Gross polling malpractice and the propaganda machine



With nearly 95% of the votes accounted for in Alaska’s 2020 General Election, it’s over for U.S. Senate candidate Alan Gross. As the dust settles, and as Gross has finally made his brief concession call to Sullivan, Sullivan’s win is a double-digit advantage.

This margin of victory may have come as a shock to the Gross campaign and its supporters. Over the past several months, Gross has carefully handpicked polling data that aligns with the campaign narrative. It’s almost as if they began believing their own polling.

Pushing out false polling numbers is a strategy for increasing Outside donations and invigorating potential voters to join with “a winner,” but real, final poll numbers are always at the ballot box.

Sullivan’s landslide leaves the Gross campaign sifting through the debris of an $18 million campaign that finds itself being asked an important question:

Where did it all go wrong?    

One thread on the fraying garment is how the Gross campaign overvalued Democrat-leaning poll data, created misleading numbers to keep a “unifying” campaign narrative, and underestimated Sullivan’s support altogether. 

Early in 2020, Gross began pushing unverified polling data to entice potential donors to give to his campaign. The public and the donors were told the numbers, but never given the cross-tabs.

In particular, one reoccurring Twitter post toward the end of the campaign announced Gross had “sailed into the lead” by moving ahead 47% to 46% over incumbent Dan Sullivan. 

The social media post linked to an site, the place where Democrats raise money for their candidates.

Since it first appeared, the 47/46 myth was posted at least 17 times on Gross’ campaign Twitter feed. In that time, Gross never verified the 47/46 projection, but that did not stop the campaign from naming and claiming, and raising money on a lie that was weeks in the making.

On Aug. 31, Gross posted a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, indicating Gross and Sullivan were tied 43% to 43%.

One month prior to that, the PPP poll had Sullivan ahead 39% to 34%. Gross omitted that data point from his Twitter feed in July.

PPP is described by as “a Democratic polling firm that conducts publicly released surveys routinely cited in mainstream media accounts.” Dean Debnam, who founded the firm in 2001 in Raleigh, NC, is described by as “one of the state’s most ardent donors to Democrat politicians.”

In late September, Gross tweeted out the survey from the Democrat- and Obama-affiliated polling firm, Harstad Strategic Research, saying his campaign was now ahead in the Alaska Senate race, 47% to 46%.

The Harstad survey was an internal poll paid for by the Gross campaign. It’s also the polling firm used by former Sen. Mark Begich.

“The latest poll on the race for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat gives Democrat-backed independent challenger Al Gross a one-point lead against Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan,” wrote the Daily Kos, a heavily left-leaning news blog.

“Gross has the support of 47% of the 606 Alaska likely voters covered in the poll to Sullivan’s 46%, according to a polling memo released Harstad Strategic Research. The poll was conducted between Oct. 10 and Oct. 13 with a self-reported 4% margin of error and is the third such poll conducted by the firm.

“’This progress confirms Dr. Gross’ continuing momentum and steady climb in recent months to his first tiny lead over Sullivan,’ explained the memo by Paul Harstad, the firm’s CEO,” the Daily Kos wrote.

On Oct. 22, Gross tweeted yet another poll from Change Research, which had Sullivan in the lead at 47% to 44%. Both polls had a margin of error of 4%. 

On Oct. 28, Gross tweeted a poll from Gravis Marketing, which had Sullivan leading 48% to 45%.

Even after the election, on Nov. 5, Gross campaign manager David Keith sent a memo to the media telling them to not call the race because “independent polling” and Patinkin Research Strategies both said Gross went into Election Day with a 47-46 advantage.

The Gross campaign’s narrative was straightforward: We’re not just in this; we could win it.

But it was kabuki theater. Leaning on polling data that only aided in his campaign’s messaging proved to be a costly mistake. It’s something that happens in campaigns that are using polls to push narratives — the campaigns start believing them.

