Chapel Hill Polling

I was just contacted by PPP and asked about candidates and development issues. Was anyone else called?



I know of one person who was contacted twice by the polling group and answered the questions twice, so the poll doesn't seem to be very scientific. Another person I know was asked about who she supported for Town Council and was cut off after she mentioned candidates who are challengers. The "poll" sounds bogus at the very least.

Don't be surprised if the poll results are released some time in October and show significant support for the TC incumbents, an insider TC aspirant and the mayor. Could be along the lines of this mayor's October Surprise from 2009, when Cam Hill mailed out a scurrilous post card just days before the election that attacked Kleinschmidt's opponent and probably tilted the election to Kleinschmidt, who of course knew nothing -- Nothing! -- about the dirty trick -- but never condemned it.


I'd find it very difficult to poll in Chapel Hill where young voters are very transient, almost NONE have land lines, and the cell phones are quite often in other area codes.  Knowing Public Policy Polling's reputation, I'd find it impossible to believe they are disconnecting calls if someone indicates they support a CHALT candidate.  Or maybe you are just setting things up so you can blame the election results on some insidious outside force.

Would that "insidious outside force" be someone who lives and works in Raleigh and yet fulsomely insinuates himself into Chapel Hill politics? Eh, Jer?

Let's keep to the facts. I didn't say PPP was disconnecting calls -- you said that. Fact is, the questioner cut off one person after she chose two CHALT candidates and then went on to the next question. Could be telling, could be a glitch in the system. Could be others have had a similar experience with this poll.


I got polled too. There is no "questioner" making decisions based on liking or not liking anyone's answers. The questions are recorded and you hit a button on your phone to make your choice.


If it is PPP, I would argue PPP is so well respected and accurate that if they polled citizens over the noise of two adult giraffes fighting for herd dominance I imagine they have a valid scientific reason for it.  If it cut off intentionally I have no doubt they had a scientific reason for it, if it cut off accidentially I imagine they have protocols to correct for it in the polling results. PPP results have been tested and criticized repeatedly on a national stage.  They are well equipped to handle a local race.  

Really ?  YOU were the one that said PPP was cutting off calls when people chose CHALT candidates. Read your initial post. And "fulsomely". ? I had to look that one up.  Pretty strong accusation. My family has lived on and off in Orange County for 75 years. I managed to earn three degrees from Carolina and was a grad student 2001 to 2004 (when I was in a class with Tom Jensen and handled the instruction for a couple weeks while the faculty member was out of town.  My sons fiancée is a Carrboro resident. I served on Chapel Hill Town Council for six years. I'm hardly an outsider. Oh and the poll results will be on WCHL at 4:15 today. 

I've had fun exploring all of the polling results that were just released. It seems like a good analysis. I liked this quote:

"To the horse race numbers. And there’s a reason I’m putting these on page 3- they’re not that useful at this point 41 days out from the voting, and the bigger picture findings about what voters in town are thinking are more important."

I was called, Loren.  

I wish the pollster would identify themselves, don't you?  It's spurring a lot of unpleasant speculation.


Loren indicated it was PPP. They identify this as the polling outfit during the call. I recognized Tom Jensen's voice when I got polled for the October 6 Raleigh city election two weeks ago, and I remember PPP disclosed itself at some point. 

Thanks, Gerry.  

Tom enccourage me to apply to the Planning Board many years ago and he was a member of the Northern Area Task Force that I chaired.  

How does this work?  Is PPP doing this poll on its own or did someone hire them?

