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No shortage of polling, punditry these days

With the Legislature back in town, there is no shortage of polling and punditry. And since it’s an election year, the politics are that much more intense.

The 2007 session convened January 2, and an early business event — the Mississippi Economic Council’s A Capital Day — quickly followed that opening January 4. An annual networking event, A Capital Day gives business, economic development and community leaders a chance to meet with elected officials and legislators in Jackson every winter.

It’s a good way to set a cohesive pro-business agenda before the folks who make things happen in the State Capitol. And it is vital for business interests to know the issues and participate in the political process, whether individually or through industry groups and advocacy organizations, such as the MEC, Mississippi Manufacturers Association or the Mississippi Association of Realtors, to name but a few.

And it doesn’t hurt to know what’s on the minds of voters. That’s the goal of a recent poll conducted by a Washington-based consulting firm with ties to Mississippi.

“Elected officials serve us best when they hear directly from voters, rather than the filtered words of lobbyists and pundits,” says Zata|3 president Brad Chism, a Millsaps College alum and Rhodes Scholar. “So we’re conducting the surveys to give them first-hand information on what the average voter feels is important.”

According to Zata|3, which states its mission as helping “elect Democrats and advance the progressive policy agenda,” the statewide survey of 600 randomly selected voter households was conducted December 18, 2006. After reviewing the firm’s client testimonials online, I suspect that many of the MBJ’s readers would question the motivation behind this poll. Check them out for yourself at www.zata3.com.

Whatever the motivation (yes, you can use the word “agenda,” too), the findings are worth a look, so here is a breakdown of them from a Zata|3 press release:

Education. Voters expressed strong support for the full funding of public education, with 66% of the respondents saying that the need was either “urgent” or “very important.”

Grocery Tax Cut. Forty-five percent of voters felt that a complete repeal of the sales tax on groceries should be a “top priority.”

Health Care. Sixty percent of voters surveyed said that funding Medicaid for low-income children and disabled adults should be a “top priority.”

Insurance Reform. Sixty percent of voters said that fines for insurance companies who don’t pay their claims on time should be a “top priority.”

Minimum Wage. Forty-seven percent of voters felt that raising the minimum wage in Mississippi should be a “top priority” in 2007.

Illegal Immigration. Fifty-six percent of voters felt that fines for businesses that hire illegal aliens should be a “top priority.”

The firm says that the margin of error is +/-4% with a 95% probability of accuracy.

Debating the results from polls like this one from Zata|3 (and the many more in the works) is good fun for policymakers and political junkies alike this time of year. The tricky part for the pros will be determining the relevancy of the findings in the months to come, and what it all means for their candidates and campaigns.

So, tune in and pay attention this year. Consider the sources, too. The consequences for you and your business are critical.

Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at jlaird@msbusiness.com.

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