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Polling Fun

It is tempting by many campaigns to put out public polling claiming their guy is in the lead and touting his or her strength. For the second time in a month, Summit Consulting Group has put out a poll touting the strength of State Senator Jim Waring.

Now I like Jim and think he’s a good guy. But he needs to distance himself from Summit’s incredibly flawed polling.

For those of you who aren’t experts on polling, let me explain. In the poll just below as was the case with the poll release around a month ago, Summit isn’t releasing a true ballot question. You can tell this because the undecideds are uncommonly low. In fact, most Congressional races develop late and rare is it that a candidate builds up any type of substantial lead until voters start paying attention.

Yet, at first glance at the press release below, you would think that Jim Waring has a commanding lead in the race. However, if you read the press release, you will see that it is only among voters who have made up their mind. This is probably around 20 to 25 percent of the voters, leaving around 70-80 percent undecided. Now in fairness to Summit, they acknowledge that.

But there is another problem.

If you read further into the press release by Summit, they claim that the poll conducted was 400 interviews with a  margin of error of +/-  5 percent. That’s fine, but the numbers they are citing for Waring only include those who have decided or about 20-30 percent of those interviewed or in other words about 80 to 90 interviews, not 400. The problem with that is that this isn’t a statistically significant number of interviews to mean anything. The margin of error for such a small sample is so large that it means nothing. You can see that in their results with both Crump and Gorman jumping around in the numbers. That is to be expected because the margin of error is so large.

If Summit wants to be taken seriously as a polling firm, then they would do well to release the entire poll and release the number of interviews included in the numbers they choose to highlight.

Finally, in an article in the Capitol Times from last month, Summit head Chad Willems mentioned that he was going to be working for Waring.  Yet in this press release there is no such mention of any relationship.  The reason this matters is that the FEC takes a very dim view of consultants and employees of a campaign doing things independently that could ostensibly be seen as beneficial to a candidate they are working for.  Now Summit may not be working for the Waring campaign, but if they are, then they should disclose it to the recipients of the press release.

Who Needs to Bother with Town Hall Meetings…

…when you have the Arizona Republic working for you?

Arizona Republic assistant editorial page editor Robert Leger’s post on one constituent’s efforts to actually meet with Congressman Harry Mitchell says it all.

Fun with Budget Negotiations

The latest gambit in Governor Brewer’s increasingly strained negotiations with the Legislature is a lawsuit she intends to file today forcing the Legislature to send her the recently passed budget that she will presumably veto in an attempt to start the process over with less than three weeks to go.  

The Governor has backed off on her insistence that the FY’10 budget include a tax increase and is now calling for legislation to put the tax increase on the ballot at some time in the future.  I suppose that’s a logical negotiating position on her part – “I’ll give you a no tax increase budget for FY’10, if you give me the tax increase vote in return.”

One problem.  

How does it pass the Legislature?

In theory, you have two somewhat realistic options to pass it in both chambers.  

First, you convince Republican legislators that this isn’t really a tax increase, just a vote to give voters a choice.  You then hope that the desire to finish this marathon legislative session outweighs the reluctance to vote for the tax increase.  Odds of this happening – probably slim and none.  

Second, you try and convince Democrats to provide a large majority of the votes and then try to pick off and/or buy Republican votes to get yourself a majority.  Odds of this happening – slightly better, but it would fly in the face of strong Democrat opposition to the sales tax and their desire for something with a little more, shall we say, oomph in the tax department.  It also assumes that there are enough Republican yes votes, something that is by no means guaranteed.  

This is probably why the Governor wants the budget bills.  Vetoing them serves her purposes in both scenarios.  In scenario one, she can increase the desperation about passing a budget by vetoing these bills.  If these ones are off the table, she apparently believes she is in a stronger negotiating position as the fiscal year nears an end and Legislators come under increased pressure to strike a deal.  

In the second scenario, she is in better position to buy both Republican and Democrat votes for her tax increase if she can play a big role in the crafting of a new budget.  

Fun stuff.  Aren’t you glad you’re not a Legislator?

An Interesting Reason to Get Rid of Clean Elections

This coming Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up a proposal by Senator Jonathan Paton to send to the ballot a measure to get rid of Clean Elections.  

I for one, support that measure for the same reasons many do who follow politics in AZ.  I believe that the system is irreparably flawed and serves as a drag on free speech.  I also oppose the idea of using public money for political campaigns.  

But courtesy of Freshman State Senator Steve Pierce there is another reason to get rid of Clean Elections that most of us haven’t thought of.  

From Today’s Capitol Times:

“Clean Elections gives you a lesser quality of people, and I think people should have to raise their own money,” 

Lesser quality of people?

Considering that a significant amount of Senator Pierce’s colleagues have utilized Clean Elections at one point or another in their careers, one can only imagine what Senator Pierce must think about the people he serves with.  

Haven’t We Been Through This Already?

In 2001, a so-called “businessman” from out of state showed up on the political scene claiming he wanted to run for Congress. He was replete the requisite cowboy boots and jeans – apparently out of staters think we are all a bunch of cowboys – and splashed around a lot of money to win a seat in Congress. His ties to the state were minimal at best – he had gone to college here but hadn’t lived in the state for over 20 years. That Congressman was Rick Renzi. Most political followers know the rest of the story.

