Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gazette does good job on polls for Christmas

Having been critical of the Gazette's way of reporting polling data regarding the 2008 Montana elections, it is important to point out that the Gazette did an even-handed treatment of the polling data it reported on Christmas Day.

The lead headline showed that Montanans prefer the GOP property tax reduction plan over Gov. Schweitzer's plan to return only $400 per taxpayer in a rebate, favoring the Republican plan by 50 to 35%. The GOP plan is an across-the-board permanent reduction in property tax rates.

This story was furthermore the top-half headline, which has the advantage of being read by people who glance at the paper sitting on a rack in a store or being displayed in a newpaper vending machine.

The bottom half of the front page has a headline that talks about the strong support in the poll for Gov. Schweitzer's proposed 6% increase in education funding. Given that the vast majority of education in Montana goes on in public schools, this is not surprising. Spending more money on public education has broad bi-partisan support in Montana, as it should. The real questions are over how this money should be spent, whether the spending should be a one-time infusion or an permanent large increase, and similar issues. All of these are going to be debated at length in 2007.

Placing the property tax issue on the top half was fair, since the other notable finding of the poll (reported on the inside) was that a majority of Montanans (50 to 44%) believe that the current surplus indicates that taxes in Montana are too high in general.

Other polling issues tend to lean more in a conservative direction (only soft support for using increases in educational funding to institute all-day kindergarten, strong support for making public employees shore up their retirement plans with their own money, etc.)

There is much that is interesting to comment on in the polling data, and Montana Headlines may return to it later.

But for now, it is still Christmas, with other priorities coming to the fore.

It was important to give credit where credit is due (especially during this season of peace and joy), since the Gazette was fair in the Dec. 25th polling articles.

Merry Christmas!