Mayoral candidate Jim Lienhoop is using a phone survey for his campaign intended to gauge how some Columbus residents are likely to vote.
Lienhoop said his campaign initiated the telephone poll on advice from Mark It Red, a conservative consulting firm from Lebanon, Indiana, that it hired based on advice from local state legislators and Indiana Republican Party Chairman Tim Berry.
The firm encouraged Lienhoop to take a poll seeing where he stands with people likely to vote in the May 5 Republican primary, a tool that was instrumental in helping the GOP gain supermajorities in the Indiana General Assembly, Lienhoop said.
Mark It Red then recommended using a Washington, D.C., area polling firm — referring to it as the best-qualified telephone polling vendor it had found — to conduct the Columbus phone survey, Lienhoop said.
Calls were made only to city residents who have voted Republican in the past two primary elections, he said.
Mayor Kristen Brown took to Facebook to criticize her challenger, saying the survey is “testing attack ads” against her and asking questions that make “unfair, negative insinuations.”
She said Thursday afternoon that she “absolutely won’t be doing any telemarketing surveying” as part of her campaign.
“I know what issues are important to the people of Columbus,” she said.“I’m very actively engaged. I have a good understanding of the people I serve.”
But while Brown took objection to the questions about her Facebook posts, she said Thursday the nature of the poll wasn’t her primary concern.
“My biggest concern is the lack of disclosure,” she said of the calls. “It’s confusing.”
Lienhoop said the telephone survey is geared at finding which issues that have arisen during the past three years are of greatest concern to likely voters, in addition to gathering data to gauge public opinion.
“We have been listening to people across the community who have indicated a lot of support,” he said.
“We’re trying to understand whether that translates into actual votes.”
The poll questions — which Lienhoop declined to divulge — aren’t intended to make any accusations, he said.
“I don’t think we asked anything that was unfair or untrue,” Lienhoop said. “It’s all fact-based.”
He said the campaign also specifically instructed the calling company to make sure it didn’t make repeated phone calls, as did a telephone poll conducted last year on behalf of Zack Ellison, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for House District 59.
After talking to campaign consultants, Lienhoop said it’s possible some households could have been called more than once if more than one Republican voter lived there.
But from talking to people who have been called and having received a call at home himself, it doesn’t appear the company is pestering people, he said.
Lienhoop offered his apologies to residents who feel they have been bombarded with calls.
Brown said she has received complaints from city residents, many of whom have been confused and upset because they think it’s the city conducting the survey.
Lienhoop has received at least one complaint as of Thursday afternoon, when a local resident and businesswoman of 47 years sent him an email after receiving a call from the polling company.
Christine Lemley, also known for being a co-founder of Interfaith Forum Columbus, criticized Lienhoop for conducting the “intrusive, divisive, underhanded” survey rather than attending to council matters.
Lemley, who described herself as a registered Democrat, said she voted for Mayor Brown in 2011 and is supporting her again.
Mayoral candidate Jim Lienhoop’s campaign will use the information collected through a telephone survey to figure out “how to take our message to likely voters,” the at-large city councilman said.
Poll responses will be used to gauge public opinion and judge how people who have voted Republican in the past two primary elections are likely to vote May 5.