Monday, July 13, 2009

That Internal Ballard Poll

Over at Indiana Barrister, Abdul discusses an internal Ballard poll that he has not seen, but says has been able to reach conclusions about from talking to various sources regarding the poll. These include:
  • His personal approval ratings are similar to former Mayor Bart Peterson prior to the property tax revolt of 2007 but if the election were held today, Ballard would likely only win by the same margin as last time.
  • The mayor does very well on the issue crime, and nearly as well on taxes.
  • On leadership, he gets strong approval from Republicans, moderate Democrats and Independents tend to split and liberal Democrats give him his lowest approval numbers.
  • He gets strong marks from about a third of the African-American population.
  • Jobs and the economy are the biggest issue.
  • On the CIB, most voters think the matter should be addressed because of the importance of protecting jobs, however they are more supportive of a hotel tax than they are a ticket tax to solve the funding issue.
  • Most voters see him as competent and a good man, but he doesn’t connect emotionally with them.

I have no doubt that such an internal poll exists and that the Abdul's conclusions about what the polls say are accurate. I also believe the poll deserves as much credibility as President Clinton when he said he didn't inhale.

This is a tactic straight out of Politics 101 handbook. An incumbent goes out and commissions a positive poll and then uses it to ward off rivals in his own party and to raise money. There are many ways you can rig a poll, but the number #1 way is to fashion the wording of poll questions to get a preordained result. For example consider the two questions:

"Given that cigarettes kill millions of people a year, should more regulations be enacted to decrease the number of deaths from smoking?"

"Do you think that more cigarette smoking regulations should be enacted?

Both questions could deal with the exact same policy, yet the poll result would likely be dramatically different. Advocacy groups have known this about polls for some time and they use polls not only to advocate their cause, but for fund raising purposes. So do political candidates.

The supposed Ballard poll result defies common sense. Given the publicity he's received the last year, does anyone seriously believe that people view him as a "strong leader" and "competent." The notion that he's as popular as Mayor Peterson prior to his tax raising fiascos before the election, well that is just laughable.

My political instincts are not as accurate as a quality poll done by an independent pollster, but I would certainly stack that political instinct up to the Ballard internal poll. Here are my conclusions.

  • Ballard's best issue is crime, followed by charter schools.
  • One of his worst issues for the Mayor is taxes. People see him as someone who has spent his time in office fighting for higher taxes.
  • He is slightly more popular with African-Americans than most Republicans in the county, but not significantly so.
  • He is seen as incompetent and the common perception is that the job is too big for him.
  • Ballard's biggest political problem is with his Republican base, a significant percentage of which will defect in a general election if he runs for re-election. I doubt he would get 70% of the GOP vote in a general election and that doesn't even address the number of Republicans so fed up with the Mayor that they're likely not to vote.
  • People see the CIB bailout (quite correctly) as being about raising taxes because of excessive subsidies for professional sports.
  • The CIB bailout is not an insider issue, but would be a major voting issue come 2011, especially if Ballard continues to fight for tax increases for the bailout. The taxpayers see those tax increases (quite correctly) as being for excessive giveaways to professional sports teams.
  • The public does not make subtle distinction between different types of taxes. All they are hearing is that the Mayor is trying to raise taxes which triggers a very negative reaction.

I do have some interest in running in 2011 in the Republican Primary if Ballard decides to run for re-election. Republicans need someone who cares more about taxpayers and the common man and woman who lives in this city, rather than the corporate elites Ballard has exclusively catered to since his election. If we Republicans renominate Ballard, disaster is on the horizon for my party in 2011, not just for the Mayor, but for Council Republicans. That decision though is a ways off. I don't know where I'll be at that point in my life going into the middle and late 2010. Given the Mayor's unpopularity within the GOP, there may be other Republicans step up as well if Ballard wants to run for re-election. I can tell you though, I am not in the least bit dissuaded in my decision by some claim that Ballard, despite all public appearances, is actually quite popular and perceived as a strong leader. I was born at night. I just wasn't born last night.


jabberdoodle said...

