Polls: Oaklanders Want Better Roads, Policing, and Youth Programs, But Are Undecided About Council Candidates

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A new poll shows that large majorities of Oakland residents want better maintenance of city roads, an increased emphasis on public safety, and better programs and services for youth. The poll, commissioned by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, also showed that majorities of city residents expressed support for spending more money on libraries and parks and recreation. However, the survey, conducted by longtime East Bay pollster Alex Evans, did not ask residents how they propose to pay for the programs and services they said they want. In the past, Oakland voters have expressed desires for more services, but then have voted down revenue measures that would have paid for them.

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The poll also showed that a super-majority of residents — 67 percent — strongly favor enacting stricter gun laws in the city. And slightly more respondents are strongly or somewhat in favor of keeping federal oversight of the Oakland Police Department (41 percent) than are strongly or somewhat opposed to oversight (39 percent). In addition, 70 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat favor reforming police officer salaries and benefits. Finally, 65 percent of residents said they were strongly or somewhat in favor of a youth curfew and stricter anti-loitering laws, compared to 30 percent who said they opposed such measures.

The poll included phone interviews of five hundred city residents and was conducted between August 30 and September 4. It had a margin of error plus or minus 4.7 percent. The poll also was weighted more heavily to residents of North Oakland, West Oakland, downtown, and Fruitvale, because those areas will be electing new councilmembers this November.

A separate poll, meanwhile, showed that residents of North Oakland, West Oakland, and downtown have not made up their minds yet as to whom they plan to vote for on November 6. In District One — North Oakland — 70 percent of respondents said they were undecided. Candidate Amy Lemley received the most support with 12 percent, followed by Dan Kalb, with six percent.

In District Three — West Oakland, downtown — 65 percent of respondents said they were still undecided. Candidates Alex Miller-Cole, Nyeisha DeWitt, and Sean Sullivan all received support from 7 percent of respondents, followed closely by Lynette Gibson-McElhaney, with 6 percent.

However, there are questions about the quality of this poll. It was conducted by a group called Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter — an organization that is strongly against the keeping of urban livestock. And respondents were asked about their opinions on the “breeding and slaughter of backyard animals,” before asking them about their choices for city council. The calls also were automated, so if respondents were turned off by the initial question, they may not have participated in the council section of the poll. The poll also excluded cellphones, and as a result, the pool of respondents might have skewed older and more conservative.

It’s not clear whether the chamber poll also excluded cellphones. The pollster did not state his method in his results.

The chamber poll, meanwhile, also showed that a majority of Oaklanders — 54 percent — continue to believe that the city is on the “wrong track.” That number is basically unchanged since late 2008, according to the poll. However, an increasing number of residents — now 47 percent — say they feel “less safe” than they did two years ago. In 2010, that number was about 40 percent.

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