August 12 - 19, 1998

Southside Media Homepage

This Week's Hartford News

Hartford News: 8/12 - 8/19

Hartford News ARCHIVES

El Reportero

Hartford Tonite!

Advertising Information


Controversial Poll Draws Charges of Negative Campaigning in 2nd District

by Andy Hart

A poll conducted by Barnaby Horton, candidate for 2nd District State Representative, is drawing criticism from fellow candidates John Gale and Anthony Gray. Gale and Gray say the poll is an instance of negative campaigning.

Horton denied the charge of negative campaigning in a statement released yesterday, August 11, and said the poll was designed only "to identify supporters and possible supporters and certain possible issues."

Cynthia Jennings, who is also running in the 2nd District, said she has heard about the poll but wanted to get more information about it before making any comment.

The 2nd District seat is currently held by Tom Ritter, who is not seeking re-election. The district includes the West End, Asylum Hill and Upper Albany neighborhoods.

In a press release issued on Monday, Gale said the poll is misleading voters because the pollsters do not state that he or she is working for a particular candidate and because the poll includes an "attempt to malign" certain candidates. He also stated that the poll appears to be "designed to influence the outcome of the primary on September 15, so it should be considered an election expense." State law requires that the person or group who pays for election expenses should be identified.

In his statement, Horton said the poll was "a normal and expected part of campaigning" and "strictly legal and consistent with professional standards." He did add that, with over 2,000 calls placed in the poll, some questions could have been asked incorrectly and the polling firm's employees may have made some mistakes and he would accept full responsibility for any such errors.

Joan Andrews, a staff attorney with the State Election Enforcement Commission, confirmed that there is no state law prohibiting such polling tactics.

Shawn Fisher, Horton's Campaign Manager, said he hired a firm called National Research Service to conduct a poll to gather general voter identification and issue sensitivity information. The Hartford News was unable to contact the polling firm. Fisher said the agreement he'd made with the polling company would not allow him to divulge the company's phone number or address.

According to Fisher, who supplied The Hartford News with a copy of the questionnaire that he sent to the polling company, the pollsters first asked the caller whom they were supporting in the race for Ritter's seat.

The second question asked whether the caller would be "more or less likely to support a candidate if you were to learn that:" followed by one of three statements. Each statement was written with one of Horton's three opponents in mind, Fisher said, and described actual incidents from the past. All three statements refer to negative incidents.
Fisher added that, as far as he knows, the questions were asked on a completely random basis and not based on which candidate the caller had said they were supporting.

The final question in the poll asked the caller to rank the candidates on a scale of one to five (or to respond six if they didn't know enough to make a decision).

Gray said he objected to the poll because it is designed "not just to measure public opinion but to skew sounds to me like a desperate attempt to distract voters from the issues."

Gale said the poll represents "the classic definition of negative says only negative things about three candidates." He added that if such polls are legal, "that seems like a loophole or an oversight to me and if elected I'll move to close that loophole."

Gale said he first learned about the telephone poll last Wednesday when several neighbors said they'd been called by a person representing the National Research Center and asked questions about the campaign. After learning about the questions asked in the poll, Gale said he asked some of his supporters that, if they were called by the pollster, to respond that they were supporting different candidates in an effort to get a clearer idea of who was conducting the poll.

Gale said he himself was polled last Friday and told the pollster he was supporting Jennings. He was then asked the second question containing a statement that could be interpreted as reflecting negatively on Jennings.

Gale supporter David Barrett said he received a call on Thursday and told the pollster he was supporting Horton. He was then asked to rate the candidates but not asked the second question containing the negative statements. Barrett added that he then asked for more information but both the pollster and his supervisor refused to say where the polling firm was located or how to get in touch with it.

Michael Gallagher, another Gale supporter, said he received a polling call on Friday and responded that he was supporting Gray. He was then asked the second question containing a statement that could be seen as reflecting negatively on Gray.

Gale said he believes the negative statements contained in the second question are directly related to which candidate the caller said they were supporting. Fisher reiterated that no direct connection between the two questions was intended but probably happened a number of times purely by chance.

Fisher also denied the charge of negative campaigning and said that other candidates in the race had been just as negative. He did add that "knowing now about how people are reacting, maybe we would have done it [the poll] differently."

Top of Page

The Southside Media Web Site is a creation of...

Town USA Eagle

"Your One Stop Source for Community and Business Information"