The two greatest possibilities is first (most likely) a candidate paid for the poll. The second is that Tom is interested in Chapel Hill and doing the poll for personal interest. I found the PPP Raleigh questions to be very balanced. In Raleigh I also got polled by what was clearly a conservative group - it was a push poll with leading questions like "Did I think teachers unions have too much influence in city council elections". (I actually think they have no influence at all) And statements like "Do I favor candidates who have a plan to pay off Raleighs $2 billion debt" (it's actually $1.5 billion and there is a plan, it's called a debt service schedule that was adopted as required by the lenders and Local Government Commission. It also asked repeatedly was I voting for the Democratic or Republican candidates for council and Mayor. Not only are there no such animals, my council district has two Drmocrats and one Republican running, the Drmocratic party is not endorsing a candidate, and our Mayor is unaffiliated. So thank goodness for PPP


I'm not sure if PPP was identified as the poller, I just recognized Tom's voice.


I guess it could go both ways. If you identify yourself and people don't like your organization they might hang up and that would bias your sample.


If PPP is polling they will be on point.  Tom Jensen was named one of the most powerful people in 2012 by Business Insider for how accurate PPP was in predicting the 2012 Presidential Election. They are one of the most, if not the most, accurate polling outfits in the United States.

Tom Jensen polled the Chapel Hill Mayor's race in 2009 out of personal interest.  I imagine he is probably doing the same for this race. Tom Jensen is a Tar Heel, probably likes to keep track of his college town. 

Polls and surveys only reflective community sentiment if the sampling is sufficiently large and those responding are informed on current issues. That's why name recognition is so important in any election, and why incumbency comes with such a huge advantage. People don't pay attention to the issues. 

This election is another of those that will hinge on turnout. If the disenchanted middle-aged, middle-class voters show up, there could be an upset. But will they show up?

I checked the 2013 early voting turnout in Chapel Hill. Election Day was not available, but early voting would tend to OVER REPRESENT younger voters. There were 1320 early voters, 30% of the total turnout.  There were only 27 dorm voters, and  just 132 were under the age of 30 years of age. Over 48% were age 65 and over. There were less than 120 addresses that appeared to be apartments. It's a myth that transient  renters and students control Chapel Hill Town elections. 

"It's a myth that transient renters and students control Chapel Hill Town elections."

Man, wouldn't that be awesome though?

Why do you think it would be so great for people who have no investment in the community to have such influence in long term decisions?

Interesting choice of words. Maybe it depends on what you mean by "investment in the community." What is it about being a renter or a student that makes one less "invested"? At what point do you believe someone is sufficiently invested to justify taking his or her needs and interests into consideration?

Short-timers don't always consider the long-term impact of their needs/demands. When the planning horizon is 20 years, someone who expects to live here no longer than 4 years may not care that raising taxes to do "X" impacts the overall affordability of the community. I point to the gentrification of Northside as a good example. I'm not saying every student who comes to UNC thinks only of herself and her wants/demands, but there are many. There's a difference between investment and throwing out interesting ideasfor experimentation. We need to do both. 

Terri-I really reject the idea that residents who are in school or are renters are not invested in the community. I went to school at UNC and am a renter. Like many of my friends and peers I do have to move around. Roommates come and go. Rents change. I take strong objection to the idea that because you are at a stage in your life where you can afford permanent housing you therefore have more investment in the community than me or my friends. 


Will--Jason's post refers to "transient renters and students." If you're here and making an investment in the community, then you can't be classified as transient. As I said, I recognize that my objection ooesn't apply to all students. Many permanent residents, including myself, came here as students and chose to stay. Instead of being defensive, why not describe the investment you have made to the community?

"Instead of being defensive, why not describe the investment you have made to the community?"

  • Why should Will have to document the ways in which he has made investment in the community just because he made a comment? Why should anyone?
  • Who else should document their participation instead of expressing their objection? Low income workers? Retirees? Ethnic minorities? Any other groups we could go ahead and paint with a broad brush here?
  • How many years should someone have to live here before they should be allowed to participate in community decision making?

