Statement: “The same polls showed me 20 percent behind a week before I won District Attorney in 2002,” mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis said during a May 14 interview with KPBS.
Determination: Barely True
Analysis: Dumanis is fighting a perception, fed by public opinion polls, that she’s not a competitive candidate in the mayor’s race. Polls predict she will not advance past the June 5 primary, which has spurred news media to ask why she’s losing, or worse, whether she’ll drop out.
Dumanis insists she’s in the race to win, and typically responds to the polls in the same way. In four recent television interviews, for instance, she argued the polls aren’t credible and cited poll results from her 2002 campaign for district attorney to back it up.
She echoed the story in a recent interview with KPBS. Here’s how KPBS anchor Joanne Faryon introduced the polls and how Dumanis answered:
Faryon: Let’s talk about the polls now. You’re in fourth place, and I think a lot of political watchers early on thought you were maybe a shoe in. You got off to a fairly good start. What happened?
Dumanis: Let’s first say that I’m not in fourth place. Campaigns are always in flux. Polls are for the moment, and the same polls showed me 20 percent behind a week before I won District Attorney in 2002.
We decided to Fact Check what the polls reported about Dumanis a week before voters elected her in 2002. She has repeatedly cited the 20-point figure and used it to downplay current polls.
We got lucky. A search of news archives churned up a handy synopsis of poll results from the Nov. 5, 2002 election. Two days before the election, the Union-Tribune reported:
In mid-October, a poll paid for by KGTV/Channel 10 showed [Paul] Pfingst with a seemingly insurmountable 17-point lead. Last weekend, the SurveyUSA poll showed Dumanis ahead by 8 percentage points. Then, on Friday, it put Pfingst back in the lead by 4 points.
OK, now let’s look at the timeline with Election Day in mind. The polls put Dumanis nearly 20 points down about three weeks before the election, eight points ahead a little more than a week before the election and four points down four days before the election.
By incorrectly describing the timing of the polls, Dumanis effectively overstated the contrast between the poll results and the election results. Had she accurately described the poll results a week before the election, she would’ve had to say she was winning.
Our definition for Barely True says the statement contains an element of truth but critical context is missing that may significantly alter the impression the statement leaves.
We found Dumanis’ story contained an element of truth. At least one poll several weeks before the election showed her trailing by nearly 20 points. However, the poll closer to the time Dumanis described during all four television interviews indicated a much different comparison to the election results.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.
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