Friday, April 3, 2009

Jackson's Groundhog Election Day? Opinion Poll By Neutral Consultant Shows H. Johnson, Crisler, and Horhn chasing Mayor Melton for Lead

My friend Brad Chism, President of the political consulting firm Zata3, has just released the results of a 500+ person poll in the Jackson mayoral race. Brad says that:

"We have several friends in the Jackson Mayor’s race but no candidates who are clients. We are intrigued by the dynamics of this race and have decided to do some survey work for public dissemination.

Wednesday night we conducted a random sample survey of 500 Jackson voter households. We asked about candidate preference and strength of support."

The main results:

Melton is in first place with 27% of total respondents. 35% of his supporters are "absolutely sure" they will vote for him.

H. Johnson is the lead challenger, with 20% of the total. 21% of his supporters are "absolutely sure."

Crisler is in a close third with 18% of total. 13% of his supporters are "absolutely sure."

Horhn is at a surprising 6%, with only 5% of his supporters saying they are "absolutely sure" they will vote for him.

Fair is right behind Horhn with 5% of the total; 6% of his supporters are "absolutely sure."

All Others split 11% of the total; 12% were undecided.

Brad gives us some brief observations:

"The race is very fluid. Based on this work and other surveys we have seen, at least four people are seriously in contention for the runoff."

"As Jere Nash observed recently, Frank Melton’s trial and the flap over his residency may have boosted his numbers considerably. (This survey occurred on Wednesday-- Melton hired a new police chief that day) ." Note: this is a point that several of us have already made. See

Brad continues:

"If the election were today, Melton would almost certainly be in the runoff. A rematch from 4 years ago is not implausible.

This will all change a lot when the candidates go up on TV and radio and hit the streets with canvassers.

Again, this is all fluid. For example, a few minutes ago Crisler got McMillan’s endorsement and we understand that fundraising is beginning to pick up for Crisler, Hohrn and Johnson.

About the survey. This sample of 500 voter phone households includes 70 completed surveys in Ward 1 and 65 in each of the other wards. This is a rough approximation of historical voter registration and turnout. We have not weighted the survey by voter frequency, gender or age. The pivot tables in the attached chart may be manipulated to see ward-by-ward results. We caution you not to draw too many conclusions by ward as these sample sizes are small. You can also adjust the pivot tables to see survey results by race.

Methodology. We used an interactive, automated call with keypad responses to record results. As the name suggests, our ZATAPULSE takes the pulse of the electorate. It is not an “MRI”. It is a useful tool for short surveys of this nature and has been used in more than 200 races across the country. We employ the same methodology as Survey USA or Rasmussen. Still, the tool has limits. We caution you that this race is very fluid and that each candidate is likely to have a more robust, internal poll. Nonetheless, we are confident that this is the most accurate, timely information that is publicly available.

About Zata3. Zata3 is a political consulting firm for Democratic candidates and progressive causes. Company President Brad Chism splits time between his Washington, DC and Jackson, MS offices. For each of the last three years, Zata3 had won more awards by the AAPC for its telephone voter contact programs than any other firm in America.

For more information, go to"

The Takeaway Point From the Survey: So if the election were held today, the Democratic runoff would be between Mayor Melton and former Mayor Johnson. A "Groundhog Day" election . . . which Jackson may be doomed to repeat again and again?


Tom Wright/blogtw4 said...

Jim -- enjoyed your post! I'll be sure to drop by again.

Re: a Groundhog Day scenario, I think this poll is heavily dependent on the pre-endorsement picture, and holds a bit less meaning today than at publication. That said, let's consider other readings:

* 61% of respondents would choose a candidate other than Melton in a Dem primary;
* Melton, despite all his troubles in and beyond office, retains a powerful bloc of multi-racial support (see below) that appears likely to support him throughout the election process;
* There hasn't been much reporting on H. Johnson since he lost office, so his work beyond the media spotlight -- back-slapping and elbow-rubbing at community events, etc. -- is paying off and demonstrates a solid sense for the local political scene;
* I'd considered Horhn a potentially strong candidate, but now I'm wondering whether Jacksonians are simply unsure about what he has accomplished for them. Much the same applies to Fair -- some must think to themselves, "What does a tax collector do besides take my money?"
* Crisler must enjoy where he is in this poll. His track record as a councilman does not present the sort of negative factors that Melton and a couple of others face, he's seeing his media choices pay off, and he's third in line before the McMillin endorsement.
* It's hard for me to judge how such polls affect the fundraising factors that all these candidates face. But you can be sure that these numbers will be food for thought for potential donors -- your upper-middle/rich households in NE and south Jackson. The next couple of weeks could see the least wealthy of these candidates drop out, if the best-funded contenders muster the cash for strong TV ad buys.
* One cannot overlook the racial make-up of candidate support. Both Melton and H. Johnson see crucial support among black respondents ("strength of support" in the 4/5-point range). Crisler is notably strong in white support (28% of the demographic supports him)... but so is Melton (19%).

You can find all this data in the spreadsheets linked at

Anonymous said...

The poll is only marginally more accurate than an online poll. In other words, next to meaningless.