WisBusiness: Health Groups’ Poll Shows Broad Support for Madison Smoking Ban

By Brian E. Clark

A new poll sponsored by four health organizations shows 68 percent of Madison voters support the current smoking ban and that a majority of the city’s voters are opposed to a referendum on the issue.

“A vocal minority will always oppose this ban, but the political process is done and most people in Madison support smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars,” said Aaron Doeppers of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, one of the poll sponsors.

The survey follows by one day another poll – this one by Chamberlain Research Consultants – that showed only 50 percent of Madisonians support the ban. It also said 70 percent want a referendum on the issue.

The poll showed that 47.4 percent would vote for the smoking ban and 46.6 would vote against it – a virtual toss-up.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has said he opposes the referendum.

Doeppers and representatives of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association ripped the Chamberlain survey, calling it biased.

The health groups said their poll, done by the Mellman Group of Washington, D.C., was fair. In a conference call, pollster Mark Mellman said his survey results were consistent with other polls done in U.S. cities where smoking bans have been enacted.

They also alleged that Chamberlain survey oversampled smokers and was paid for by pro-tobacco organizations, a charge strongly denied by Chamberlain representatives.

Heather Hagenow, creative director for Chamberlain, said the survey was done as a public service and that her organization had great respect for the American Cancer Society and the other health groups.

Chamberlain did a separate, statewide poll on smoking attitudes earlier this year. She declined to say what the survey costs.

Alison Prange, legislative liaison for the American Cancer Society, remained skeptical of the Chamberlain survey.

“In this environment, it’s essential to conduct a poll meeting the highest standards of credibility and methodology,” she said.

“This (health group) poll, conducted under theses high standards, makes a strong statement,” she said.

“Madison believes everyone, regardless of income, race, sex or place of employment, has the right to breathe clean air.”

The health group survey interviewed 400 likely voters, while the Chamberlain poll contacted 605 randomly selected Madison residents over age 18.

Their poll also found that 60 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to elect officials who support the current smoke-free law.

Only 23 percent indicated they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposed it.