A new Vanderbilt University poll of 800 “residents” of Davidson County purports to claim that Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has seen little slippage of popularity despite her ongoing sex scandal, including new revelations regarding nude photos, questionable use of overtime security details at non-official events, and continued investigations into potential misuse of public funds and lack of transparency. The “poll” indicates that Barry has see a decline in her approval rating from 72% in a similar poll a year ago to 61% today.
The Vanderbilt Poll, which will be released with further details on March 4, 2018, was provided in a “limited preview release” to The Tennessean on February 27. The methodology of the “poll” raises serious questions concerning both the political applicability as well as the means by which the data was collected.
1. The survey was conducted from February 8-19, 2018. No serious polling operation ever conducts a poll over eleven days, particularly when new information is coming forth on a daily basis.
2. Polling “residents” rather than “registered voters,” or more appropriately “likely voters,” limits the political application of the polling data because those who are not even registered to vote tend to be less informed and engaged about issues of political importance. Additionally, opinions that do not translate into votes have little significance in the political arena.
3. The composition of the pool of respondents has not been released, raising questions about the percentages of Republican, Democrat and Independent participants; age, race and education proportions, etc.
“Calling this a ‘bogus’ poll would be kind,” conservative Republican strategist Steve Gill noted. “The most harmful information about the Barry scandal — including nude photos, failure to provide investigators with her passcode despite claims of being completely ‘transparent’, mysterious early morning visits to the City Cemetery, a Comptroller investigation, etc. — came out after the eleven day poll was completed, though it was withheld from distribution by Vanderbilt University for another week or so after it was completed.”
“Polls are snapshots that always lag a few days behind actual public opinion,” Gill added, “so when a public figure is seeing their numbers in free fall the worst is always still ahead. That is certainly the case for Megan Barry.”