed.

Thanks for allowing me to tell my side of the story.

The consultant also sent the full list of questions asked during the focus group.  I include that here for public scrutiny [Focus Group Questions].  Note: in my original post I said that there were 13 questions and that #12 was scratched out.  The fact is there were 13 questions after #12 was scratched out.  At the request of the moderator I have removed question #12 from the document.  He apparently judged the original question to have been too slanted and inflammatory and decided not to use it.  As it was not asked aloud in the focus group, I don’t think there’s any need to expose it here.