Poll to help area voters voice views

By Stephanie Bradley

Congressman Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is polling residents in the 14th District (which includes DeKalb) on the Superconductor Supercollider and other issues he believes will be brought up in Congress this year.

Bob Welling, Hastert’s press secretary, said the poll also will address subjects such as the Intermediate Range Nuclear Force treaty, AIDS testing and school prayer.

The poll also will have an open-ended question which asks constituents which issue they believe is the most important. Welling said this question will give Hastert an idea of what he should make his top priority in Congress.

Hastert has received about 6,000 of the questionnaires. So far, the most important issue constituents have indicated is reducing federal spending.

The amount of early returns indicates a possibly higher number of respondents this year which could be because it is an election year and tax time is approaching, Welling said.

Last year, about 12,000 questionnaires were returned out of the 200,000 that were sent out, Welling said. With the sample being so large, he said, “if three to five percent are returned, it’s good.”

That is one of the problems with a poll this large, Kevin McKeough, political science professor, said. Pollsters have no control over who sends it back or even over who fills it out.

“You can’t attach any statistical reliability to it,” he said. “The bias is in the sampling.” Having the polls sent through district offices might be better.

Congressional polls also tend to have loaded questions, especially those by junior members of Congress, McKeough said.

These members are especially vulnerable up until their second term, so they do polls of this kind to get name recognition and have questions on them no one could possibly disagree with, he said.

McKeough said he “did not find the wording (on this poll) as oaded as others.”

As for the issues, the Superconductor Supercollider is “a major part of his (Hastert’s) program,” McKeough said. “There’s a lot of support from industry, but there is some opposition from those who feel they might be relocated,” he said.

The SSC is an example of an issue that could be very influential to Hastert. If 75 percent to 80 percent of the constituents are for a certain issue, it will be very influential to him, McKeough said.

If six percent of the constituents are for the super collider proposal, that would be a clear indication to him there is a problem even if he necessarily does not change his position, he said.