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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.

Aired 11/14/12 on KPBS News.

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.

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."

Comments

Avatar for user 'fadeclercq'

fadeclercq | November 14, 2012 at 7:43 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Look, this poor excuse for a paper is nothing more than a propaganda page for 1% special interest groups; developers, builders, hoteliers, restauranteurs, and plutocrats.
There's a reason their subscription base is deteriorating (17,000 more cancelations and growing) Dictatorships aren't embraced in the United States. They emperor only bought the paper so he could use his editorial propaganda team to try and influence who people vote for. The plan all along was to use the paper, then dump it so they could develop the 23 acres the property sits on. I hope that they follow up on the polling results that show San Diegans want that property to revert back to a 'Riverwalk Park'

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Avatar for user 'jenjen'

jenjen | November 14, 2012 at 8:42 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

No, seriously, they excluded cell phone users? Estimates from last year from the CDC which conducts a lot of phone surveys concluded that at least 22% of adults in San Diego county have ditched landlines and are cellular-only, and that number has probably grown. Households that are cell-only have been shown to have different characteristics from others (but not necessarily what you would expect), enough that excluding 20+% of the population could definitely introduce bias. The firm that did the survey has been defending it all over the place but this is the first report I've read that mentioned that cell phones were excluded. Ugh!
(see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr061.pdf and http://www.sesrc.wsu.edu/tarnai/paper/AAPOR%20tarnaimooreschultz%202009%20Cell%20Phone%20Paper.pdf )

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Avatar for user 'TheKindGardenersCollective'

TheKindGardenersCollective | November 14, 2012 at 9 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

In their targeted polling, they also omitted a much larger group, which I belong to: former subscribers.

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Avatar for user 'radiofree'

radiofree | November 14, 2012 at 9:20 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

U-T San Diego was caught again with dishonest spin being presented as news.

All the evidence clearly indicates the owner simply uses the U-T as a propaganda tool. This distorted political poll is simply the latest example. The U-T owner tries to promote his supporters and his projects. It's not a surprise that he's using his paper to promote his projects. The real surprise is that so many people still think the U-T is a newspaper. But as the cancellations show, a lot of people are waking up.

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Avatar for user 'chuco13'

chuco13 | November 14, 2012 at 9:55 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

The Union Tribune has become a trash newspaper that panders to the old Republican guard of San Diego. I foresee it going out of business within 2 years. Manchester is the worst thing to have happened to honest investigative journalism in California.

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Avatar for user 'sdkelly'

sdkelly | November 14, 2012 at 10:26 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

A poll conducted the way this one appears to have been created and executed is factually worthless, it can only be of value to some agenda other than actually knowing the real state of the electorate.

This is just one more thing that confirms my decision to drop the paper. It may be that the BS on the polls is just one more example of Republicans lying to themselves to feel good or bandwagon-politics where they hope if they say they're going to win often enough, people will vote to join the perceived future winner; probably both. The UT isn't the only one guilty of it certainly; but the obvious slant and failure of the UT to be an unbiased source of information makes it completely unacceptable as a news source. So i do what i do with the other pitifully biased programs and reports that are just too much to accept without wearing waders, i go elsewhere.

Additionally, I see the logic of bandwagon-politics to be flawed anyway. If I was for example debating on whether I should bother to vote or skip it; I would be far more motivated to vote if I thought my preferred candidate were behind. A comfortable lead by the candidate means “he doesn’t really need my vote, he’ll win anyway”. The logic I see being used in the poll is that the bias was designed to manipulate voters that had decided to vote but just not for whom, in the hope they would jump on the bandwagon and join the winning team; even if that was a lie. Pretty sad tactics as well as debatable which effect would be more powerful.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 14, 2012 at 7:40 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Manjester takes his cue from Rupert Morlock. What do you expect?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 14, 2012 at 7:41 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

@chuco13, "the old Republican Guard of San Diego," that would be the Hedgecocks and the Wilsons, etc.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | November 14, 2012 at 9:21 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm not even surprised anymore when I read things like this.

From the week Manchester bought the U-T there has been a constant circus parade of unprofessional, embarrassing, blatantly biased stunts shamelessly carried out by Manchester and reported on by KPBS and a few others.

It's not news anymore, it's the sad fact that Mr. Manchester has molested our local media and turned it into a huge joke and no amount of bad press or loss of subscribers seems to deter his behavior.

Apparently he is rich enough to not have to worry about isolating all but the far right loony fringe of which he and Lynch are a part of.

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