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U-T San Diego’s Mayoral Poll Skewed Republican

Correction: an earlier version of this story said the poll excluded cell phone users, who tend to be younger. U-T San Diego notes that 15% of those polled were cell phone users. KPBS regrets the error.

U-T San Diego has made no secret of its support of Republican candidates, using front page editorials to highlight its endorsements. The paper may also have used its polls as a tool to sway public opinion.

U-T San Diego has made no secret of its support of Republican candidates, using front page editorials to highlight its endorsements. The paper may also have used its polls as a tool to sway public opinion, according to an independent media observer.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

The U-T San Diego building.

A poll produced two weeks before the election by U-T San Diego placed Carl DeMaio 10 points ahead of Bob Filner in the mayor’s race. The results contradicted earlier polls that put the two candidates neck and neck.

Analysts pointed to a decision by U-T San Diego to exclude city workers - who are more likely to be pro-labor - as one reason the results skewed Republican.

Jennifer de Poyen, a former journalist with the Union Tribune, was one of those polled.

“As I was listening to the questions,” she said, “I thought, 'this sounds like a Republican-leaning line of questioning,' - just the way the questions were formulated. I really felt that there was an agenda behind the questions and that I was being led towards certain answers."

De Poyen said she was shocked to discover at the end of the poll that it was from her former employer, the city’s leading newspaper. The last question asked whether she would be willing to be contacted by a journalist about her responses.

The U-T did not respond to a request for comment in time for this story's deadline. Dean Nelson, the director of Point Loma Nazarene University’s School of Journalism, said the U-T poll was not the only one proved wrong by the election.

“What we learned in the election,” Nelson said, “is that all of the Republican polling was wrong.”

Nelson said the paper risks losing readers if its content is not seen as objective.

“It may have been just some bad assumptions on the part of the pollsters," Nelson said, "or it may have been more nefarious than that: something to try to show that public opinion is going this way, and maybe even an attempt to influence public opinion. But I would say this does not look like objective research.”

USD’s Center for Education Policy and Law, which partnered with U-T San Diego on the poll, contributed questions relating to education only.

Statement from U-T San Diego Editor Jeff Light received after this story's deadline: "The U-T and USD hired a reputable, Democratic political research firm from Washington, D.C., to do our poll. The protocols were the pollster's. We did nothing to prejudice, slant or manipulate the result, which found DeMaio with a 10% advantage, but 18% undecided and likely to break for Filner. Although KPBS often meets a high standard of work, the insinuations in this story are extremely unfortunate. Most importantly, I know that Dean Nelson does not believe that I or anyone on my staff was involved in deceit or unethical journalism."

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