Shock poll shows Greenlight Pinellas struggling to break through

A new poll out today shows that advocates for the Greenlight Pinellas measure in Pinellas County this November need to pump up the volume when it comes to educating the masses about what it's all about. But Greenlight supporters say their internal polling shows a different outcome entirely.

The St. Pete Polls survey (commissioned by blogger Peter Schorsch) shows 48 percent of those registered voters called oppose the measure, while just 29 percent support it. 23 percent however, say they don't know or haven't made up their mind about it. 

Greenlight Pinellas is the transit tax measure that would enable Pinellas County's transit system (PSTA) to expand bus service dramatically and create a 24-mile light-rail network running from St. Petersburg to Clearwater beach. It would eliminate the property tax from every homeowner in the county that currently goes to transit, switching to a one-cent increase in the county's sales tax (from 7 cents to 8 cents).
"Our data shows a vastly different outlook, with Greenlight Pinellas getting support from a majority of likely voters in the county," said Joe Farrell, campaign manager for Yes on Greenlight, the advocacy group working to pass the measure this fall. But Farrell admits that there's more work to be done in helping voters understand the plan. (A Tampa Bay Times poll from last December shows the measure passing with 56 percent support as well).

Ken Welch, chairman of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, agreed with Farrell. "Those polling results are significantly different from polls of likely voters conduct by the Tampa Bay Times and other organizations. I'm confident that the citizens will make a fully informed decision on the Greenlight Pinellas plan this November. "

The only other question listed on the robo-call survey was if the voter would support the measure if the tax was smaller, with the monies collected going only to buses, with rail not part of the plan. That was even more unpopular, with only 23 percent in support, and 51 percent opposed (25 percent were unsure).

St. Pete Polls' Matt Florell tells CL that the two questions were asked as is, with no further explanation. That could fuel supporters claims that with more education, they could persuade voters to support the plan. But that means the education has to start now. 

At the unveiling of the Yes on Greenlight campaign in early February, organizers said their campaign would be a grassroots effort, with no emphasis - at least not initially - to air television commercials. Perhaps that decision may be reassessed not only in the wake of the new poll, but also by the fact that No Tax for Tracks - the political action committee created to stop Greenlight Pinellas- has now gone on the air with an ad. 

When Yes on Greenlight was officially announced in early February, co-chairman Chris Steinocher said though the campaign wouldn't preclude airing television ads at an appropriate time, the focus in the first few months would be on communicating "neighbor-to-neighbor." Joe Farrell with Yes on Greenlight agrees."Our goal is to communicate with every voter possible, and we are going to use everything in our means to do that that." He says that will include television, radio, the Internet, but with a heavy dose of door to door and  phone banking taking place over the next few months.

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