In the other camp, Sen. Dan Sullivan’s campaign never released a single poll. That campaign also conducted polling, to see where the voters were at, but the numbers were closely held.

Friday, Gross conceded the Alaska U.S. Senate race to Sullivan. In his statement, Gross labeled his campaign the “underdogs” and reinforced how proud he was of his campaign. 

“We were underdogs from the start, but we ran a strong campaign and raised important issues that deserved to be heard.”

After spending tens of millions in ads dishonestly attacking the character and record of Sullivan, he had created one more lie: That he was the underdog.

One of the biggest political stories of the year is the polling malpractice being pushed by companies pretending to be pollsters, but serving as propagandists.

They do it for the money. They’re not held accountable because what dishonest campaigns want are some type of polling numbers that buttress their rise to credibility. It happened all over the country, with most national pollsters badly calling the presidential race as a landslide for Biden.

The doctor from Juneau knew this was polling malpractice, but he engaged in it willingly to try to fool voters into thinking he was the lead dog, rather than the underdog.

In the end, he flipped the narrative and became the underdog. It may have taken a piece of his soul to run such a campaign, and likely destroyed his political credibility for good.


  1. Dr. Gross was not the lead dog. Al was a wheel dog; the under the wheel dog. Enjoy Santa Barbara; the street are free to dog sleds.

  2. Polling entities and main stream media are then resources of public trust, by many individuals throughout our nation.

    Both of which then appear to have a conflict-of-interest or worse – motive for self-dealing?

    And scarier, both of which are not held accountable because of (for the media) “constitutional protection” and the (polling companies) lack of polling practice oversight election laws?

    So, really doesn’t that mean the National Enquirer is as valid as any other mainstream media outlet and the polling they publish – as valid as any ‘credibly cited’ polling outcome in a Presidential election?

  3. What happened is very simple. Dan Sullivan is an Insider. We know him. He works for us. Al Gross and Alyse Galvin are Outsiders. They do not know us. The same goes for people who supported Gross and Galvin.

    Alaska is a “ small state”. You can’t bull— your way through a tight crowd of real Alaskans.

    The Outsiders are here briefly. May they soon be on their way. Bye-bye.

  4. I didn’t vote for Gross, but I will defend him from the outside left wing interest groups who are now disparaging him for his huge loss and misappropriation of their millions of dollars in donations.. Gross may be a loser… But he’s OUR loser… Gross has proved to be almost as much as an Alaskan icon as the tooth fairy is a dentist.. So just because you lefties spent more effort on rigging the voting to pass ballot measure 2 then you did on supporting our big cojones fisherman, doesn’t give you the right to make fun of him… He may be a coo-coo, but he’s our very own Alaskan coo-coo… And though you fair weather liberals may, we will never disrespect him for that…

    • Interesting take. I don’t find Al Gross very likeable, personally, but I agree with the idea that he shouldn’t be blamed for failing to win when national Democrats decided to back him so hard. I agree with the sentiment that he got false hope and that false hope wasn’t his fault at all and national Democrats should leave Alaska Democrats alone. I grew up in Wyoming that is perhaps one the reddest states in the union, but we occasionally had Democrat governors. Those guys won because they weren’t the same as a California Democrat or a New York Democrat. And Alaska Democrats understand more about what Alaskan’s want then the outsiders that tried to influence and bolster Al’s campaign. Just goes to show how arrogant those left coast Democrats are.

    • Its sort of hard to call him “Our Loser” when he operates from his million dollar California Mansion…….

      And that might be a good part of the reason he is not “our winner”…….

    • The narrative that “we should respect someone because they are Alaskan” is a complete logical fallacy. Our respect for anyone should be based upon their moral character, world view, and overall competency… in that order. A communist born and raised in Alaska is equally wrong for us as one born and raised in Venezuela or China.

  5. On a national level, polls did not get it wrong. They tried to convince voters that voting for the one trailing was a wasted vote. Therefore, they project their favorite canidate to the winners circle. Same here.

