Nashville Transit Polls? What Polls? Opposing Sides United In Not Talking

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Both sides in the fight over the upcoming May 1 referendum in Nashville/Davidson County on a proposed increase in sales and hotel taxes to fund Mayor Megan Barry’s $9 billion transit plan are playing their cards close to the vest in terms of releasing information.

NoTax4Tracks, the PAC opposing Mayor Barry’s plan, sends out frequent email communications to the public with the headline “The Morning Line.” They don’t always acknowledge the information in those email communications when talking to the media.

One case in point deals with polls that have been conducted on both sides.

The Tennessean reported Oct. 12, 2017 on a Megan Barry mayoral campaign committee-financed poll. The telephone poll found that 57 percent of respondents supported a plan for mass transit projects, including light rail, that would be funded by higher sales taxes, hotel taxes, car registration fees and business taxes. Thirty-seven percent were opposed.

One NoTax4Tracks email communication reads, “You may remember in October of last year, The Tennessean touted getting their hands on an ‘internal’ poll that showed the transit plan had 57% support. Their pollster, John Anazalone, is very good at what he does and we don’t doubt that number. But they apparently did only registered voters, not likely voters. If you don’t test people who are inclined to vote, your number may be a bit optimistic. (We kinda laughed at the internal part. Odds are they just gave it to the Tennessean.)

“Now for the interesting part. A whisper in our ear this week said they re-polled last week. After nearly four months of non-stop rallies, forums, bumper stickers and lots of free media, we’re told their numbers went down….to 53% support. And with all the money and time they’ve spent, we hear there’s lots of concern inside their campaign and some finger pointing as well. Dollars to donuts says they won’t leak THAT poll.”

The NoTax4Tracks email communication also said, “Our polling. We will not leak or talk about ours in the media. Polls change and once you talk publicly, you can’t stop. But we’ll give you some insight. Our pollster, Public Opinion Strategies, had support among likely voters at 53%. That means with no opposition, no counter message, and no paid media, they only have a 3-point cushion. That’s good for us. When we talk about the highest sales tax in the nation and a light rail plan that won’t work, our numbers move to the win side.”

Nashville Business Journal confirms NoTax4Tracks hired Public Opinion Strategies to run its polling, one of many East Coast companies the group has signed up. That confirmation comes from Melissa Smithson, chairwoman of the Nashville-Davidson County Republican Party, who is working with the organization. Nashville Business Journal calls the Alexandria, Virginia-based Public Opinion Strategies a leading national pollster.

The Tennessee Star reached out to the NoTax4Tracks organization as well as Barry’s office.

Regarding the poll the group sent out in a press release, a NoTax4Tracks representative said, “The campaign does not release its polling. Nor do we comment on polling numbers. I know that doesn’t help much (but) we have a firm policy about not releasing or talking about internal polling numbers.”

A representative for Barry said, “That article (by The Tennessean) references a Friends of Megan Barry campaign poll conducted in October. No subsequent polls have been conducted by the campaign.”

“Polls regularly show strong support for more GOVERNMENT funding for roads, bridges, airports, rail systems, new schools, and other goodies,” conservative political strategist Steve Gill told The Star.

“That support drops rather dramatically if you ask whether they support more TAXPAYER dollars being spent on those things, as if there is a difference in government dollars and taxpayer dollars. And, if you ask more specifically if the person being polled wants to pay higher taxes for those things you see another decline in support,” he noted.

“So, over the next few months, as voters get informed that the $9 billion — and growing — transit plan will be billed to THEM the fight to secure approval will get more and more difficult,” Gill pointed out.

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