Thursday, August 19, 2004

New Poll Less Pushy

There's a new Cox poll out there and it appears to be less pushy than previous Cox efforts. This one, put into the field by well-established Louisiana political pollster Kennedy looks like it might actually be a real poll. Or at least the first part of it. —The second part was comprised of Cox floating a series of talking points past the virtually assembled test panel to see what might work to turn the Lafayette public away from LUS. And they aren’t telling you what they found there. As you will see they need the info. Poll results are mixed for the company paying.

The Advocate appears to have scooped local media, currently completely embroiled as they are with the school bus mess. (And a mess it is.) A quick survey of local media outlets reveals not a clue.

Reporter Blanchard shares his trademarked incisive lead:
Most people in Lafayette want to vote on whether to allow Lafayette Utilities System to enter into the competitive telecommunications business -- but that doesn't mean they'd necessarily vote against the proposal, a pollster said Wednesday.
That’s pretty much the whole of the content in a nice, neat packet. But if you want the details here they are:
Kennedy surveyed 600 registered voters in Lafayette Parish on June 24-26. The poll had a 4 percent margin of error.
Hmmn, that should be a clue that not all is well with this poll for Cox. June 24-26. It took going on two months to compile this survey and run the stats? Not. Nah. No Way. They sat on it. Why? It wasn't exactly everything they wanted to hear. Read on:
About 78 percent of respondents said they have heard of the LUS proposal.

Sixty-four percent said they had a favorable opinion of the LUS plan -- while only 21 percent said they are not in favor of the plan, Kennedy said.

....

Fifty-four percent agreed that government "should be in business competing with private business," while 34 percent disagreed with that statement.

But when asked if the final decision should rest with the "city-parish council" or "the people," 83 percent chose the people, Kennedy said.

Now those last two findings are pretty amazing. The questions they respond to drift over into being leading ones but retain that patina of legitimacy that Kennedy has no doubt honed while serving candidates for political office. Given the phrasing and the push to delegitimate the very idea of a local telecom utility on this "free enterprise" basis, finding that 54% favor government competition seems like evidence that the people of Lafayette know that they want fiber, recognized how that question was supposed to manipulate them and refused to be so driven. Put the same question before a group that didn't know what it means in our context and I dare say that about 98 percent of all Americans would give the pure "no competition" answer. When folks begin to take 'unnatural' positions like this you gotta think opinion is solidifying. And not in favor of Cox and BellSouth. The council will be less happy with the findings of that last question, though. It puts pressure on them to call an election or it least it gives fiber opponents something to bash them with. How to reconcile the responses to those last two questions? Here is the simple interpretation: The citizenry apparently know what they want and they want to let everyone know they want it. I'm willing to bet that Cox has come to that conclusion too.

The Council is rightly worried about what an election campaign would look like. After all we are going through one of those right now and it isn't pretty. They have already witnessed exactly how far Cox and BellSouth are willing to go in misrepresenting the case they put before the people. Everyone form the Council to the Mayor to Chamber of Commerce has been given cause to be angry. But this is not just a local fight and the tactics that have angered people locally are not particular to Louisiana. This kind of public relations war has gone on all over the country. And it has been very ugly. (Sneak Preview: LafayetteProFiber is working on a piece based on another community's experience with teleco tactics even now.) One of the great ironies of our little fight is that Cox has been very vocal about supposed unfair "government" advantages. But what it wants to do is drive the battle to a vote where all the advantages are its. To fight the good fight in an election battle the city would have to buy time on the cable networks. LUS would hate giving money to the enemy. And how much would it cost Cox to saturate the airwaves with Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt? Nothing. Cox's positions aren't about fairness. They are about advantage.

Cox does have alternatives. It could force a vote if it wanted to. It could rouse the (not so) restive citizenry and stage a petition drive. They would only need 15% of the voters to do so. Yet there has been no move in that direction. Why not? Go back and review those polling numbers. No support. They people want fiber; they even want to vote for it. Getting those numbers won't be at all easy. And failing in a petition drive would be fatal.

So they want to shift the battle to their own turf: an advertising campaign. Where they own significant portions of the media battleground.

But go get the story and decided for yourself.

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