  6. Good riddance to such negative campaign tactics. It is small wonder that good citizens are hesitant to enter the political arena.

  7. If that was a campaign he could be proud of then he should rethink his ethos. That was the most despicable, no good, worthless campaign in Alaskan history.

  8. I have never seen a more out of touch campaign in my entire life.

    If the pollsters are being sued for professional malpractice, it would be foolish to leave out his campaign management. Those ads and talking points were aimed squarely at the Patagonia progressive crowd and nobody else. Those ads may speak to newcomers squatting in Spenard, Turnagain and Homer, but beyond the “Alaskan Adventure – Do I look cool in these Xtra Tuff” crowd, they fell flat.

    How many other people stopped using YouTube just to avoid those ridiculous ads?

    Who in their right mind thinks its wise to have college girls from NYC and SF write handwritten letters to Alaskans begging them to vote for their candidate?

    I wonder if a single member of the Gross campaign staff has ever driven an hour north of Anchorage, or met an Alaskan?

    • Your comment is spot on! I had to turn the radio down every time one of his ads came on they were so bad.
      My favorite part was when his ads said Sullivan voted the party line 97% of the time. My thought was why not 100%? It reaffirmed my decision to vote for Sullivan.
      My hope is that all these people coming to escape or leave behind the mess they escaped from don’t bring the disaster with them.

  9. Dissenting opinion is a valuable learning tool in a campaign. Al Gross’ biggest flaw was hiring sycophantic idealistic kids. This point was obvious after watching a few of his superbly produced narcissistic advertorials.

  10. Dr. Al lost my interest and my vote with about the fifth piece of self-promoting junk mail in a week. I have never gotten so much expensively-produced crap in such a short time and it just kept on coming for several weeks.

  11. You know.. Hillary asked that same question- “what went wrong?”. She had the communist mouth piece media behind her 100%, polls said she was going to win, then… I wake the next morning to see America had been saved from communism one last time.

    Al- if you’re reading this… The youtube ads about “climate change”? Real stupid move to bank on when your possible employers (voters) work in the oil industry.

  12. Gross was a flawed candidate from the beginning and the outsiders and outside money just made him worse.

    Two other comments: Gross’ surge, real or not, caused an unsure Sullivan to flop over into opposing Pebble Mine. Pebble is potentially an actual natural resources development opportunity. If is weak to claim, as it is often done by conservatives, that a person favors resource development but then completely retreat from that philosophy when faced with an immediate choice. It is like saying you were for a war before you opposed it.

    I see that much of this pseudo-drama on polling unfolded on Twitter. Twitter is a joke. What a waste. People that use and follow Twitter get what they deserve.

    • I see this very differently. Those two stupid executives, so easily duped, left elected Alaskans no choice but to be against Pebble. You don’t want to get on a train if the engineer is stupid and brags that he is so much smarter than you that you have no choice in the matter; and that is what the Pebble executives told those environmentalists who posed as investors. That theatrical performance killed Pebble. I am pro-mining but Senator Sullivan was left with no alternative by their stupidity. Gross was an inexperienced candidate who hired an inept campaign manager, one who did not have a clue about Alaska voters. Gross had the campaign that urban Californians believed would work in Alaska; now they know it didn’t work whereas we pretty much knew all along it should not work. Still, it was so well financed that we could not help but worry. Pebble is dead, and Senator Sullivan was a victim along with all other Alaskans of the stupidity and drama that killed it. I expect the Alaska delegation to fight for real issues like the Second Amendment, but I don’t expect them to risk everything to help stupid investors even if I would prefer to see the investment be successful.

      • The mineral resources that give rise to the Pebble project are not imaginary. The resources are not going away. Over time, more will be learned about their extent, their value and the challenges that are posed by their development. The resources are greater and more significant than a few foolish statements by a couple of mine proponents. Pebble will be back.

