Sunday, September 9, 2012

Candidates’ responses (or lack thereof)

Last week, I emailed all 227 candidates for our state legislature a set of seven questions about education policy. I have now set up a separate site to post the responses. So far, the response rate is about three percent – quite a contrast to the sixty percent response rate I got when I sent a similar list of questions to our local school board candidates last year. (There is still a lot of time for candidates to respond, though, and a handful of candidates emailed me that they would respond when they could.)

One legislator declined to answer and wrote that “our candidates have been encouraged not to respond to these types of surveys. There are many reasons for this. Candidates often have comments taken out of context or they are used against them in campaign ads. People are often wary of these types of requests because the issues are complex and often take a great deal of time and thought to answer.”

One of the questions is about local control. Maybe I should have rephrased it: “Who should set educational policy: school board members who are elected to focus exclusively on school issues, or state legislators, whose elections seldom turn on school policy and who won’t publicly answer questions about their positions on school issues?”

In the responses that I did receive, there is certainly a lot that I disagree with. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to appreciate someone who’s willing to answer questions, whatever the answers might be.
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3 comments:

Mandy said...

“our candidates have been encouraged not to respond to these types of surveys. There are many reasons for this. Candidates often have comments taken out of context or they are used against them in campaign ads. People are often wary of these types of requests because the issues are complex and often take a great deal of time and thought to answer.”
Really??? My first thought was who is the "our"? My second thought was just shock. We don't want anything we say used against us in an ad so we're not going to speak about this? How are we find their candidates thoughts on the complex issues that they have given so much time and thought to? How is a voter to know how much time and thought went into a position if a candidate won't say the position. That answer is just fascinating. "We don't want to answer your question because it might cause you to form an opinion about "our" candidate that might then cause you not to vote for her/him. I'll be anxious to see how successful that strategy is.

Karen W said...

Chris--it is like those bills that have to be passed to find out what is in them. You'll have to elect the candidates first to find out where they stand ;)

Thanks for doing this work--I hope some of the local legislators are among those that will respond when they can.

Chris said...

Mandy and Karen – Yes, it reminds me of the comment here by one of our school employees, who said she was “chuckling” about my request that the superintendent respond to my email about conditions in our school lunchroom. How hopelessly naive and unsophisticated we are to expect our public officials to answer questions about what they stand for!