The United Food and Commercial Workers union, a staunch opponent of privatizing Pennsylvania's booze system, claims that a main proponent of privatization, the Commonwealth Foundation, pulled an online poll on the issue after poll numbers started showing opposition to the change.
"According to a screen shot taken taken before the Foundation `disappeared' the poll, 53 percent of respondents said they opposed privatization. Only 45 percent supported it," the union's statement issued Monday says.
Union chief Wendell Young IV added, “We’re happy that a majority of the Foundation’s web users agree with us and with a majority of Pennsylvanians...it‘s taken awhile for the Foundation to understand it, but, as I’ve said many times, the more people learn about privatization, they less they like it.”
Young added, “Democracy can be a funny thing.”
I immediately figured union folks found the online poll and had members register "no" votes.
"I won’t go so far to say it was rigged (though certainly someone at UFCW voted), but most everyone understands that online interactive polls aren’t a good measure of public opinion," replied the Commonwealth Foundation's Nathan Benefield, "If that were the case, we’d have President Ron Paul now."
Which, of course, begs the question: then why post an online poll?
When I asked Benefield if the poll was pulled once it started trending against the foundation's position, he said this: "I don’t know exactly when the trend changed, but support certainly ended lower than early on (I saw it at 80% support at one point, but I’m unable to see the trend now). But there’s no conspiracy."
Either way, the online poll could reflect slippage in support for privatization that's showing up in other polls. A recent Franklin & Marshall College poll, for example, found just 47 percent supporting privatization, the first time such support dropped below 50 percent since F&M started polling the question in 2002.
Just back in February, the Commonwealth Foundation released a poll it commissioned showing 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters either strongly or somewhat favored privatization.
Whatever the real numbers are these days, it appears the politics of booze could result in a split-decision with the Legislature possibly creating a new system that keeps State Stores but allows greater access to booze at other outlets. We'll see how that polls.