When polling aims to shape the message

From the campaign trail: Poll seeks input on three mayoral candidates
News  /  Civics/Politics

[Photo by Pam Zubeck]

Yemi Mobolade

Someone is conducting a poll to determine the most effective messaging for and against three mayoral candidates in the April 4 city election. The nature of the poll suggests a belief two of the three will vie for the office in a May 16 runoff.

The poll is being pushed out on text messages from 620-322-0504, a number from Anthony, Kansas.

So-called push polls are those in which someone tries to manipulate a voter’s perspective under the guise of conducting an opinion poll, but the results are never tallied. For example: “Would you vote for Congressman X knowing he hasn’t had a single bill he’s sponsored adopted during his 18 years in office?”

The poll currently under way appears to be a benchmark poll, which typically comes at the beginning of campaign and tests various messages that campaigners might use to determine their effectiveness. Another type of poll is called a brush fire poll; this is when a campaign wants to test whether a candidate or ballot measure is losing ground or gaining ground.

“Any poll in a political contest is going to try out messages,” says Daniel Cole, a political consultant who’s handling campaign committees in favor of Wayne Williams, against Sallie Clark and in favor of the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax extension measure. He’s also handling a committee that’s pushing at-large candidates Brian Risley, Lynette Crow-Iverson, David Leinweber and Michelle Talarico.

“What that poll is to try to see is, what is going to happen on election day after people have heard a battery of positive and negative messages,” he says. “It looks at what voters will do if they hear certain messages.”

Sallie Clark

Cole declined to comment about whether the poll currently being conducted is associated with his campaign efforts.

The poll asks questions about Yemi Mobolade, Williams and Clark, citing the good, the bad and the ugly about each one.

Every statement is followed by whether that statement about the candidate would make you much more likely to vote for him/her, somewhat more, makes no difference, somewhat less likely, much less likely or unsure.

For Mobolade, for example, one statement says, “Yemi is a radical leftist and supporter of the Black Lives Matter protests. If elected, he will quickly turn Colorado Springs into Denver, with its terrible homelessness, drug problems, and general decay.”

Another statement about Mobolade says, “As a successful businessman, a nonprofit leader, and a pastor, Yemi has the experience necessary to be mayor. He has a track record of building businesses from the ground up and helping them thrive. As mayor, he will cut red tape and support policies that promote innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Wayne Williams

About Williams, one statement says, “Wayne Williams passed a rule through city council giving a housing monopoly to one of his major developer donors. He doesn’t have the city’s best interests at heart.” (For context, the city’s recently adopted water rule, supported by Williams, requires the city to have 128 percent of the water supply needed to serve the city, plus any area proposed for annexation before annexation can be permitted. Williams is supported by Norwood Development Group, which owns most of the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on the city’s east side. Some say the water rule effectively gave Norwood a monopoly on new development within the city.)

Another statement says, “Wayne recently passed through city council a measure to protect the city’s water supply. Although most developers didn’t like it, he recognized that the city needs to prioritize existing residents over new county developments and make sure we have enough water before allowing further growth.”

Another one about Williams, “As secretary of state, Wayne spent taxpayer dollars on personal clothing, including cowboy boots and tuxedo pants.”

About Clark, one statement says, “Sallie Clark opposed the common-sense water-security rule city council recently passed, which restricts county developments from annexing into the city, because her campaign is being funded by county developers who want easy access to the city’s water supply.” (For context, The O’Neil Group and Ron Johnson, among others, own land outside the city limits they wish to annex to obtain city water, because that acreage lacks an adequate water supply but would provide thousands of homes within the vicinity of Schriever Space Force Base, which is crucial to economic development and securing Space Command’s permanent headquarters here.)

Another question about Clark, “Sallie Clark has a track record of promoting public safety. Her political career started when she successfully fought to save her neighborhood’s local fire station. She is determined to continue that legacy by strengthening our police and fire responders as the next mayor of Colorado Springs.”

Another Clark question: “As a county commissioner in 2010, Sallie wrote and referred to the ballot a deceptively worded question that extended county commissioners’ term limits from two terms to three terms. The measure passed, and when voters realized that Sallie had tricked them, there was such an outcry that a subsequent measure in 2012 reinstated the two-term limit. Veteran political observers called Sallie’s maneuver the most deceptive and self-serving they had ever seen.”

The poll ends with a series of questions about the possible runoff election, which would be held May 16 if no mayoral candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote at the April 4 election.

The poll gives three combinations: Williams and Clark, Mobolade and Williams, and Mobolade and Clark.

Given those final questions, the poll is undoubtedly a benchmark poll that’s anticipating a runoff and quizzing voters about what messages will work.

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