A lifelong Democrat whose career has been research and polling couldn’t watch in disgust any longer while Democrats shot themselves in the messaging foot and lost elections. Mary Samuelson decided that she was going to contribute her services as a pollster if she could find a group that would make good use of them. On May 4th, I was at the First Wednesday luncheon at Mary’s restaurant, Mama Josephine’s. (Mary wears more than one hat and is making an amazing success of her new restaurant near the Botanical Garden.) The first Wednesday of every month progressives gather at Mama Josephine’s to network and talk politics. That day, Eileen Evans, who hosts the group, told me to stay after lunch and talk to Mary. I did.

We agreed that she would help Missouri Progressive Action Group (MOPAG) conduct a phone survey of 400 random voters somewhere in St. Louis County. The poll will tell us which of our values resonate most with persuadable voters. We’ll use the results to craft an effective message and do lit drops in districts where the vote looks close.

Fast forward to last Wednesday, July 13th. Eight of us–seven MOPAG members and Mary–gathered around a table at Mama Josephine’s for the second meeting of the poll committee. At the first meeting we had brainstormed a list of topics, both federal and state, that we wanted to ask voters about; and Mary had assigned us to create three questions for each of the 14 issues we had listed. Several of us had done so by Wednesday, but we didn’t actually get around to comparing the questions.

MOPAG polling committee meets

The woman in the red knit cap is Mary Samuelson, who had to keep her hair covered because she was on duty at Mama Josephine’s. Starting at her left are: Harvey Ferdman, Teri Powell, Juanita Carl, Ron Zager, Dan Flynn, hotflash (barely visible) and Rea Kleeman.

Instead, we talked about a variety of topics that need to be clarified before we get down to the nitty gritty. Some were simple to answer, like how many questions can we ask in a ten minute survey (about 35). Some were procedural, like should we ask yes or no questions, open ended questions, or multiple choice questions. (Open ended are almost impossible to analyze. Yes or no, multiple choice and especially, ranking questions are best.) A more complicated discussion ensued when we realized that we only had one question about the environment. Should we have more? Certainly some prospective members of any alliance we might form would want that. But are environmental issues high enough on voters’ agendas to be included? Those issues rarely decide elections, and we are looking to design door hangers that focus on the progressive ideas that can sway persuadable voters. That  is the purpose of our poll. The environment is only one of the areas where this particular quandary will crop up.

Mary is going to examine the questions that were turned in and collate them for us. Meantime, she wants us to ask people we know whether the topics on our list are the ones they’d want to see and, perhaps more important, which of the 14 topics we could eliminate. We need to whittle the list down to ten.  

So I’m asking our readers to chime in. Which of the following areas would you eliminate?


  1. Economy
  2. Military/Veterans
  3. Budget Cuts
  4. Oil Subsidies
  5. Capital Gains
  6. Banks
  7. Health Care Reform
  8. Republican Obstructionism/Bipartisanship
  9. Federal Aid


  1. Puppy mill/ Voter’s decisions overturned by politicians
  2. Prop C/Alternative Energy/mandate overturned by politicians
  3. $ for natural disasters (Ex: Joplin and Bridgeport) and where it is coming from
  4. Public school issues, i.e., vouchers for charter schools ($16,000 per student is allocated), state funding for parochial schools
  5. Union support: Issues with MO not being a right to work state.  How does that affect MO’s ability to attract new businesses to the area?

You might want to suggest others. I, for example, want a question about attempts to eliminate tenure for teachers. But go easy on suggestions, since the purpose is to pare the list.