Groups release dueling smoking ban polls
Disagreement over Madison's smoking ban reached the polling arena Thursday as two groups released results claiming to show what residents think.
One poll showed Madisonians closely divided over the merits of the new ordinance; the other showed overwhelming support for it.
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz "doesn't make decisions based on polls, and this is a good reason why," spokesman George Twigg said.
The first poll was conducted by Chamberlain Research Consultants, a Madison market research firm.
It surveyed 605 randomly selected adult city residents by telephone from Aug. 17 to 19. It found 69 percent said the issue should be set for a public referendum, 25 percent opposed a vote and 5.5 percent didn't know.
If a referendum were held, 47.4 percent would support the ordinance, 46.6 percent would oppose it and 5 percent didn't know, Chamberlain said.
"We try very hard to make sure that our sample and methodology is extremely sound, which is what we did in this case," said Heather Hagenow, creative director for Chamberlain.
Those poll results had just been announced Thursday morning when the American Cancer Society and other health groups called them flawed and shared their own polling conclusions at an afternoon news conference.
Their poll, conducted by The Mellman Group of Washington, D.C., surveyed 400 likely voters in Madison by telephone from Aug. 20 to 23. It found 68 percent favor the smoking ban while 29 percent oppose it and 3 percent don't know.
"It shows that the people of Madison understand this law and want it very much," said Aaron Doeppers, Midwest regional advocate for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The poll was commissioned by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association.
If a referendum were held today, 53 percent would vote to keep the ban and 37 would vote to repeal it, the Mellman poll reported. Four percent were undecided, another 4 percent leaned toward keeping the ban, and 2 percent leaned toward repealing the ban.
Chamberlain said its poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.97 percent; Mellman said its was 4.9 percent.
The health groups said the Chamberlain poll was skewed and claimed "the opposition held a rally to drum up support and then hired a polling firm."
Hagenow said Chamberlain decided on its own to do the poll after finding statewide interest in a previous survey on smoking laws. Beginning the poll the day after the Aug. 16 rally against the ordinance "was not a calculated maneuver at all," she said.
Joe Klinzing, co-chair of the anti-ban Coalition to Save Madison Jobs, said his group had nothing to do with the Chamberlain poll and he knew of no other opposition funding. The reported split on support for the ordinance tells him "the Madison non-smoking community is not in favor of the smoking ban," he said.
The health groups' poll asked about support for a law prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars. Klinzing called that "a pretty broad question" that may have affected responses.
Cieslewicz continues to support the smoking ordinance.
"He believes that it is a major benefit to public health and we need to give the law a chance to work," Twigg said.