MONTPELIER — It is impressive in both its duration and its breadth, and industry experts say it could well have cost as much as $30,000 to produce.
But no one so far is willing to take credit for the 19-minute political poll that was out in the field as of last Wednesday.
The telephone survey seeks to gauge public opinion on issues ranging from the state of the Vermont economy to the sincerity of Sen. Bernard Sanders’ war against Burlington gasoline sellers: Cheap political stunt? Or noble war?
Someone wants to know. But who?
It’s likely not a Democrat.
Verbiage employed in the poll questions comes straight out of the GOP playbook. For instance, one “do you agree/disagree” question asks whether “it is fiscally irresponsible for the Vermont Legislature to increase the state budget three times faster than Vermont’s household income is growing?”
And this: Agree/disagree – “It was right for Gov. Peter Shumlin to use his political influence to stop the $21 million from being returned to ratepayers.”
Or: “Would you be more or less likely to support a candidate if they wanted to keep the cost of single-payer health care a secret until after the election.”
It sounds like the stuff of a push poll, or perhaps some message testing. But Democratic and Republican operatives queried about the source of the poll say the survey likely wouldn’t have wasted time on questions dealing with statewide races — which it did — if it was itself a piece a political propaganda.
The poll includes an approve/disapprove on the performance of Gov. Peter Shumlin, as well as favorable/unfavorable on every Democratic and Republican candidate in a statewide race, except for lieutenant governor.
And it goes into impressive granularity on some Statehouse issues, including whether people would support/oppose the possible expansion of the sales tax to include “services provided by carpenters, auto mechanics, contractors and accountants.”
The poll even looks for windows into the psychology of its respondents, asking whether they agree/disagree that it’s “harder for parents to pass on their values to their children,” or that “my personal financial gain comes at the expense of those around me.”
Experts say that depending on how many people were called and the methodology used to get respondents, the poll could have cost as little as $10,000 and as much as $30,000.
The campaigns of both Shumlin and Randy Brock said it’s not them. Jake Perkinson at the Vermont Democrat Party said there’s nothing happening poll-wise there, and Republican Minority Leader Don Turner and GOP Chairman Jack Lindley said neither the party apparatus nor a House or Senate PAC is responsible for the survey.
A few other PACs — including one operated by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce — said it wasn’t them. The Bruce Lisman outfit Campaign for Vermont also denied responsibility. And no news outlet worth its salt would have sunk to the results-skewing phraseology seen in this survey.
Could the Republican Governors Association finally be testing the Green Mountain waters? Is some yet-unannounced PAC laying the groundwork for a late-summer offensive? Or is someone being less than forthright — a condition that on occasion afflicts political strategists during this stage of the electoral cycle.
We’ll keep a close eye on the bank designation forms being filed at the Secretary of State’s office because anyone spending more than $500 on political activity has to file one within 10 days.
The next campaign-finance disclosure deadline, Aug. 15, may also offer some clues. And maybe, just maybe, the person footing the bill for this poll will be willing to offer a peek at the results.
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