Now comes news that another “businessman” is looking to do the same thing. Call it Renzi-redux if you will. Jim Ward announced he was running for Congress stating in his press release that he has traveled the district listening to residents to “get a sounding as to the viability of his candidacy” (get a sounding?). That was probably a smart move on Mr. Ward’s part, given the fact that according to property records, he’s only lived in the district and the state for a little over six months. But fair is fair, our Constitution places no resident requirements on running for Congress.

But the topic of this post isn’t really about Mr. Ward. Apparently he thinks that his long time residence in the Bay Area of California is sufficient to understand the needs and concerns of Arizonans. I’m not here to question that.

What I’m wondering is what it is about Arizona that seems to attract these types of candidacies from out of staters? Why do out of staters think they can come to Arizona and despite having very little connection represent our views in Congress?

Do we come off as that small time? A place where someone can show up and splash a little money and be considered a credible candidate to represent our views despite having little to no real ties to the state?

I’m curious what Sonoran Alliance readers think. Feel free to comment.

Arlen Specter’s Wild Ride

If you have been following the machinations of Senator Arlen Specter (R D-PA) over the last couple of weeks it’s hard not to wonder if he has lost his mind or he just doesn’t give a damn anymore what people think. 


First Specter announces he is switching parties and in doing so decides not to use the tried and true excuse of that the “party left me” in explaining his decision.  Instead he very candidly observes that he’s switching solely because he can’t win a Republican Primary.  Or in other words to the Democrats – “I can’t get my own party to support me, so will you guys help out?

Then we have his comments on the Sunday talk shows where he states very plainly that if Jack Kemp would still be alive today if Congress had only spent more on cancer research – a very crass and tasteless way to make a political point.  

But Arlen wasn’t done with using cancer for political purposes.  Yesterday there was a story about an Arlen Specter website called Specter for the Cure where any reasonable person would think they are giving to a charity fighting cancer when in reality they are contributing to Specter’s reelection campaign.  

Finally, we have a report today from the New York Times that Specter believes that the Courts should award the Minnesota Senate Seat to Republican Norm Coleman.  Now, I happen to agree with Specter on this, but one wonders if this is the right move to make when you just switched to the Democratic Party.  Especially considering that the last thing you want to do is upset the liberal base of your new party when you are trying to avoid a primary.  Well, it only took a short time until the crazies over at the Daily Kos were inflamed by Specter’s comments and calling for his head.  

He’s your problem now Democrats.  

Do You Dance with the One Who Brung You?

Mesa Police Chief George Gascon spent Thursday testifying before a congressional committee purportedly investigating the 287(g) program, but seen by many as conducting a show hearing on Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Now it’s no secret that Gascon is no big fan of Arpaio.  Prior to the hearings and today’s article in the East Valley Tribune, I was willing to accept Gascon’s dislike of Arpaio at face value.  Perhaps he did have real objections with Arpaio’s decision to conduct raids in Mesa without what Gascon felt was proper notification.  I may not have agreed with it, but it was a fair contention.

However, today’s article should be cause for concern for any Mesa resident – of which I am not – who is concerned about the illegal immigration that has gripped many parts of their city.

In the article, Gascon is asked by Congressman Ted Poe who paid for Gascon’s trip to DC.  Now for those of you unfamiliar with Poe, he was a no nonsense judge in Harris County Texas prior to being elected to Congress.  He had a reputation for not suffering fools lightly.  And he lived up to that reputation with Gascon.

Who paid your way to get here today?” Poe asked. Gascón replied by repeating the question.

“You heard me,” Poe said. “Who paid your way?”

“A group of nonprofit organizations that are seeking immigration reform,” Gascón answered.

“Would you agree with the statement that we dance with the one who brung us?” Poe said, suggesting that Gascón was essentially paid for his testimony.

The police chief bristled at Poe’s comment, reciting his military service and long law enforcement career.

“I don’t dance with anyone,” Gascón replied.

Really George?  Now maybe your motives are pure.  But letting a bunch of immigration reform groups pay your way out here to participate in a show hearing attacking the Sheriff of the County you live in strikes me as perhaps not the smartest thing to do.  Should a municipal employee charged with enforcing the law really be seen as being in the bag with groups that have made it clear they aren’t real high on the idea of enforcing certain laws?

Now George’s motive may in fact be pure.  But why bring them into question when you are the Chief of Police of a city that has suffered more from the problems of illegal immigration than probably almost any other city in the Valley?

Heaven help the citizens of Mesa if Gascon really is more of an apologist for illegal immigration than a Chief of Police committed to enforcing immigration laws.  I believe the jury is out on that right now, if only because of Gascon’s inexplicable decision to apparently dance with the ones who brought him.

Fun With Polling

Polling is a tricky thing.

The average person may think it is as simple as finding a question and asking it.  It’s not and that’s why most reputable pollsters have a combination of education and/or experience that give them the background to do the job right.  Most people would be surprised at how easy it is a change the wording of a question in subtle ways to get an answer you want.  It’s why every now and then you see polling results that purport to represent the feelings of the electorate that may make you shake your head in wonder.