The student voters in town elections tend to be grad students and those with families. EVERY SINGLE STUDENT is considered in the census as residents where they live during the school year. Those numbers determine state allocations for road maintenance and construction, distribution of liquor.taxes and the portion of sales taxes distributed that way statewide. All privately owned apartments pay property taxes that are included in rent. Only dorm and public housing don't. Should public housing residents not vote ? Maybe it would be good to remove all apartments from the town limits Terry. Also, should fixed  term faculty be discouraged from voting ?  How about the Chancellor who lives in tax free housing ?  As mentioned, THE NUMBER OF DORM STUDENTS VOTING IN TOWN ELECTION IS CLOSE TO ZERO. In 2013 it was about 2% of the electorate. The only significant student turnout has been when a student is running for office and even then it's not big. It's been bigger or in referenda like liquor by the drink (1978) and transit (1973). Even those students who vote tend to leave school board blank. There is NO evidence that students are saddling anybody with anything. But believe me I'm going to spend a lot of time, energy and $$ encouraging students to vote this fall. My interest is making Chapel Hill a good place to live for future residents.  

Terri, if you truly believe renters and young people have "no investment in the community," I don't even begin to know how to have a conversation with you about this topic. I would personally be embarassed to have such an assertion associated with my name publicly. Please, tell me what other groups we should also be systematically marginalizing in our local political system because they're not "invested" enough.

I do not understand how my challenging Jason's desire for "transients" to direct the town's future to being blasted as disrespecting students and renters. You all are the ones labelling students and renters as transients. So blast away; I step aside.

I didn't read Jason's comment as saying that short-term residents should "direct" the town, but they should have the same right to participate as anyone else. Personally I had no plans to stay in Chapel Hill as an undergrad, didn't decide til I was in grad school. We should remember though that very few undergrads actually vote in town elections (see stats earlier in thread). 

I agree with gerchoen.  Younger voters typically do not turn out for local municpal elections. That is fairly common knowledge for anyone engaged in a local campaign.  As undergrads, Chapel Hill is still a new place that is new to them, and home might feel like somewhere else (until they graduate and have collected a wonderful stock of memories).  The majority of voters in local municipal elections are long time residents who are strongly civic minded.  

I agree that student turnout was very low but turn out of any age group was less than 50%. I was really surprised at how low UNC turnout was. (It didn't help that the Daily Tar Heel endorsements came out on the day of the election.) The College Dems had a weeklong activity for early voting. I thought between former students that I had taught and older High School friends of my son that a lot of college students would vote but that was not the case. This year with the bond issue maybe turn out will be higher. Some students vote in their home town (I did as an undergraduate) but I have noticed that students who do vote in their college town make to effort to find out the local issues and then vote.


Tom lives in Chapel Hill, Don. This isn't an outsider scenario.

As people will no doubt chime in about the accuracy or meaning of the 4:15pm poll coming out today, I have included the 2009 poll for discussion.  It seems, with both Mayor and Council, many people were still on the fence when the 2009 poll was sampled.  The Council results seems largely accurate from the 09 poll except for Penny, who ended up winning a seat despite being at only 8% in the poll results.

Generally positive for incumbents.  Chapel Hill seems happy with the direction the Town is headed.  Strong support for Light Rail, negative of Obey Creek, generally supportive of current growth.  

Mayor's Race: 12 Point Lead for Kleinschmidt over Hemminger.  48% approval rating for Mayor Mark. 

PPP's take on top 4 for Council as of this momentl: (1) Oats (2) Ward (3) Bell (4) Storrow 

Full Results:

Reading the questions in the poll Question 5 is potentially the most important..... there is a significant anti-incumbant sentiment 

That is a fair statement, but it is not consistent with the rest of the data.  

Council choice in the poll broadly favors incumbents (3-4 top Council choices being incumbents), and the sentiment from the community is generally contrary to the stated positions of CHALT: generally approving of Chapel Hill's growth rate [Q7], support of the light rail [Q11-which no CHALT candidate supports per the WCHL candidate forum], general positive view of the direction the town is headed [Q12] and general approval of the mixed use philosophy advocated for by Council [Q9] [Q31] (Obey Creek of course being the exception).  

