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SB 36 opponents

Polls are all about how questions are asked.

Some are easy: Do you plan to vote for Candidate A or Candidate B? Do you favor same-sex marriage or oppose it?

Some are more complex, lending themselves to manipulation.

The Rhino Times has used that kind of questioning to come up with results that make it appear a plurality of Greensboro voters supports SB 36.

As John Hammer describes the Rhino survey, conducted by an Atlanta company called Revily LLC, I would call it a subtle push poll:

"Then they were asked, 'Do you think the City of Greensboro is headed in the right direction?' In answer to that, 28 percent said yes and 33 percent said no, and 39 percent said they were unsure.

"When asked, 'Generally speaking, are you confident in the Greensboro City Council’s ability to lead and make decisions that are in the best interest of the city of Greensboro?' 35 percent responded yes, 36 responded no and 29 percent responded unsure."

These questions precede the question about SB 36. They are intended to associate dissatisfaction with the direction of the city and the council's ability to lead with the changes proposed by SB 36 -- which actually have nothing to do with each other. By doing so, however, it's likely to increase support for a proposal that respondents might think would address their dissatisfaction.

Next is how SB 36 is described. According to Hammer:

"It was worded: 'The legislation proposes reducing the number of seats in the Greensboro City Council. Specifically, Senate Bill 36 would eliminate at-large city councilmembers. It would increase the number of councilmembers elected from districts to seven but reduce the total number of seats from eight to seven. The mayor’s role also would change, as she or he would be more of a chief executive and only vote in the case of a tie. Generally speaking, would you support or oppose Senate Bill 36?'”

This is basically correct but leaves out critical information. I believe a much different response would be received if the question stated:

"Currently, each city voter may vote for five council members, a majority. Under SB 36, each city voter could vote for just two council members. Do you approve or disapprove of having two votes instead of five votes?"

A separate question could have been added about the mayor:

"Currently, the mayor is an active member of the council who can vote on all matters. Under SB 36, the mayor would lack the power to vote except in rare circumstances. Do you approve or disapprove?"

As for the polling firm, note how it describes itself: "Our team founded Revily, LLC to increase the probability of winning for Conservative Campaigns and Organizations."

That's what it was hired to do in this case: to increase the chances that SB 36 will pass by designing a poll to show public support for a proposal that in reality has drawn very little public support.

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Contact editorial writer Doug Clark at (336) 373-7039 and dgclark@News-Record.com.