Every election season, a few political campaigns make the front pages with “push” polls — the kind that pretend to measure public opinion while really spreading propaganda. In one famous example, Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign called New Yorkers, asking if their vote would be swayed by the “knowledge” that Rudy Giuliani was pro-life (in fact, he’s not).

During these in-between months without a general election on the immediate horizon, push-polling takes on a different look. It’s a tool used also by social-issue activists in order to demonstrate the meteoric rise of one “correct” public opinion or other. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is getting pretty good at it.

PETA released what it called a “breakthrough survey” last summer, purporting to measure a huge spike in the number of Americans who “find the arguments in favor of vegetarianism compelling.” And PETA purchased the polling services of Zogby International to carry out the telephone interviews, in order to lend much-needed credibility to their exercise.

But now it looks like just another push-poll. Dan Murphy of Meat Marketing and Technology magazine took a look at PETA’s survey questions, and found a host of “slanted, inaccurate, and outright libelous statements.” These anti-meat rants, he thought, “should never have made it past the first junior researcher” at Zogby. And he’s right.

PETA claims that “the federal government does not ensure the humane treatment of animals raised for food.” There are literally hundreds of pages of federal regulations on the subject. [for starters, see here, and here, and here, and here]

PETA claims that “the EPA says…animal agriculture uses half the water supply in the U.S.” Curiously, there’s no footnote; there couldn’t be, because it’s simply not true. And whatever portion of water is used for raising cattle — just like the water used to grow soybeans for tofu — is returned the environment in one form or another.

PETA also claims that a punitive excise tax on meat (“similar to the tax on tobacco products”) would somehow reduce Americans’ risk of heart disease. But according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, coronary disease rates among Americans dropped dramatically between 1950 and 1996 (from 307.4 per 100,000 to just 134.6), at the same time meat consumption was on the rise.

These blatant falsehoods, and others, were part of PETA’s effort to brainwash Americans in 2002. Asked for comment, a Zogby spokesman told Mr. Murphy: “Well, we’ve worked with PETA and groups like the Humane Society before, so we trust them.”