New poll: 68% favor smoking ban
Cancer Society focuses on likely voters
A second poll of Madison residents about smoking in bars - this one sponsored by the American Cancer Society - says that 68 percent of likely voters want to see the current smoke-free law stand.
The poll, conducted by the Mellman Group, was released Thursday, right after Chamberlain Research Consultants said they found Madison residents nearly evenly divided over whether cigarettes belong in Madison's taverns.
One immediate difference between the two polls is the sample of people surveyed. The Chamberlain poll involved a random sample of Madison residents. The American Cancer Society poll narrowed its sample to those they deemed likely to vote.
The two polls also had important distinctions in how their questions were worded. For example, when the Chamberlain poll found more support for smoking in taverns, it asked what the law should be "in Wisconsin."
In addition to asking whether the current law in Madison should stand, the American Cancer Society's pollsters asked how an elected official's stance on the smoking ban would affect respondents' voting behavior.
They said that 60 percent of those surveyed said that they would be more likely to elect officials who stood behind the current law. Twenty-three percent said that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposed it.
"This demonstrates what we have believed all along," American Cancer Society legislative liaison Alison Prange said in a release Thursday. "The majority of Madison wants the smoke-free workplace law to stay as is and wants its elected officials to stand behind it."
But the Libertarian Party of Dane County - which earlier this week began advocating a campaign to recall Mayor Dave Cieslewicz over the issue - blasted the poll as "misleading" and "biased."
They pointed out that the Chamberlain poll asked: "Do you think people should be able to smoke in bars in Wisconsin?" and had 66 percent answer yes.
The Chamberlain poll also showed that 69 percent want a referendum in Madison on the issue. The poll showed that 47.4 percent would vote for keeping the smoking ban as it exists in Madison and 46.6 would vote against it.
Rolf Lindgren, press secretary for the Libertarian Party of Dane County, said that people who are not considered likely voters should not be ignored in the smoking debate.
"The smoking ban law applies to everyone in the city of Madison, so the poll should include all adults," he said. "If recall elections are spurred by the victims of the smoking ban, it's expected that many 'unlikely voters' will become registered and vote."
After noting that the American Cancer Society's poll did not release the text of its questions and had a sample size of 400, Lindgren said it "has so many flaws that it's worthless."
The Chamberlain poll had a sample size of 600, and both polls reported similar margins of error at about 4 percent.
The Madison City Council is expected to get a proposal next month to hold an advisory referendum in April on the smoking ban.