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Integrity of Salt Lake Tribune poll on Salt Lake City mayor's race questioned

At least 57 of those surveyed do not live in the city; editor says pollsters 'fell really short'

Candidates for the 2019 Salt Lake City mayor’s race
Candidates for the 2019 Salt Lake City mayor’s race

SALT LAKE CITY — The integrity of a Salt Lake Tribune poll recently conducted in partnership with the Hinckley Institute of Politics and Cicero Group on Salt Lake City's mayoral race is now under question after the newspaper reported at least 57 of those surveyed for the poll actually don't live within the city.

The poll, which the Deseret News reported after it was released by the Tribune last week, showed a dwindling lead for front-runner Jim Dabakis and a statistical toss-up for the No. 2 spot on the primary ballot. But after learning pollsters surveyed at least 57 people who live in other cities, Tribune's Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce said the pollster or its call center "fell really short."

"When we make mistakes we own them and try to make it right and that's what we're doing here. It's just unfortunate," Napier-Pearce said in a Tribune story Friday.

Though pollsters from Cicero Group defend the integrity of the poll after rerunning the numbers without the respondents in question and finding no statistically significant difference, Napier-Pearce said she "remains unhappy about the deficiencies in the first poll" and added that "the newspaper would not work with the Cicero Group on future polls."

The poll of 444 people was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, a subsidiary of the Cicero Group, from July 29-31. Reached Friday, Cicero's digital marketing manager told the Deseret News the majority of Cicero's team was "on vacation and unable to interview" but sent a prepared statement from the pollsters.

"Dan Jones & Associates has decades of experience providing highly trusted and accurate polling," the statement said. "We hold ourselves to the highest standards in all research. In this instance, an unfortunate clerical mistake was made. Upon recognition of the error, the analysis was rerun and the results were virtually identical with no statistically significant difference."

The Tribune reported it discovered the issue with the poll when reporters called a sampling of the respondents to more deeply discuss their answers. Six of those contacted told reporters they reside outside of the city. The newspaper then further studied ZIP codes pollsters provided, which indicated some respondents lived outside the city, including at least half a dozen outside Salt Lake County.

The newspaper reported the poll did not ask potential respondents if they currently live in the city and instead relied on the accuracy of a 2016 voting list purchased from the government.