Commentary: Polls Show Chesa Boudin in Trouble… Or Do They?

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – It caught my eye – after another poll showed SF DA Chesa Boudin going down big time in the recall election now less than four weeks ago (57-22 yes with another 21 percent unsure), a story by ABC 7, where they interviewed the DA quoted him as feeling confident.

“Absolutely I’m feeling confident,” Boudin told ABC7 News anchor Liz Kreutz when asked about his chances of beating the recall. “Every single day we’re talking to voters, we’re talking to people when we knock on doors, and our volunteers are getting an overwhelming response.”

Is that political speak?

One of the cardinal rules of politics is even if you know you’re in trouble – you don’t say it.  Plus I know having been on campaigns before, you often are more insulated than you would like to be – having been surrounded by supporters and positive vibes.

“The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, and we’ve seen time and time again that polls – even rigorous polls – are way off the mark,” Boudin said.

Sorry that line don’t work for me.  I buy that polling is inexact.  And that local polls are really hard to do because getting the voter population sample right is near impossible the smaller your universe (ironically enough).  And we saw even state polls done by professional pollsters last election be way off.

But when the spread is 35 points… well that’s a little harder to discount.

The problem however is that the San Francisco Standard Poll Methodology is in fact extremely problematic.

In a methodology one pager acquired by the Vanguard it shows that “Embold Research surveyed 1,048 registered voters in San Francisco from April 30- May 4, 2022.”

No problem.

But then there is this: “We used the following sources to recruit respondents: targeted advertisements on Facebook and Instagram (and) text messages sent, via the Switchboard platform, to cell phone numbers listed on the voter.”

They continue: “Ads placed on social media targeted registered voters living in San Francisco, California. Those who indicated that they are not registered to vote were terminated.”

Holy crap – this is not a real poll by any stretch of the imagination.

They literally put ads on social media and asked people who were interested in public safety issues to volunteer to respond to the survey.  That’s not a representative sample.

As one person from the campaign told us, “That is a massive selection bias right there.”

We were told that the campaign will have a poll done themselves in the next week or so which they hope will give them a better picture.  The ones that have been done over the last six months have been pretty variable.

A pretty decent column in the Chronicle pointed out that Boudin could use an actual opponent to help survive the recall.

“Chesa Boudin could desperately use something in the recall campaign against him: an opponent.,” Joe Garofoli writes.

He correctly noted that Newsom survived his recall by turning the discussion against Larry Elder.  “Newsom couldn’t have concocted a better opponent in a laboratory, and crushed the recall bid,” he writes.

Chesa doesn’t have that luxury.

“So Boudin is running against himself and expectations — and misconceptions — about crime in San Francisco. Polls, both public and private, say a majority of voters back recalling him,” he adds.

“When it’s you versus you,” said Joshua Spivak, an expert on recalls, “what do you do?”

That’s a problem that Boudin faces.  He has tried to turn this against the billionaire Republican backers.  For the most part until this week, Democratic officeholders have avoided supporting the recall, though that changed when Supervisor Catherine Stefani came out against him.

“We cannot deny what we see all around us. People don’t feel safe in our City anymore. And sadly, with Chesa Boudin in office, they have little reason to expect that to change,” she said.

But supporters of Boudin note that Stefani is heavily backed by the police.

One responded, “SF has the highest number of cops per capita and the lowest police clearance rates in the states.  What are you doing to hold SFPD accountable? Scapegoating the DA and throwing more people into jail, at a cost of $60k per year won’t fix it.”

Last week when Supervisor Dean Preston held a hearing on copaganda, I noted a possible shift.  I was expecting during public comment to support the police and attack the DA – for the most part however, they sounded like you would expect to hear from progressive San Francisco – skeptical of the police.

As one caller put it, ““I want to point out that the San Francisco Police Department budget has been bloated for the past several years on an increasing basis while they do not solve or attempt to solve many crimes, including violent crimes.”

You can shrug that off, but that sounds a lot more like we would expect to hear rather than what we have heard the last 18 months.  Maybe it was a friendly audience.  But maybe it was a sign that the worm had turned.

As Preston pointed out after the hearing, “The hearing revealed some startling facts, including that the Mayor’s press operation is not guided by any written policies or procedures. The Mayor’s press releases mentioning the SFPD overwhelmingly either advocates for increased police staffing/funding or makes claims that SFPD had been reformed.”

Can Boudin win by running against wealthy Republicans and the police?  Hard to know.  It still seems like an uphill battle, but the poll that was just released should not be taken very seriously.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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