Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tutorials in Biased Polling from Beacon

The Beacon Center, the folks who brought us their Screw the Poor alternative budget to Mayor Dean's proposal for an increase in the property tax, have commissioned and released a poll which, shockingly, affirms their belief that Nashvillians oppose the Mayor's budget.

Beacon released preliminary results yesterday and released the full poll earlier today which they say proves that, even when presented with the Mayor's talking points, voters oppose the plan.  Just a few thoughts on the findings.

  • "Likely voters" - The polling firm excluded anyone who said they will "probably" or "definitely" won't vote in the next countwide election.  If by the next "countywide" election, people thought you to mean the school board and primary races, that excludes quite a lot of people who aren't habitual voters. 
  • "13% tax increase" - This, in and of itself, is a biased description in that its a 53 cent property tax increase. The first question uses this designation, and its reiterated again in the poll.  Perhaps the results would've been the same, but we'll never know, and I'd imagine that people are more willing to pay an extra "53 cents" as opposed to a 13% tax hike. 
  • "The Mayor's Talking Points..."
Beacon had been hyping their super special release of the full poll that tested "the Mayor's talking points" to see if voters support it.  And while the first part of question 5 does give the Mayor's budget highlights, the second part of the question implies the first part wasn't true:

So, in other words, either you can raise taxes to avoid cuts in education and police OR hey, all you have to do is maintain current spending and "cut unnecessary waste".

Hell, if that were an option, I'd take it too.  But what TCPR/Beacon fails to mention in the poll, is that their version of "cutting unecessary waste" involves eliminating all funding for public transportation, shuttering Metro General, and ignoring needed improvements in schools and other parts of the city.

If they were truly trying to find out which idea was more popular, they'd have asked the question that way...but that wasn't their goal, they wanted numbers that scared councilmembers and reaffirmed their own worldview, and hey, you pay any polling firm enough, they'll get you these numbers.