HSU Poll Puts Stillman, Wheetley On Top – October 22, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

ARCATA – A recent poll of 393 registered “likely” voters in Arcata asking whom they would vote for in the Nov. 2 Arcata City Council election shows a virtual tie between the two incumbents running for the two seats available. Alex Stillman received 37.1 percent and Mark Wheetley received 36.1 percent, a statistical tie given the error margin of plus/minus 4.9 percent.  David Meserve trails them in third place at 25.2 percent.

About one-third of the sample (35.9 percent) weren’t sure whom they would vote for in the city council election.

Results for other city council candidates include: Josh Mohland, 4.9 percent; Geronimo Jerry Garcia, 3.8 percent; Mark Sailors, 2.3 percent; and, Robert Benson, 1.0 percent.

“We found a typical level of undecided voters for the city council race with one or two incumbents running, compared to prior pre-election polls we’ve conducted in Arcata,” said Mark Larson, journalism professor at Humboldt State University, who sponsored the poll. Larson and students in his journalism research class have previously conducted polls on Arcata’s city council election and ballot measures from 1976 to 2000, 2006 and 2008.

The error margin for a random sample of 393 is plus or minus 4.9 percent, with a confidence level of 95 percent.

“These data suggest Stillmann and Wheetley have a comfortable lead at the time the poll was taken, given that their lead is twice the error margin over their nearest competitor,” said Larson. “Since polls should not be considered predictions, the actual election may be still up for grabs depending on the turn out and how the undecided choose to vote.”

The random sample was selected from public records of Arcata registered voters who listed telephone numbers, including those with cell phone numbers. The poll was conducted between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Oct. 18-21. There was a refusal rate of 29.8 percent, a lower refusal rate than typically found in previous telephone surveys in Arcata, said Larson.

The poll results cited include only those registered voters who said it was likely that they would be voting on Nov. 2.  “We found 53 of the 446 registered voters who participated in the poll said they were unsure or it was unlikely that they would be voting on Nov. 2, an increase from the 2008 survey,” said Larson.

The sample included 47.6 percent men and 52.4 percent women, similar to (within the error margin) of the population of Arcata voters.

The age of voters in the sample broke down to 37 percent from 18-29 years old, 11 percent from 30 to 39, 11 percent from 40 to 49, 15 percent from 50 to 59, and 26 percent 60 and older. “By chance, it appears this sample may have over-sampled slightly those aged 60 and older compared to those who participated in recent pre-election polls,” said Larson.

“I am always very proud of my students’ efforts in this real-world experiential-education project,” said Larson. “They deserve all the credit for this important civic-journalism activity.”

The actual question in the pre-election survey read:

Seven candidates are running for two seats on the Arcata City Council.  The candidates, in the order they will appear on the ballot, are: Mark Wheetley, Geronimo Jerry Garcia, Robert Benson, Alex Stillman, Mark Sailors, Josh Mohland  and David Meserve.  ****IF THE ELECTION WERE HELD TODAY, who would you vote for?  You may vote for two.

(# of votes)      (percent)*

Mark Wheetley                      142                      36.1%

Geronimo Jerry Garcia            15                       3.8%

Robert Benson                        4                         1.0%

Alex Stillman                          148                    37.7%

Mark Sailors                            9                        2.3%

Josh Mohland                         19                      4.8%

David Meserve                        99                       25.2%

Don’t Know                            141                      35.9%

*May total more than 100 percent due to being able to choose up to two candidates.  Sample = 393 registered “likely” voters.

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