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"We had no reason to doubt the poll until we saw others conducted over the same period and could see differences in the numbers. That raised questions," Conway said. "We contacted our pollster who did additional research on Salt Lake County demographics and found there was indeed a flaw.
"We knew right then that we needed to correct our mistake and that’s what we are doing," Conway said.
Pollster Coker said his firm interviewed 625 likely voters statewide to get statistically valid responses to several poll questions; 240 of those people were from Salt Lake County. Then, to get valid numbers for Salt Lake County issues, another 385 likely county voters were surveyed. Similar approaches were taken for polls involving the 2nd and 4th congressional districts.
To help ensure those respondents represent a true cross section of their communities, he added, the results are "weighted" in the polling formula to reflect the area’s political breakdown.
Twenty percent of those sampled said they were Democrats, 48 percent said Republican and 32 percent said independent. That was close to accepted breakdowns of party affiliation statewide, said Coker, "but intuitively we know Salt Lake County is more Democratic than the rest of the state." It would have been more accurate to weight Democratic affiliation in Salt Lake County at closer to 25 percent, with Republicans at 43 percent, he added.
But "we finished the poll on Wednesday night. We’re pulling [the results] together at 3 a.m. I’m cranking to get this out to [The Tribune] Thursday morning," Coker said, and he did not notice that the party-affiliation figures for weighting were off. "It slipped between the cracks when we were pulling that information together and trying to put it out quick. … That’s something I normally would have caught."
He checked the numbers again after being asked over the weekend to do so by The Tribune.
On the other hand, Coker said, it’s possible the higher Republican Party preference voiced by poll participants could be accurate, reflecting a greater-than-usual eagerness to claim GOP allegiance because that party’s ticket is headed this year by presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a Utah favorite due to his LDS faith and leadership role in running Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympics.
"If there is a big extra Republican turnout for Mitt Romney, that works for Crockett’s advantage," he said. "We could wake up Wednesday morning and Crockett will have won by 10 [percent]."
Crockett said he expects voter turnout Tuesday to be high. "People really want to vote this year," he said. "They don’t want to miss their opportunity to vote for Romney."
McAdams said confidence in his campaign’s internal polling and its prognosis that he has a slight edge have left him feeling that "voters will make the right decision [Tuesday]. We have not let up and will continue working to take this across the finish line."
Maryann Martindale, executive director of the liberal Alliance for a Better Utah, chided The Tribune for its "unfortunate decision to announce methodologically flawed poll results" but applauded the decision to publish the revised numbers.
State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis was more biting in his assessment, saying with apparent sarcasm that "we suspected that the poll was wrong when it showed Al Gore up by 5." Democrat Gore lost the 2000 presidential election to Republican George W. Bush.
Tribune reporters Robert Gehrke and Christopher Smart contributed to this article.
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