Political notebook: Candidates' internal polling always favorable
Summer's here: Time for blackberries at the farmers markets, dashed hopes for a Portland Major League Baseball franchise, and campaign committees releasing internal polling to the media that show their candidate looking good.
It is perhaps not true, but probably is, that no campaign in history has ever been forthright enough to show its own bad polling early in the race. Why would they?
And even mediocre polling can be crafted to look good, so long as you squint.
Oregon is making history as the only state in U.S. history in which three women will vie for governor in the primary election: Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and non-affiliated Betsy Johnson.
Professional, independent polling has not been released yet, but Kotek, the former speaker of the Oregon House, is the perceived frontrunner, if only because no Republican has been elected governor here since Vic Atiyeh in 1978, and no nonaffiliated candidate has been elected governor since Julius Meier, of Meier and Frank fame, in 1930.
So on Wednesday, July 6, Johnson's campaign released internal polling showing that the race is between Johnson and Kotek, with Drazan a distance third.
And on Friday, Drazan's campaign released internal polling showing that the race is between Drazan and Kotek, with Johnson a distance third.
Drazan's poll also included questions that had little to do with her, including "If the elections were held today, and you had to make a choice, would you vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate for the state legislative assembly?" (Note: Drazan is not running for the state legislative assembly.) And, "Democrats completely control Oregon state government from governor to the state legislative assembly. Do you think that government works better when there is a partisan balance, meaning more Republicans to provide that balance?" (Unsurprisingly, respondents favor balance.)
The Johnson campaign poll also contained cleverly worded questions to net the answers their candidate wants to see. ("Generally speaking, which type of candidate for governor would you prefer to vote for: A socially progressive Democrat. A qualified, common-sense independent. A devout Trump Republican." Respondents were in favor of "common sense.")
Media sources often will run stories on internal polling, with lots of carefully worded phrases to remind voters to take everything with a grain of salt; indeed, the Tribune ran an article about Johnson's poll with all the usual caveats.
Voters should wait for the independent, unaffiliated polling, expected late summer or this fall, before reading too much into these stories.
Dana Haynes serves as editor in chief of the Portland Tribune and managing editor of the Pamplin Media Group.
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