Political survey stirs up conflict

Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
By JANINE YOUNG SIKES Sun staff writer A telephone poll sponsored by Alachua County Commission candidates Cynthia Chestnut and Lee Pinkoson has upset some recipients of those calls - and county officials as well.
Gainesville-based Perceptive Market Research was hired by Louis Kalivoda to conduct a survey gauging voter sentiment about the upcoming primary election, which pits Chestnut against incumbent Hutch Hutchinson and Pinkoson against incumbent Dave Newport. Kalivoda is the campaign manager for Chestnut and Pinkoson.
One of the people called was former School Board member Barbara Gallant, who bristled when an interviewer asked for her name.
She said she believes she should be able to remain anonymous when giving her political views.
"You want my name then I want to know who's sponsoring this," Gallant told the interviewer. "They answered the County Commission."
The second answer is what riled up County Commissioner Penny Wheat, who received a similar complaint from a resident Tuesday morning wondering why Alachua County had sponsored a political poll. It prompted her to fire off an e-mail to Deputy County Manager Richelle Sucara.
"This is election campaign season, and while every candidate has the right to conduct polling that complies with state law, no candidate has the right to state or give the impression that their campaign polls are conducted for Alachua County government," Wheat wrote.
Perceptive Market Research President Elaine Lyons repudiates the claims. Lyons said interviewers working for her firm are directed to follow a script, and in no case are ever informed about the client.
"We identify ourselves as Perceptive Market Research doing the study," Lyons said. "There's nothing in that interview stating that the County Commission was sponsoring this."
While the interviewers are trained not to stray from the script, Lyons agreed that she can't guarantee that everyone followed the rules.
"I don't know. I wasn't there," she said.
As for the request of the name of the person responding to the survey, Lyons said the names are only used for verification purposes to ensure that the surveyors don't fraudulently fill in the questionnaires.
The telephone survey was conducted between Friday and Tuesday. About 1,000 people were phoned, Lyons said, and 214 people partook in the five-minute phone poll.
Chestnut and Pinkoson said they were surprised at the allegations when they learned of the complaints. Kalivoda was out of town.
The two Democratic contenders said they were unaware what firm was conducting the research. They had, however, signed off on the questionnaire.
Both expressed regret and concern for any misunder- standings.
"In no way will I have anything to do with something that is not on the up and up," Pinkoson said.
Chestnut and Pinkoson could face a fine if it is determined that they willfully lied about who was sponsoring the poll, Supervisor of Elections Beverly Hill said.
"You aren't supposed to lie about who's doing it," she said.
However, no formal complaint had been filed with the Supervisor of Elections office as of Thursday afternoon.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at 337-0327 or sikesj@ gvillesun.com.
SURVEY on Page 2B Continued from 1B SURVEY: Both candidates express regret Pinkoson

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