The News & Record released the results of a poll it conducted with High Point University that shows that 59 percent of North Carolinians said that House Bill 2, the bathroom bill, wasn’t needed.
But according to testimony in the February trial on the Greensboro redistricting law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, the poll conducted by the News & Record should be discounted.
During the federal District Court trial held in February challenging the Greensboro redistricting law, it was repeatedly stated that a poll conducted by the Rhino Times should be discounted because the Rhino Times is a conservative publication.
The Rhino Times poll concerning the redistricting of Greensboro – in the bill that was at the time before the legislature, sponsored by state Sen. Trudy Wade – showed that 44 percent of Greensboro residents supported redistricting and 38 percent opposed it.
The bill sponsored by Wade, which divided Greensboro into seven districts, failed to pass the state legislature. But a subsequent bill, drawn by a conference committee that divided Greensboro into eight districts, did pass. Both bills eliminated the three at-large members of the City Council, which currently has five members elected from districts and three elected at large.
I completely agree that the poll done by the Rhino Times should be discounted because of the conservative editorial leaning of the newspaper – as long as the same standard is held for polls by liberal organizations.
The News & Record, for example, no longer denies that it is a left-leaning organization. If polls from the Rhino Times can’t be trusted, neither can polls done by the News & Record for the same reason – or for the opposite reason, depending on how you look at it.
Polls by The Washington Post and The New York Times get big play in the national news, but both news organizations have moved even further left in the past couple of years. The editors at The New York Times admitted in print that the paper was allowing reporters to express their liberal opinions in news articles about the presidential campaign – an admission The New York Times had never previously made. So how can polls by a news organization which admits to liberal bias on its news pages be trusted?
Closer to home, we have the Elon University polls. These cannot even be called left leaning – they are way out in left field. Elon is the organization that conducted a poll that, in 2012, showed only 38 percent of North Carolinians supported the marriage amendment, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman; a month later the marriage amendment passed with 61 percent in support. It’s difficult to be that far wrong with a legitimate poll.
As far as the poll paid for by the Rhino Times, we hired a professional polling organization to conduct the poll and had no idea what the polling data would show. We conducted the poll because no results had been made public of any poll conducted on the Greensboro redistricting bill. We thought this might have been because those conducting other polls didn’t like the results, but we decided before the poll was conducted that regardless of the results we would publish those results.
I can’t say that we were disappointed to discover that what we believed, based on our interactions with people, were born out by the poll – that far more people in Greensboro approved of the redistricting bill than had been indicated by the reports in the mainstream media.
The poll was conducted according to standard polling procedures and was as legitimate and as unbiased as other polls conducted by other news organizations.
No poll is completely unbiased because polls are conducted by people, and people are not unbiased.
It is worth noting that it was the only poll on the redistricting bill whose results were published, but we don’t think it was the only poll conducted.
The News & Record launched an all out attack on the redistricting bill and against Wade personally. Some of the comments the News & Record allowed on its website about Wade went far beyond what most reputable news organizations would allow on their websites.
The claim was repeatedly made that the overwhelming majority of people in Greensboro opposed the redistricting, a claim not based on polling but on belief. The poll indicated that the people of Greensboro were split but that more were in favor of redistricting than opposed and there was no overwhelming opinion on either side of the issue except perhaps on the staff of the News & Record that was indeed overwhelmingly opposed to redistricting.
One fact about the whole redistricting process that was mainly overlooked in the long debate is that the current system – five councilmembers elected from districts, three elected at large and the mayor elected at large – was passed by the Greensboro City Council, not by referendum.
The four referendums for a district system in the 1960s, 1970s and in 1980 had all failed because of the overwhelming opposition by the white leadership in Greensboro, which didn’t want to give up the control of the City Council they had with all councilmembers elected at large. The result of the citywide vote with all councilmembers running at large resulted in the majority of the council being elected from predominantly white northwest Greensboro.
The compromise with the 5-3-1 system was designed to give black voters guaranteed representation on the City Council with two majority-minority districts, but to keep the majority of the City Council in northwest Greensboro, where it remains today.
It was startling that one of the complaints made in court by those seeking to overturn the Greensboro redistricting law was that there were too many majority-minority districts in the eight-district plan. The eight-district plan has three majority-minority districts, while the current 5-3-1 plan has two. That is an argument I don’t think I have ever heard.
The basis of the lawsuit was that under the redistricting black voters were being discriminated against and would have less say-so in City Council elections, and one way blacks were being discriminated against was that they would have more districts where a black candidate would have a better chance of getting elected. Maybe there is some legal nuance there that I am missing, but it seems like more majority-minority districts would be better for the minority community, not worse.
In fact, you could argue that in Greensboro, a majority-minority district could have a majority of white voters because whites make up a minority of the population in Greensboro.
Because of the lawsuit, instead of having an elected body decide on the district system for the City Council, or having the decision made by referendum, a federal judge appointed for life will make that decision.
Does it make any sense for those who oppose the eight-district system – because they say the election system should be decided by referendum – to ask a judge appointed for life to make the decision?
One final note on the redistricting lawsuit. Guilford County was the entity that was actually being sued, even though the law being challenged was passed by the North Carolina legislature. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners chose not to defend the lawsuit. Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne was in court, but just about the only statements he made were that he didn’t agree that the Guilford County Board of Elections was the proper body to sue.
Guilford County could have mounted a defense. At the very least the commissioners could have instructed Payne to object to questions that were leading or irrelevant and to cross examine the