It may simply mean CHALT has done a good job initially stirring the pot, but once citizens take a hard look at candidates (per the undecided voters in the poll) they will find CHALT does not ultimately advocate for their stated values.   

I guess we shall see. I posit some of the inconsistancy is that the other questions were terse and may have misleading results. It may indeed mean that CHALT has been successful stiring the pot, it will certainly make things interesting. I suspect that CHALT has more grassroots support and that the cincumbants have more shortcomings than you think. For things to be this close at this stage of the game must be scary to the incumbants.

If you look at Community Survey's done by the Town of Chapel Hill, you will generally find exteremely positive ratings for the Town of Chapel Hill.  TOCH occassionally sets national benchmarks in some areas for how happy its citizens are with it services.  Not sure what the major incentive would be to change course. Some stuff the Town knows it needs to work on (like traffic), and I believe Council is diligently working to address these issues.  

Elected officals nationwide would eat their hats for approval numbers in the community survey that Chapel Hill has, and the generally positive ratings Chapel Hill receives on a number of national metrics and polls (36th Most Livable City in the U.S.). There is a wealth of institional knowledge and strong experience on Council. Additionally the Council has a proven track record of results in following through on its stated goals.  If citizens are discontent, they need to make sure they are visiting to look at the programs and policies of the Council, and research before they decide they really don't like what they see. could be that people are not liking the results. The town is fiscally weak, there is a palpable perception of panic in some of the decisions. The councel has erroded affordable housing, past land use commitments have been ignored, while "form based coding" has run roughshod over the planning process with little consideration of the affected bys. Past storm water mistakes have not been addressed in new development and obvious new traffic issues have been ignored. 

On the positive side the town is wealthy, intelligent and well educated and the voters have very distinct choices this time.

Fiscally weak? Nope. (AAA Bond Rating) Very few cities of Chapel Hill's size have the distinction of that rating.  Additionally, the debt that is serviced to fund public projects come from a planned income stream that allows the Council to fund major infastructure projects without raising taxes or cutting services.  The debt service might be high right now due to the Library...but they PLANNED for that.  To say the town is financially weak is innaccurate and irresponsible. 

Perception of panic?  I refer to the data already given. Community Survey and PPP both say the town in headed in the right direction.  If anyone is stoking a sense that people should be panicked, it is you through your statements.  That is also not grounded in fact, nor a responsible message to give to voters.  If anything there is disagreement about certain projects and maybe some education that needs to be done about why Council is making the choices it is making.  Mixed use planning is well supported by hard data showing public benefit on a number of fronts to citizens.  

The affordable housing statement is errouneous. Council set aide a dedicated income stream (750,000 USD) a year, to help address this problem, similar to how they plan for debt service. More needs to be done, but without adding housing stock current units will beomce increasingly expensive and price out both current residents (as was happening in Northside) and make affordability impossible due to scarcity of supply.  Basic Economics.  

Form based code was the only way to get the necessary stormwater improvements the district needed without adding additional tax burden on residents.  

If you are worried about traffic, you should support the Light Rail.  Light Rail's ability to mitigate traffic is as well documented as the gravity that is holding your feet to the ground. 




Mark, one of your premises is wrong. Nancy Oates has stated several times that supply and demand do not apply in Chapel Hill housing prices. 

lol...I should caveat that there are some dissenting voices.   They generally don't say market fundamentals don't apply to housing, only that the nature of the housing market is wonky (and sometimes behaves oddly or countrary to intuition) due to the nature of housing as a commodity. That is why there is no silver bullet, and you need numerous tools to try and address the problem (like the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, Negotiated Affordable Rental, Dedicated Income Streams, as well as a thoughtful increase in supply). All of which Chapel Hill is doing. 


Debt is OK with you eh? As of June the town debt was 52 million, however the town needs to issue another +20 million by 2017 for such things as public safety projects, streets and sidewalks, solid waste transfer stations and transit bus replacement (made necessary by LRT sucking all of the transit dollars away from the people that need it). That's a lot of debt. Good thing the residents are all rich, they won't mind the tax increases. Maybe that the reason for the feeling of panic, or maybe that's that why the council and mayor are not listening to the citizens concerns? Maybe people should ask why the needs take a back seat to the wants?

