Saturday, August 27, 2005

Polling for 2nd Middlesex

According to a poll reported by MassEquality, Representative Pat Jehlen has a 16% lead on her nearest challenger for the 2nd Middlesex special election this Tuesday. Here's the relative passage from the email they sent out:

Polling of likely voters across the district this week shows Pat Jehlen with a 16% lead in the race, with the other three candidates in a virtual tie for second. To all who have been helping campaign for Pat, thank you! You're doing a great job!
Now, if we assume that there are no undecided voters who are also likely voters, and that Joe Mackey, Paul Casey, and Michael Callahan are exactly tied, rather than virtually tied, we can put a ceiling on Jehlen's support at 37%, in which case the others would have 21%. Of course, neither of those assumptions are necessarily true, and there are a few other things to keep in mind when discussing this poll. The first is that we don't know what constitutes a "likely voter" in MassEquality's eyes. Figuring out who is likely to vote is difficult enough in regular elections, for a special election in the last week before labor day in an off-year it's got to be near impossible. Remember, too, that MassEquality has endorsed and is working to elect Jehlen. If their idea of a likely voter is "one that has been contacted by MassEquality," then it's no surprise that Jehlen is winning. In addition, while I hope MassEquality would not stoop to this, since we don't have the questions, we can't know if this was a "push poll" designed to make on candidate look better than the others (e.g., "Would you vote for upstanding citizen Pat Jehlen, babysnatching monster Joe Mackey, brain-eating zombie Paul Casey or murderous cyborg Michael Callahan?")

Of course, since this is an end-of-summer special election, it really doesn't matter if Jehlen is polling 16 points up or 20 points down. Turnout is going to be tiny, and few people other than ones who have been contacted by a campaign or affiliated organization are going to even know there's an election, let alone show up for one. The only thing that matters is who can get the most of their own people out. Last year the late Senator Shannon ran unopposed in the primary and 11,840 people in his district turned out. If that many show up on Tuesday, it would be heavier turnout than I'd expect.