        • I agree that the resource isn’t going anywhere, and the demand for gold will not disappear. Also, the Bristol Bay fishery will never be what it once was, and the same greenies that oppose all mining also oppose commercial fishing (but Lanie Welch and her constituents don’t know that). However it will be two or three decades, or even longer before Pebble can regain its momentum. Also, this was not “a couple of mine proponents;” it was two highly paid executives – fiduciaries – speaking on behalf of the Pebble investors. When I first heard it I thought surely these two fellows saw through this and were merely hoping to learn if the environmentalist woman wore panties (they sometimes don’t you know). But I am now convinced they were completely fooled, and for me that is the strangest part of this entire incident.

  13. Gross claims they raised important issues that needed to be heard? Really? I didn’t hear him raise one issue. All he did was slam Sullivan and pretend he killed fish and bear. Someone, please tell me what his platform was? I was just happy my recycling bin was next to my mailbox because that is exactly where all of his flyers went.
    Those millions spent on his would have served the State of Alaska by filling the shelves of the foodbanks across the State or donating to the women’s shelters. What a complete waste.

  14. Al should have just been himself and tried honesty. Honesty is something the left wing Democrats stay far from. From killing the bear cub to the fancy new outfits, we knew he was full of bull and the money flowed in from down south. Ha, didn’t work. Maybe next time vanquish a moose, dress in something under $1000, and if you’re a Democrat say so.

  15. But “Must Read Alaska”, again you are missing the larger point to all of this: Dr. Al Gross may have lost the election, used propagandist polling that his campaign began to believe, and spent millions of rich Californians’ money in his campaign, but………….He killed himself a bar when he was only 3!!!!!!!

  16. Congrats to Al Gross on batting 1,000.

    Lost his malpractice suit, lost the trust of those in the backwater community he long took advantage of, lost any shred of dignity by lying, lost this election, and in the end claims it to have been worthwhile for others to have heard all the wonderful points he brought to light… which weren’t points at all but simply oh-huh’s and ad hominem attacks..

    The “bear doctor” can get stuffed.

  17. How long until we see this add “For sale one faux bearskin rug, complete with imitation bullet hole. One commercial fishing boat, will carry note, any 14 year old should be able to make the payments on their allowance. One Alaska home, I think it is in Juneau. Contact California All, Santa Barbara.”

  18. The left is the party of lie, cheat, steal and promote chaos, essentially to win at all costs…. I still think the left received far to many votes in this Alaska election and given the new revelations of organized voter fraud being found elsewhere, to include the mass manipulation of votes via the voting machines, I think an audit is justified if we are using any of those computers. The error caught in Bethel may have occurred elsewhere and that was a big error. All voter fraud should be uncovered and criminal charges must result. I cannot believe Alaskans voted to change our election law in Prop 2. That does not equate.

    If you are a rational Democrat, you should assess their platform and their tactics. It is not the party your parents may have voted for. It is no longer the party of Statesmanship or logic. If you are a moderate, you are probably in the Republican arena. Do you have an ability to reason or are you a knee jerk decision maker or maybe just follow what others do without exploring the facts for yourself. Do you think the US Constitution and Bill of Rights which affords you the liberties you currently enjoy should be erased?… the Democratic Party does. Are you that person? If you are, you probably uninformed and certainly don’t know history or the reality of socialism. Do you really think it wise to defund the Police? … the Democratic Party does. If you are that person, you are probably a follower and easily swayed and never attempt to learn for yourself. The Democratic Party likes its constituents to be low information voters because they are more easily swayed by their falsehoods and manipulation. If you haven’t educated yourself on a topic to understand other views to make and informed decision, be honorable and don’t vote.

  19. Alaska becomes the idiot state…. if ranked voting becomes our method of choosing legislators. I too cannot believe Alaskans voted to choose ranked voting. Let the lawyers find a loophole. Let us vote again. Do a recount. Do something!!

    How can this happen to one of the smarter states? We become the laughing stock of the Nation with ranked voting.

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