The results are in from the most extensive poll undertaken to date by the Voice, relating to the recently completed by-election held in Ward 1 to replace the seat left vacant by Councillor Mike Ciolfi’s passing in April.

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In our Sept. 23 issue, the week after election day, the Voice asked readers to tell us what mattered most as they considered which candidate to vote for, and which issues were the most important. We also asked for impressions of the current council’s performance, as well as perceptions of the newspaper’s coverage of the campaigns.

A pleasing number of readers, 142, took up the challenge, answering 18 questions. This was just three shy of the highest tracking poll turnout of 145, registered the last week before election day. (Percentages rounded to nearest whole.)

The results run the gamut from predictable—given the controversies attached to some council members—to surprising. For sure, anyone considering running for office in Pelham—particularly in Ward 1—would do well to heed what poll respondents had to say.

Starting from the top, it’s no surprise that a large majority of voters expect their representative to live in their ward. Regarding lawn signs, more than half say they didn’t affect their vote, yet over nine in ten voters saw those belonging to the eventual winner, Wayne Olson.

Nearly 80% of respondents say that candidate gender is irrelevant, which is what we would hope for in 2020. No single issue was dominant, although nearly a third of respondents said that cannabis grow-ops were among their top two concerns. What’s equally interesting is what was not of concern: Airbnbs and caring for seniors drew zero votes, and revitalizing Fenwick’s commercial strip drew only a single vote. Predictably, increasing cultural diversity and promoting residential development were also rewarded with zeros.

The answers to four questions pertaining to the Voice’s campaign coverage and candidate advertising leave us feeling pretty good. All respondents had read at least one candidate interview, seven in ten said that Voice coverage helped them choose who to vote for, and 92 percent thought that our coverage was impartial and fair.

(Putting on my business hat as publisher, an interesting side note: Dating back at least to the 2018 municipal election, candidates at all levels who did not place campaign advertising in the Voice did not win. A logician would say that Voice ads are therefore necessary, but not sufficient, to win an election. Correlation does not mean causation—plenty of candidates who did advertise in the paper didn’t win. The voters are still the ones deciding.)

A fascinating cautionary result: Door-knocking may do more harm than good. Nearly half of respondents said that meeting a candidate actually helped them decide not to vote for them. Only 16 percent said that meeting a candidate in person had a positive effect. (During a pandemic, perhaps one can ask only so often to come inside and borrow the phone.)

Also mildly surprising was the comprehensive rejection of social media—Facebook, Twitter—as a means to obtain candidate information. This may partly reflect an older demographic in Pelham generally, and in Ward 1 particularly. Bless those smarts, either way.

Finally, on council and the Mayor’s performance and relationship, no real surprises, particularly given what one reader jokingly referred to recently (though he wasn’t smiling) as the “tag team” of Councillors Kore and Haun in seeming to go out of their way to make life difficult for Mayor Junkin. Both councillors placed at the bottom of perceived effectiveness, while Councillors Hildebrandt and Wink placed at the top. A bit over half of respondents thought that Junkin was doing an “excellent” job at the two-year mark in office, while three percent thought he was doing a “terrible” job.

In the most lopsided result, 99% of respondents said they hoped that the newly elected Councillor Olson would work cooperatively with the Mayor, a message that one hopes may yet reach the rest of council. ◆


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