Overall affordable housing inventory is declining (Timber Hollow) driving the "supply and demand" problem you refer to at the low end, while at the same time approving expensive high end apartments and developments (much more profitable) solving the same supply and demand problem at the high end. The truth is, it is your oversimplification of the problem that is irresponsible and not grounded in fact.

Please show your source for the "stormwater improvement" enabled by form based coding? In point of fact form based coding is about the structure not land use. Another assertion that is irresponsible and not grounded in fact.

I am worried about traffic, and you see its not rocket surgery; 

If the effort is to alleviate commuting look at the largest employers (hint UNC is one, but UNC employment is dwarfed by the corporations and venues in RTP)

If the effort is to alleviate daily shopping and miscellaneous traffic they go to the shopping locations and transit hubs like RTP. You will *not* be able to eliminate the trade, delivery and transit traffic no matter what you do.

UNC to Alston Avenue is insignificant in the calculation, unless you are a developer that plans to build high end development and drive out the middle and lower income folks, much like your Northside example.

Not every project Council has approved is high end luxury. DHIC is a perfect example, that is only affordable housing. And, even though your statement is incorrect, for the sake of argument, let's assume that the only thing Council is building is luxury housing. What happens when wealthy buyers come to a desirable community and can't find housing?  They buy less desirable property and renovate.  Alphabet City in NYC ain't cheap anymore.  SImilar problems happened in London.  Chapel Hill isn't either of those places, I would argue market fundamentals still apply. 

Taxes and growth are concerning, which is why the data on dense mixed used development is important.  Last I heard, the #1 tax generator for the Town of Chapel Hill (keeping property taxes down for all residents) was Greenbridge. Mixed use development is cheaper to service from a municipal standpoint (one garbage dumpster rather than a whole neighborhood of pick up, for example), and generates lots of tax revenue.  Everyone benefits, the Town gets a better balance sheet, and all of the Town residents don't have to pay more in taxes. 

You are misinformed about EF and public improvements.  The reason public improvements were even possible in that district is because unified planning was made possible through form based coding.  Form based coding allowed for predictability in develpment, which increased the tax value of the land. Increasing the tax value of the land allowed for Tax Increment Financing to leverage investments in public improvement such as stormwater.  No unified approach to public improvements in that district would have been possible without this predictability (well I guess it is possible, but my guess is the tax bill would have you a little ill).  Form based coding makes the public improvements pay for themselves. 

CIty planning is so organic, and requires so much thought, and not everyone is going to be happy.  Sometimes the implemented solutions (and associated signs of change) frustrate people.  On some level, that is always going to be true.  I would encourage those who want to participate really look at fundmental strategies and not engage in unproductive dialouge about one element they do not like, without looking at the overall strategy designed to make their lives, and the community, a better place for everyone. 



NYC was never cheap, I used to live uptown at 123rd and Broadway near Columbia, you? I did not say luxury housing is all the council was permitting. I AM saying that there has a net loss in affordable housing and at the same time the County is asking for bond money to build some? I always wondered what happend to the 2014 town ask for financial support for EF from the county (2014 wasn't it?) did that ever happen? 

Greenbridge is horrifically over taxed, valuations are way out of line with market pricing. Is that your solution? Fear the coming revaluation.

Again, show me the improvements in stormwater EF is enabling, then we can discuss it again when the next flood occurs. Show me the tax improvement in forcing out existing business. BTW, taxes were another place the incumbents did not fair well in the phone survey, but I suspect that no one is going to admit they like taxes.....

Organic....yea, that's the ticket. How is the DoT projection for traffic increases at the JT Bridge and the intersection of 54 qualify in your fundemental strategy? How is it not predictable and avoidable, yet dismissed by the council? Frustration. Yes, a very good word for it.

