In the post below, local pollster John Nienstedt wonders how in the world a polling firm from Oakland found that 66 percent of Chula Vista voters supported an emergency tax increase measure in January when the eventual vote for the boost failed with 67 percent of them opposed to it.

Nienstedt said election results can change from early polls about how people feel but not by that much. What’s more, the city’s taxpayers footed the bill for the poll, which the City Council used in part to make the decision to put the matter before is constituents.

Ruth Bernstein from EMC Research, the group that conducted the poll, called me back today. (Update: I had the wrong polling firm acronym in here for a bit.

She said that she thinks the poll was accurate and that the race just turned.

“A lot of things can change. I wasn’t following every detail of the race but my understanding is that there was quite a bit of opposition and fairly vocal opposition to this tax,” Bernstein said.

She said it’s entirely possible for 66 percent support for a tax to turn to 67 percent opposition to a tax in a few months.

“We were very clear that while this was a best-case scenario, this was one moment in time and it was assuming that there would be a significant campaign in favor of the initiative,” Bernstein said.

She also argued that the state decided to raise sales taxes across California, and even I knew that this would doom Chula Vista’s emergency effort.

But couldn’t this have been anticipated in the poll? The state’s budget problems were such that a question could have been included to gauge voters support for a tax increase if it had to be on top of a sales tax increase imposed by the state. Nienstedt said it was something he would have thought to include.

That’s fine after the fact, Bernstein said, but Chula Vista wanted the poll and wanted it fast. Thinking back, she said, they would have added more questions.

“I have to tell you when we did this with very little notice. We got a call from the city and they moved very, very quickly in doing this poll to try to make a decision about whether to put this on the ballot. We didn’t have a lot of time. We wrote the poll and got it out in a matter of a couple of days,” Bernstein said.

Finally, she said, EMC stands behind the poll.

“We did our best to look at where they were. We looked at this and said the kind of base of support and said the base of support was closer to 50 percent. We didn’t say you could sit back and do nothing,” Bernstein said.

She said she told the City Council that although the poll showed 66 percent of the voters supported a 1-cent sales tax increase for the city, the poll was segmented and only 51 percent of the people consistently supported it throughout the various questions. Here’s the full poll, by the way.

In the end, of course, only 33 percent actually voted for it.


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