Students and their professor in a public opinion class at Davidson College are conducting a door-to-door survey in town this week in advance of the Nov. 8 town elections. Josh Putnam and his student volunteers are asking voters about local issues and the candidates on the ballot – and their questions are ruffling feathers among political activists in town.
The survey is being conducted as part of this fall’s course Political Science 319.
“My Public Opinion class and I – along with a handful of student volunteers – are currently in the field with our survey of Davidson residents,” Professor Putnam said Wednesday.
He said they’re going door-to-door because the only information they could get about local voters was addresses – not phone numbers. He randomly selected a sample of 400 addresses to visit.
Politically active residents have contacted DavidsonNews.net in recent days to inquire about the survey, and to express concern about the questions – which they worry may be biased. So we contacted Professor Putnam to find out more.
The questions range from asking whether voters view Mayor John Woods and challenger Vince Winegardner (favorable, unfavorable or not sure), what they think about the Town Board, whether they support the idea of 4-year Town Board terms, and whether they disappprove or approve of the job Mayor Woods is doing.
The pollsters also are asking how voters view the Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility, a group formed this summer by residents concerned about the town’s finances. (Interesting note: There is no companion question about Positively Davidson, the other interest group organized this election season.)
There are also general questions about town activities, including whether voters support the town’s ownership of the MI-Connection cable system, should the town default on its MI-Connection debt obligations, how they feel about sidewalk repairs and whether they would favor expanding bus service to Charlotte.
The student survey-takers are likely to be knocking on doors through Sunday, Professor Putnam said.
“The intent is to – hopefully – provide the town with some impartial, unbiased and useful information before the elections on November 8, and the class with a lesson in the difficulty in crafting and implementing a public opinion survey,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: DavidsonNews.net is not involved in the survey and had no role in choosing questions. I did speak to Professor Putnam’s class about local politics and town government earlier this semester. – David Boraks)