In early December, John Zogby, a prominent American pollster, appeared on Sky News Australia, as he occasionally does, to chat about the latest developments in the US presidential campaign. He noted that it was bad news for Biden: “I haven’t seen one published poll in the states or, for that matter, nationwide, including my own unpublished polls in the battleground states, where Joe Biden is where he needs to be… Joe Biden is not in good shape heading into 2024.”
Zogby was encouraging about another presidential candidate: Robert Kennedy Jr. He pointed out, “Bobby Kennedy is out there. And even with terrible press that he’s getting, Bobby Kennedy is about 20, 22 percent nationwide, actually 24, 25 percent in some of the battleground states. So this thing is complex this year. Remember, 73 percent don’t want Biden or Trump to be running.”
As he provided his analysis, which jibed with other political commentators, Zogby left out an important piece of data: His firm has been working for Kennedy, who is running as an independent.
According to Federal Election Commission records, the Kennedy campaign in 2023 paid John Zogby Strategies just over $200,000 for research and consulting. The super PAC supporting Kennedy, American Values 2024, paid Zogby’s company another $83,500 for polling. Zogby Strategies has also done polling for Children’s Health Defense, the anti-vax nonprofit Kennedy has headed. In December 2020, the organization released a poll conducted by Zogby Strategies in which 16 percent of respondents said they “don’t want to take this new mRNA COVID-19 vaccine” and 39 percent preferred to “wait and see if it negatively affects other people who get it.”
So one of the more notable polling firms, led by a veteran pollster who identifies as a progressive Democrat, is helping to elect as president an anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has been associating with the heroes of the alt-right, including Tucker Carlson and Michael Flynn.
In an interview with Mother Jones, Zogby said that he has sometimes disclosed his firm’s connection to Kennedy while punditing but not always. “I’ve been fairly responsible,” he said, “but not every time.” In future appearances, he added, “I will give it my best.” Asked if had had qualms about his business associating with a candidate who has promoted conspiracy theories and been identified as a major spreader of disinformation about Covid and vaccines, Zogby replied, “That’s a very good question. But I’m 40 years into this business. I’ve been a vendor and worked for conservatives and progressives and all sorts in-between and that includes the private sector. As a progressive, I’ve learned a lot from folks with whom I disagree.”
Zogby noted that he has chatted a few times with Kennedy but that his son Jeremy Zogby, the managing partner of the firm, has been handling the Kennedy account.
Jeremy Zogby told Mother Jones that Kennedy reached out to him and asked the firm to handle his campaign polling. “We’re an independent polling firm,” he said. “We’ve always worked with people who are and are not controversial. We’re not party-based or affiliated with any ideology.” He added, “I don’t discriminate based on people’s worldview.”
Asked about Kennedy’s anti-vax position and support for conspiracy theories, Jeremy Zogby responded, “I read that all kinds of people are crazy.” But he said he doesn’t take his cues from the media: “Because 90 percent of the media says a person is this or that—I can’t listen to that.” Instead, he said, people should watch the 2020 debate on vaccines between Kennedy and law professor Alan Dershowitz. “A lot of people out there say Kennedy is a nut job,” he explained. “I’ve met him. I don’t think so. A lot of what he says has been misrepresented.” He pointed out that “with 90 percent of our clients, there are some things I don’t agree with. I’m not going to come up with a litmus test… We aspire to be accurate and independent.”
On the campaign trail, Kennedy has denied he is a foe of vaccination, but that’s a false claim, as the Associated Press reported. In July, he declared on a podcast that “there’s no vaccine that is safe and effective.” He also said on Fox he believes the debunked notion that vaccines cause autism. He backed the bizarre idea that the development of the coronavirus vaccines was part of a plot linked to billionaire Bill Gates to control people via microchips. Last summer, he said Covid was designed “to attack Caucasians and black people” and that the “people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” His remarks were widely seen as antisemitic gibberish suggesting a malevolent entity had cooked up Covid to kill whites and Blacks but spare Jews and Chinese. In 2021, the Center for Countering Digital Hate named Kennedy one of the top disseminators of false information regarding the Covid vaccines.
Kennedy has also spread other conspiracy theories and baseless claims, asserting that anti-depressants are linked to school shootings, chemical exposures causes gender dysphoria, and the CIA killed President John Kennedy, his uncle.
FEC records indicate that John Zogby Strategies in recent times has not worked for other presidential or congressional candidates.
Not long ago, John Zogby hailed Biden’s presidency. In a 2022 column in Forbes, he wrote that Biden’s “first 15 months in office have produced an envious record of relief, recovery and reform – to borrow a slogan from the New Deal… Mr. Biden handles his job with aplomb and his record is one of enormous accomplishment.” He blasted Biden’s advisers for being overprotective of the president and urged them to place Biden in front of the American public more often. “Let Joe be Joe,” he advised.
More recently, Zogby has been less bullish on Biden. In November, he conducted a poll for the Arab American Institute (which is headed by his brother James Zogby) that showed Biden’s standing among Arab Americans had fallen precipitously during the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza that was triggered by the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on October 7. Only 17 percent said they would vote for Biden in 2024, as opposed to the 59 percent who supported him in 2020. The poll, which was widely cited, found that Biden’s approval rating among Arab Americans had plummeted to 29 percent. (Kennedy has been a stalwart defender of Israel during the war.)
Zogby has participated in a regular feature for the Washington Examiner—the “White House Report Card”—in which he is teamed up with Jed Babbin, a Pentagon official during the George H.W. Bush administration, and they each give Biden’s ongoing performance in office a grade. In recent weeks, Zogby has tended to hand out C’s. The column does not mention that Zogby’s company is working for the Kennedy campaign and the Kennedy super-PAC.
On February 2, Zogby was again on Sky News Australia. He said that a recent Quinnipiac poll showing Biden ahead of Trump by 6 points in a national match-up might be an outlier. When the host asked whether Kennedy would draw votes from Biden or Trump, Zogby replied, “There are things that Bobby Kennedy says that are appealing to the right, particularly the lack of trust in government and institutions. On the other hand, Bobby Kennedy [is a] longtime successful environmental lawyer and the scion of a scion of a Democratic family. Our polls are showing that Bobby Kennedy is actually drawing equally from Trump’s and Biden’s supporters.” That point is useful for Kennedy, who does not want to be labelled a spoiler.
Zogby said nothing about Kennedy’s crusade against vaccinations or his promotion of conspiracy theories. Once more, he did not mention his firm’s tie to the Kennedy campaign.