Washington, Oct. 3 : Barack Obama's campaign for the White House is receiving increasing complaints about scam pollsters involved in dirty tricks operations to discredit the Democratic candidate.
According to a report appearing in The Guardian, victims claim the fake pollsters work insinuations into their questions, designed to damage Obama.
Those targeted in swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania include Jews, Christian evangelicals, Catholics and Latinos.
The paper quoted Debbie Minden, who lives in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, Squirrel Hill, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as saying that a pollster had begun by asking her the usual questions about her background and who she would vote for, and then going on to ask Minden, who is Jewish, how she would vote if she knew that Obama was supported by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza and was responsible for most of the suicide bombings against Israel.
"It is scare tactics. It is terribly underhand," she said.
The groups behind such polls have not been identified. One of the Republican groups working on behalf of John McCain's campaign, the Republican Jewish Coalition, acknowledges carrying out a survey about Jewish voters' views on Obama and Israel, but insists it was a legitimate exercise intended to test campaign messages on Jewish voters.
The RJC angrily dismissed comparisons between its exercise and a "push poll", the technique of using fake surveys to sway voters.
Push polling was used with stunning effect in the 2000 Republican primary campaign in South Carolina where people claiming to be pollsters insinuated that McCain, then fighting George Bush for the party nomination, had illegitimately fathered a black child.
Bush went on to overturn McCain's double-digit poll lead in the primaries, and the origin of the calls was never fully established.
This year, the tactic surfaced again during the Republican primaries when calls were made highlighting the religion of one of the candidates, Mitt Romney - he is a Mormon, a religion viewed with suspicion by some on the Christian right.