Are we comparing addresses?  That is not what is important here.  Alphabet City was a comparably more affordable, if not a more dangerous part of NYC, back in the 90s (people used to watch TV on porches with power stolen from local public utilities). Calling out someones personal experience is a tactic and tone that is not going to serve anyone. Where someone lives does not give them better command of the facts. 

The short answer is Chapel Hill is the envy of municipalities across the United States, and by almost every metric is well posed for the future.  I can't agree with anyone who looks at our Town and sees a community going down the drain in some kind of Armageddon.  We just have to agree to disagree and let citizens respectfully discuss their vision, I generally think that is more important than focusing on the negative.  

You sound very defensive. I was honestly curious about your NYC reference and time frame.  Sometimes where someone lives/has lived gives them a different perspective and yes, more intimate knowledge of the facts. Stealing utility service in NYC is a sport, not a comment on the cost of living.

Again you are the one using all the supulatives. Armageddon in Chapel Hill? No. Time for a change in leadership, yes. 

It's hard to read tone from comments.  I could roll out my 80 year old Godfather and get him to regail his stories dancing with George Balanchine in NYC ballet and living reasonably well as a dancer (without subsidy) in the middle of Manhattan.  Basic research also shows the Upper East Side in the 1940s (an area that is crazy expensive now) supported middle class Europeans (Germans, Czechoslovakians) in the eighties and ninties.  The czechoslovakian population was largely supported by a cigar factory.  These middle class populations no longer exist.  So I am going to have to disagree with you that Manhattan has always been as expensive as it is now, or that real estate prices have not jumped tremendously.  It is also true that when high end buyers cannot find properties that suit their taste, they buy lower range market units and renovate. 

At one point it was possible to be a working class American and live reasonably well in Manhattan.

Just anlayze the Town's development activity report and you will find that somewhere between 12,000 and 17,000 parking spots have been APPROVED.  Presumably, cars will be driving to those spots adding to the traffic congestion. It was Council's choice to not lower parking ratios, thereby undermining the transit system and creating serious upcoming traffic congestion.   

The rationale that "not all of these projects will be built" is an insult.  An approval is a moral and fiduciary responsiblity that council enacts with its residents and  no approval should be given unless the development and its consequences can be beneficial to the town.

The concern about parking spots is blown out of proportion.  Let me tell you about when I visit my little brother in Seattle. My little brother works at Amazon in the South Lake Union district of Seattle WA.  South Lake Union was an under-developed industrial area Amazon basically bought and then built a campus for its employees. The area includes light rail connection to SeaTac International Airport.

When I visit, I take the light rail from SeaTac and ride it to the end of the line, and walk to my little brother's apartment complex.  He and his wife walk to work everyday, and when I visit, my entire visit I never get into a car.  I can walk to the waterfront and get a drink at the Edgewater, I can walk to the Space Needle, and I can walk downtown to visit the postmodern public library. When we go to a Mariner's game, we take the light rail. My brother has parking spot, with a car, that he turns on maybe once every six months so the battery doesn't die and to make sure the thing still runs.  If mixed use connected to transit is done right, you can have parking and cars, but people won't be getting into their cars unless they need to make an out of town trip.  Posit as many cars as you want, if you build and plan right, the numbers don't really matter. I live it once a year when I visit South Lake Union.  Chapel Hill is an older town built on an autocentric model, and change will be a little disruptive, but I think it is a worthy vision to pursue, due to the massive health, environmental, and cost savings this approach provides to cities and its residents. 

I actually think the two of you are agreeing on this one. Now if only all the transit dollars were not being sucked up by an LRT system that serves so few, bypassing the places most want and need to go.

BTW you brothers situation really describes the LRT inflexibility problem to a "T" (pun intended), serving the well off who can afford a car they do not use and already walk to work so don't really need it. "Shall we take LRT or the Lexus tonight, dear?" 



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