Interesting analysis. I'd like to see the details of that polling, too, as it doesn't fit with comments I hear about the Mayor and the job he is doing.

Crime might be his best issue, but its not getting much better if you look at murders parading regularly across our newspapers and TV screens.

He isn't seen as a leader -- just the opposite given his failure to get a workable solution to the CIB mess, even using his own definition of what a workable solution is. He isn't seen as someone who kept his campaign promises - taxes, ethics (aka Bob Grand conflict of interest), or finding $70M in fluff to cut from the budget; just to mention 3 of many. The poll nails his lack of emotional connection with the people, though. Every Mayor's Night Out adds more to that legacy.

The CIB debacle highlights his weaknesses, and should there be a public hearing at a Council committee about raising the hotel tax, the image will be burned into the collective conscience as the precise image of Greg Ballard. Should the Council rebuff the increase -- well, that would reinforce the lack of leadership ability again. Should the Council pass the increase, they go down come reelection, too.

At this point in time, it appears that the CIB will be Ballard's albatross, just as the income tax hike was Peterson's.

Paul K. Ogden said...


It would be hard to top Stephen Goldsmish lack of an emotional connection to voters, yet his poll numbers were fairly high. Hudnut is someone who is, in my opinion wrongly, seen as someone who had an emotional connection with voters. I think Hudnut's was mostly show. In person, I found him very aloof and not that personable. Same with Goldsmith.

Ballard's lack of emotional connection ranks behind about 50 other problems he has.

Ballard's bigget problem is with his Republican base. He's gone out of his way to irritate his Republican base time and time again. He'd be lucky to hold onto 70% of the Republican vote in a general election. He needs at least 90% of the GOP vote and then to get a majority of independents and a signficant number of Democratic cross over votes. Do you see scenario where that will happen?

Mely's Rugs said...

I conduct my scientific polling of the mayor when I'm about my normal routine talking with people around town at the grocery store, dry cleaner, at work, at parties, etc.

I have yet to meet a single person who will tell me Ballard is doing a good job.

Paul, you know you have my full support if you run for mayor.

jabberdoodle said...

I would not minimize a potential voter getting a 'take' on the man when meeting him in person. If he seems to not like the voter, the voter might just decide he doesn't like the Mayor much either.

Don't forget that Ballard didn't win the election as much as Peterson lost it - due to increasing taxes. Ballard has gone against the grain with a lot of Rs I know, much less Ds -- the issue of consolidation comes to mind. Just as Ds bailed on Peterson, the Rs could bail on Ballard, setting up an election more about him than the contest. For a guy who showed up to every property tax rally he could find, and who credited only the property tax groups for getting him elected, he sure seems to like raising taxes. Not a wise move.

He needs to find an alternative to raising taxes to bail out the CIB. Otherwise, I don't think he can pull off an election where yard signs saying 'had enough' could sprout yet again. The only thing that can save his chances for reelection is to disassociate himself with tax hikes. I don't think he'll do that, but, its his only chance in my opinion.

arnie said...

If Ballard wins the nomination a great many R will stay home. That will lead to defeat in the mayors race and the council races as well. Looking forward to it.

Jon said...

If Ballard has any sense, and no that is not rhetorical, then he won't run again for mayor. He has no support due to his zero credibility with those who worked to elect him. At this point in time he couldn't get elected dog catcher.

Baloo said...

Wouldn't Ballard be breaking another promise he made while running if he runs again, that being he wouldn't if he couldn't get the job done the first four years.....

Wouldn't surprise me if he does run again, since he has broke all his other promises, and has forgot the people who elected him.

It's said to know that he has forgot what Honor is.

I will not be voting for him ever again. The old saying "First time shame on you, second time shame on me." comes to mind. I will not make the same mistake twice.

Mely's Rugs said...

I would probably vote for Ballard as dog catcher...seriously, I would.