Saturday, August 14, 2010

A push poll in the state Senate race, perhaps from the Pollard camp

Update September 17: I think it's quite likely this was funded by the teachers' union, which also funded several mailers.

Beyond the apparent push poll about Atlantic Yards, which may be linked to Forest City Ratner and/or the state Senate race between incumbent (and AY opponent) Velmanette Montgomery and challenger Mark Pollard, I got a call Thursday night about the race.

The call was probably linked to the Pollard camp, since a Montgomery representative said it wasn't them. (Update: Maybe that was too conclusory. It could've come from a group supporting Montgomery.)

The caller said she was a representative of a public opinion research firm called M.E.M. "We're conducting a brief survey about important issues in your area," I was told.

I asked for the location of the firm and a web site. There's no web site, I was told, and "I'm just in a call center." (She couldn't pronounce "Gowanus," so she was clearly from way out of town.) So I took a few notes.

Opening up

The first two questions aimed to assess things broadly:
  • How likely are you to vote in Democratic primary?
  • In general, are things are going in the right direction or the wrong track?
Then I was asked for my opinion of a list of people in public life:
  • Andrew Cuomo
  • Velmanette Montgomery
  • Mark Pollard
Ah, I concluded, this is about the state Senate race.

The big issues

The next two questions concerned what is apparently the principal issue--or at least the principal campaign issue, given Pollard's funding by charter school supporters:
  • What do I think of the United Federation of Teachers
  • What do I think of charter schools?
The next question concerned what is apparently a significant secondary issue:
  • What are my feelings about Atlantic Yards?
Whom to vote for

Then I was asked if I approved or disapproved of Montgomery's performance and whether I'd vote to reelect her.

Then I was read a statement about what supporters of Pollard say: "tough, passionate, and full of energy...knows that the state Senate and Albany are broken... fully supports charter schools."

Then I was read a statement about what supporters of Montgomery say: "helped residents of Atlantic Yards keep their homes... and cleaned up the Gowanus... stood up to protect the community... a strong supporter of public schools."

Then came the push-poll aspects. "People often change their minds," I was told. "If the primary were held today, who would you vote for if you had to choose now?"

Drilling down

Then came an interesting set of questions, which may have been chosen because I indicated I'd vote for Montgomery. Had I indicated I was leaning toward Pollard, the questions might have been different.

(I think Montgomery, like any long-term incumbent, deserves a vigorous challenge--she's distinguished herself on several issues, as detailed by Tom Robbins, but she also gets a lot of money from some entrenched interest groups. But Pollard's clean-up-Albany pitch seems to be a fig leaf for the charter school issue. A debate would be welcome, though.)

I was asked my assessment of reasons people give to support Montgomery:
  • a voice for improving public schools and ensuring that new charter schools have transparency
  • supporting residents and businesses affected by the Atlantic Yards development
  • improving the juvenile justice system
  • a consistent voice for reform and integrity in Albany
I was asked to assess reasons given to oppose Pollard:
  • funding his campaign with money from hedge fund and Wall Street "fat cats"
  • cares about education but supports for-profit schools
That first reason to oppose Pollard is a tailor-made for Montgomery to exploit, so, if the poll wasn't hers, then Pollard's camp must be thinking of how to neutralize it. (Update: If the poll was from a Montgomery surrogate, they're honing their message.)

It won't be easy.

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