Interest groups realize this and that’s why they will often work in conjunction with a pollster to craft questions that they feel will have a reasonble likelihood of giving them the answer they want. You simply throw in options in the question that you know people like to gin up support for your issue.  I tend to call this “PR polling.”

For example – Let’s say you were behind an effort to raise gas taxes by 25 percent.  Now common sense tells you that most people would oppose that.  So you don’t ask the question “Would you support raising gas taxes by 25 percent to build more roads”  You don’t need a poll to know the answer to that one.  Instead you conjure up something like this:

“Would support raising gas taxes 25 percent if it would reduce your commute by 75 percent and allow you to spend more time with your family?”

I suspect the results on that question would be quite different.

Which brings me to the recent poll conducted by Margaret Kenski and High Ground and just released by the AZ GOP today.  The press release purports to say that Arizona voters support increasing taxes.

Here is the question asked by Kenski, who by the way is a very reputable pollster.

“I’d like to ask you how acceptable or unacceptable you find the following measures which would be considered in addition to spending cuts in order to preserve critical education and public health funding while the economy begins to recover. These taxes would be in the form of a constitutionally limited tax that would last for no more than three years and would automatically be eliminated without another public vote.

Let’s assume for the purposes of these questions that the Legislature and the Governor have already cut nearly $1 billion dollars in State spending by 2010, used all of the federal stimulus funds to balance the budget and still have a billion dollar per year budget deficit. All of the funds raised from these taxes would be dedicated towards maintaining 2010 spending levels for K-12 education, universities, community colleges, and health care for the poor. Each of the following measures would raise approximately a billion dollars per year.”

I’ve highlighted some of the “sweeteners” included in the question to ensure the answer they want.  First we have “critical”  This is in there for one reason – to scare people.  It’s a word that when used before education and public health implies an emergency situation.  Not, mind you an emergency situation in government terms, but an emergency situation in real terms – IE if we don’t do this then our schools will close and people will die.

Second, we have “while the economy begins to recover.” this at first blush may seem extraneous to the question, but it’s not.  It’s there to say “hey things will get better soon so this wont be so bad.” because people don’t like higher taxes in tough economic times.

Finally, we have the all time favorite term to use when you want to gin up support for something – “education” and the “poor”.  After all who wouldn’t want to support our kids and those less fortunate than us.  So these terms are used in the question.  Now I am not saying they shouldn’t be used for descriptive purposes, but ask yourself, why didn’t the question just say “education and healthcare” instead of “K-12 education, universities, community colleges, and healthcare for the poor.”  The answer is simple, by listing all of these things you are attempting to touch in some way the respondent.  They may not have a child in school, but maybe they care a lot about a community college or a university.  Same thing with the healthcare question.

Now if you really wanted to find out what the citizens of Arizona feel about how to deal with the budget situation, you would probably ask the following and you would probably get a much different answer.

“Some people say that we need to raise taxes to balance our state budget so that we can limit budget cuts for government services like education and healthcare, others say that we should reduce government spending to balance the state budget.

“which position is closer to your view?”

I suspect we would get much different results.

Trust Us…Photo Radar is All About Driver Safety!

Yeah Right.

For those readers who had any lingering doubt about the real reasons we have photo radar, I direct you to a brief article in the Tribune.  

Redflex, the real winner in the photo radar scam, sent a lobbyist and count ’em two PR people down to the Tribune to defend photo radar.  

One senses that RedFlex is going to spare no expense protecting it’s cash cow from legislative and citizen efforts to reign in photo radar.  

But hey that’s okay…after all it’s all about driver safety.  

Whither Clean Elections?

Word from the Capitol is that Clean Elections has hired powerhouse lobbyist Mike Williams to lobby for a proposal to give every candidate seeking public financing the maximum amount of money.  This is, of course, in response to the court decision invalidating the matching funds provision of the Clean Elections Act.  To their credit, Clean Elections realizes that without matching funds or a change in the law to give candidates seeking public financing the maximum amount which in the case of the State Legislative races would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $55,000 or so, Clean Elections will effectively cease to exist as a credible means to run a campaign.  

However, the likelihood of getting the requisite 75 percent necessary to make changes in the law is all but a non-starter at the Capitol.  Why would any Legislator who does not use public financing vote to give their potential opponents $55,000?  Money that would, if races from recent years are any indication, be used to attack them.  That answer is that they wouldn’t.  Furthermore, giving every candidate the max would require any candidate choosing not to use public financing to work that much harder to raise money.  

In addition, there is an argument to be made that giving all candidates the max would in effect compel even more candidates to use public financing.  If you were guaranteed upwards of a $100,000 for the primary and the general, you would have no choice with our low donation limits but to use public financing.  

The more likely outcome, pending a reprieve from the 9th circuit, is that Clean Elections will cease to exist as a realistic funding source for any credible candidate and slowly whither away.  

And for those who oppose the concept of using public money to finance political campaigns, it won’t come fast enough.  

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