[This poll of 500 likely voters was conducted June 21-22, 2008 for the American Civil Rights Institute by Wilson Research Strategies. The results are described on the website of the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, but copying the description is forbidden without permission of the polling organization. The American Civil Rights Institute is the sponsor of both the Nebraska and Colorado Civil Rights Initiatives.  

The fact that a poll is paid for by one side in a controversy is by itself no proof of bias in the results. The ACRI had good reason, from past experience with its civil rights initiatives, to expect a favorable public response, and to have that demonstrated through a poll. However, the report by Wilson Research Strategies has the tone of a “campaign commercial,” rather than an impartial account of “just the numbers.” This raises the possibility of bias in the conduct of the poll.

Many of the findings were also published in the Lincoln (Nebraska) Star Journal on June 24, 2008, in a news article I have copied below. The article does not specify how the issue was presented, but it appears from the website description that respondents were asked whether they approved or disapproved of a Nebraska Constitutional Amendment providing that: “ The state of Nebraska shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public education, public employment or public contracting.” Curtis Crawford]

Survey: Voters support ending preferences

BY MELISSA LEE / Lincoln Journal Star Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008 - 03:06:04 pm CDT

The coalition backing a statewide affirmative-action ban says a new survey shows most Nebraskans support eliminating race and gender preferences in hiring and admissions decisions. Wilson Research Strategies surveyed 500 likely voters this month on behalf of the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, the group behind an effort to collect enough petition signatures to get a race- and gender-based affirmative-action ban on the November ballot.

According to the survey, released Tuesday, 71 percent of respondents said they favored ending race and gender preferences. Another 16 percent were opposed, and 13 percent were undecided or did not answer.

“The results speak for themselves,” Doug Tietz, executive director of the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, said of the survey. “Nebraskans are united in supporting the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative.” Initiative supporters need to collect about 115,000 petition signatures by July 4 to get the issue on the ballot. Tietz said he's “confident” they will, though he declined to say how many signatures have been collected so far.

The initiative's survey, like its petition question, does not use the phrase “affirmative action,” a fact critics say is misleading to voters who may believe the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative is aligned with the Civil Rights Movement. “The language has been carefully drafted so that people do not know exactly what this does,” said David Kramer, campaign lawyer for Nebraskans United, the coalition fighting the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative. “The language on its face does not sound offensive, does not sound objectionable. But if this gets on the ballot, we'll demonstrate exactly what this language means.” Kramer and others say most Nebraskans support the tailored use of affirmative action, such as at the University of Nebraska, to achieve a diverse student body. NU has said programs and scholarships geared toward women and minorities could be in danger if an affirmative-action ban passes.

The Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative denies that. Initiative leaders also have dismissed claims their language is misleading, saying voters should be able to understand the issue and that their opponents simply don't want to acknowledge waning public support for race and gender preferences.

Other highlights of the survey:

* 69 percent of men and 73 percent of women support ending race and gender preferences.

* 73 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats support ending preferences.

* 72 percent of whites, 64 percent of Hispanics and 76 percent of blacks support ending preferences.

* 44 percent of respondents said they definitely would vote in favor of the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative. Ten percent said they definitely would vote against it.

Similar affirmative-action bans already have passed in California, Michigan and Washington. Five more states were targeted this year: Nebraska, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri. Supporters of the civil rights initiatives in Oklahoma and Missouri failed to gather enough petition signatures by their respective deadlines to put the issue before voters.

[ The memorandum by Wilson Research Strategies describing the poll is online at http://www.nebraskacri.org/media/ACRI_%20NE%20Statewide%20Key%20Findings%20Memo_080624.pdf

The Lincoln Journal Star article on June 24, 2008 is online at http://journalstar.com/articles/2008/06/24/news/local/doc48611a280d00c822805504.txt ]

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