Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, wants to know where his constituents get their news.
He emailed an eight-question survey on Friday.
The purpose of the survey was not specifically stated but said that Nunes’ “office is collecting information related to constituents of California’s 22nd Congressional District.” Attempts by The Bee to find out details from Nunes’ staff were unsuccessful. Communications director Jack Langer said in an email reply he “can’t get a quote on this.”
Nunes has refused to talk to The Bee for several months. He was reportedly unhappy that a Bee reporter went to his neighborhood in Tulare to sample local opinion when he was in the national spotlight defending President Donald Trump.
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As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes defended Trump from allegations that his presidential campaign colluded with Russia. An uproar ensued after Nunes may have inappropriately revealed classified information. He subsequently stepped aside from the committee’s Russia probe.
Observers say the purpose of the Nunes’ survey is obvious to anyone who has spent time in politics: it’s to create a list of email addresses of likely supporters for marketing needs.
“These surveys are seldom on the level,” said John “Jack” Pitney Jr., a former staff member of the Republican National Committee who is now a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. “If a congressman want to sample public opinion, they’ll hire a professional pollster … These are exercises in list-building.”
If a congressman want to sample public opinion, they’ll hire a professional pollster
John Pitney, Claremont McKenna College political science professor
In fact, the bottom of the email states, “Please note that by participating in this survey, you will be registered to receive my e-newsletter that shares what I’m working on in Congress and at home in California.”
Nunes’ congressional district includes Tulare, Visalia, Clovis and part of Fresno.
One question in the survey asks which radio news programs the constituent listens to most frequently.
The choices are Ray Appleton, Trevor Carey, National Public Radio, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Thom Harmann, Chris Daniel, Sean Hannity and Broeske & Musson. There’s also a space to write in a radio program or station.
Nunes is a regular guest on the Ray Appleton show. Nunes routinely sends emails and texts announcing when he’ll be on the show.
The questions asked in the survey can only be answered with one choice and not multiple choices.
Other questions ask which local TV station the constituent watches most often, while another asks which cable TV show is watched most often. There’s a similar question about local newspapers or magazines.
One question asks “which type of website you visit most frequently.” The three choices are mainstream media (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Politico, etc.), conservative-leaning websites or liberal-leaning websites.
There are also questions about social media and podcasts.
It could be argued that the survey simply helps Nunes communicate with constituents about issues, but the politics of winning elections can’t be ignored, said Thomas Holyoke, a political science professor at Fresno State.
“I’m sure the information would bleed off to the campaign,” he said.
It’s really an attempt to determine where to possibly place negative ads next year.
Andrew Janz, candidate for Congress
Nunes will be seeking election to an eighth term next year. He has easily won previous re-election contests, and the district’s voter registration favors him at 43 percent Republican to 33 percent Democrats.
Democrat Andrew Janz of Fresno, a prosecutor in the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, has announced his candidacy and said he has raised more than $100,000.
Janz said he’s convinced the survey’s purpose is to help the Nunes campaign.
“It’s really an attempt to determine where to possibly place negative ads next year,” Janz said. “They’re scared. We’re running a credible and viable campaign to take his seat from him.”