Sneak Peek in the North Country

A glimpse of a poll for an upstate Assembly race shows potentially misleading results.

D. Billy Jones, the Democrat running for the open 115th Assembly District, was required to release an internal poll to the state Board of Elections after supporters leaked a portion of the poll to the media. This week the BOE voted to release additional questions from the poll, but the commissioners appear to have left out some of the juicier information usually included in these internal polls.

The poll looks like a standard one conducted by Kily and Company, a Boston firm that polls for Democratic Assembly candidates in election years at about $21,000 a pop.

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D. Billy Jones (left) and Kevin Mulverhill (right)

The information leaked by supporters of Jones is from a simple horse race question: If the election for the 115th Assembly District was held today, would you support Republican Kevin Mulverhill or Democrat D. Billy Jones (I’m paraphrasing. Read the poll below). Respondents gave Jones a 47 percent to 38 percent edge over Mulverhill.

That nine-point lead was leaked to the media, but it fails to paint the clear picture that these types of polls usually reveal.

After the first horse race question the pollster usually provides biographical information about the candidates and then asks who the voter would choose. The pollster then goes through a variety of issues the candidates support and then ask who they would support for election to the Assembly.

This is standard for these polls and there is no reason to believe this one would have been any different.

By providing biographical information and highlighting potential issues that would come up in a campaign the pollster is essentially recreating the campaign season in a few minutes with just a few questions. This is especially important in elections like this one where neither candidate is well known, with only 26 percent of voters having an opinion about Jones and 35 percent for Mulverhill.

Therefore it’s fair to assume that the third heat provides the most accurate prediction of what might happen on Election Day, but that’s not the answer leaked by supporters of Jones…

They probably released the results of the first heat because it was most favorable to him. By the third time the question was asked his lead could have shrunk to almost nothing or Mulverhill could have been leading.

The one caveat about the third response to the horse race question has to do with campaign spending and outreach. If one side dominates the airwaves and controls the narrative then there is not an even airing of the issues like is done in the poll.

Based on the most recent campaign finance filing, though, Jones is outspending Mulverhill and therefore could be controlling the campaign narrative. If this is the case through Election Day then maybe nine points could be the final tally.

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