COLLINSVILLE — Polling that was done to persuade Democrat Jay Hoffman to enter the 13th Congressional race against incumbent Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, shows a winnable race, according to the Hoffman campaign.
But the campaign manager for the Collinsville Democrat declined to reveal the full polling results and the specific wording of supposed negative questions about Hoffman and Johnson.
"The campaign has decided not to release the specific wording of those questions," campaign manager Scott Kennedy said. The poll's crosstabs also were not available for review, he said.
The poll of 400 likely voters in the new 13th Congressional District — which extends from Champaign-Urbana southwest to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis — found that in an initial trial heat, Johnson was favored 44 percent to 33 percent with 23 percent undecided. It was taken Aug. 10 and 11, when Hoffman was attempting to decide whether to run for the Democratic nomination in the district. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
"Initially the poll was conducted so that we could help Jay make a decision on what he wanted to do going forward," Kennedy said. "It was due diligence. The reason that we're releasing this is that we want people to know that there is a path to victory here for Jay in this race. We're sharing this to show that it is a competitive race, a difficult one that we expect to fight very hard for and be competitive."
Hoffman, a former state representative, is one of three announced Democratic candidates in the 13th District. The other two are Bloomington physician David Hill and James Gray, a retired educator from Litchfield. The survey, done by the Garin Hart Yang Research Group, a division of longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart Research Associates, did not poll Hoffman against other Democrats.
Although Hoffman trailed Johnson in the initial trial heat, the Hoffman campaign said that when positive information was read about both candidates, the race tightened to 48 percent to 44 percent advantage for Johnson, a statistical tie given the poll's margin of error.
Hoffman's campaign did release the wording of the positive description offered to those asking the poll.
Of Johnson it said: "Tim Johnson is a former lawyer, small businessman, Realtor, farm operator and educator. Now in his fifth term (actually his sixth) term as a U.S. congressman, Johnson has been a strong and independent voice on Capitol Hill in creating new farm policy, pushing for lower taxes, bringing federal dollars home to Illinois universities, protecting Social Security, fighting for affordable prescription medication and protecting our environment. He is a leading advocate for the expansion of bio-fuels use and has a tradition of opposing tax hikes, promoting fiscal responsibility and upholding conservative, common sense values."
The description the pollster read of Hoffman was: "Jay Hoffman is a former prosecutor, law enforcement official, state legislator, small businessman and public-policy advocate. He is a champion for working families, expanding access to early childhood education programs and bringing back needed state funding to build new roads, new schools and hundreds of millions of dollars for new buildings at ISU, U of I and SIU. He helped pass tax relief for seniors and senior prescription drug relief, and he has authored a book that provides a blueprint for utilizing the state's natural resources to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
Although the Hoffman campaign did not release the wording of the negative descriptions, it said that the poll mentioned Hoffman's friendship with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as well as his vote earlier this year for a 67 percent increase in Illinois' income tax. As for Johnson, it said the wording made reference to his support for President Bush's budgets and fiscal policies and his votes with corporate and business interests.
When that information was included, the Hoffman campaign said, the race became a statistical dead heat with Hoffman at 43 percent and Johnson a 42 percent.
"I think it's fair to say that people still have concerns on those issues (against Hoffman)," Kennedy said, "but it's also fair to say that those aren't the only concerns they have. We're seeing the evidence of the effect of the economy on the incumbent. People are certainly concerned about any tax increase or any ties to Rod Blagojevich, but at the same time they're more concerned over the handling of the economy."
A spokesman for Johnson discounted the poll's findings.
"I think you have to take into account who did the polling and what they were asking," Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer said. "Tim voted against Bush's budgets for several years. This is not something new for him to vote against these budgets just since President Obama has been in office."
Asked if Johnson's campaign has done any polling, Bloomer said, "Not that I'm aware of."