A widely publicized recent poll that reportedly showed that Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is losing support among “likely Oakland voters” was not intended as a poll on success or failure of the Dellums administration, was never intended for release to the public, and the organization which commissioned it is now conducting an internal investigation to see how its results got released to political columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The poll, a survey on crime in Oakland, was commissioned by the Oakland-based Better Housing Association for its own internal purposes.
In an Oct. 1 column “Oaklanders Cool Quickly On Dellums, Poll Finds,” Matier & Ross wrote that “after less than a year in office, the bloom appears to be fading fast on Mayor Ron Dellums’ rose—with a new survey finding Oaklanders deeply divided over his leadership and only modestly confident in his ability to stem the city’s crime problem.”
Saying that 500 “likely Oakland voters” rated Dellums 3.8 on crime, 3.7 on improving education, 4.2 on providing housing and 4.3 on economic development on a 1-10 scale, the columnists reported that “Binder found that 52 percent of those surveyed feel Dellums ‘has done a good job in his limited time as mayor.’ But a troublingly high 42 percent believe the new mayor is all talk and no action” and “just 45 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for him today.”
The Matier & Ross column did not identify the organization that commissioned the poll, only calling them “an Oakland business group looking for ways to address the city’s crime problem.”
And because the Chronicle columnists did not release the full polling data, including how many of the 500 voters surveyed voted for Dellums in last year’s election, it is impossible to say whether the Oakland mayor is actually losing support, or if those Oakland voters who opposed him in June of 2006 continue to oppose him today.
In an e-mail response to a Daily Planet query on where he got the poll results or if he’d seen the entire poll, Ross replied, “I’m really not at liberty to say how I got the story or what I have or haven’t seen.”
Meanwhile, the Dellums administration itself said that it does not have a copy of the poll results, and has not read any of those results other than what appeared in the Matier & Ross column.
“The mayor clearly doesn’t get influenced by polls,” Paul Rose, Dellums’ director of communications, said by telephone. “He is interested in establishing and carrying through programs from which the people of Oakland can benefit.”
Greg McConnell, president and CEO of the Better Housing Coalition, a real estate developers organization active in Oakland politics over the past year, confirmed that his organization commissioned the Binder crime poll mentioned in the Matier & Ross column, but would not release the poll data or give detailed numbers from those results.
“Our organization regularly does polls on major policy issues so that we can know how to best educate local officials on ways to grow Oakland’s economy, produce jobs, and increase our housing stock, ” McConnell said by telephone. “We don’t, as a rule, release poll results to the media. We’re not interested in disseminating sensational results. The only reason I’m talking with you now is because [information on the Binder poll is] already out there.”
And McConnell said in particular that “I really don’t want to comment on Mayor Dellums” in connection with the organization’s poll. “Our organization does not support or oppose individual office holders. We are issue-oriented.”
McConnell, who most recently served as a member of the Oakland Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing, said that the Binder poll was commissioned “because we wanted to find out how deep people’s concerns were about crime in Oakland. We wanted to learn if they saw the solution as more police on the street, or more social programs, or some combination of the two. One of the things we learned from the poll is that the voting public in the city sees crime as the number one, number two, number three, and number four issue.”
McConnell added that it is common in such polls to ask questions about the effectiveness of political leaders, but said that most of the respondents interviewed in the poll surveys “weren’t per se blaming any person for Oakland’s crime problem. They were just trying to get a handle on the problem and its causes.”
McConnell said his organization would meet with Oakland city leaders in the future to discuss how the Binder poll results can be used to improve Oakland’s response to the city’s crime problem.
As for how Matier & Ross got its hands on the poll results, McConnell said “We don’t know how it got leaked. We’re doing an internal investigation to find out, so that it won’t happen in the future.”