A phone survey is going around Prince George’s County, asking a long series of questions about state and local political figures, government agencies and county policy proposals.
Seemingly by chance, Route 1 Reporter’s Michael Theis was among the respondents contacted by the pollster, who identified himself as an employee of American Directions Research Group. The phone call took place the evening of Jan. 30, 2019. The pollster declined to disclose who commissioned the poll. A call placed afterward to American Directions Research Group seeking more information was not returned.
The poll focused particularly on recently-sworn in County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, asking respondents to rate their perceptions of Alsobrooks across a series of questions. So, did Alsobrooks’ office commission the poll? Good question. Multiple emails, text messages and phone calls to representatives of Alsobrooks and the County Executive’s media relations team were not returned.
The poll started out asking several questions about Prince George’s County. The first question asked if things in Prince George’s County are “headed in the right direction or are on the right track?” Another early question asked if the respondent was “proud to live in Prince George’s County,” and another asked if the respondent was satisfied with how tax revenue was spent in the county. Another question asked in Prince George’s County needed to raise more tax revenue.
Several questions asked the respondent to rate a variety of state and local politicians and government agencies, such as Anthony Brown, Larry Hogan, Prince George’s County as a whole, Prince George’s County Public Schools Interim CEO Monica Goldson, former Prince George’s County Congressional Representative Donna Edwards (D-Maryland), the Prince George’s County Public School System, the Prince George’s County Board of Education, as well as Alsobrooks.
From here, questions about politicians focused exclusively on Alsobrooks. The next question asked the respondent if they had confidence in Alsobrooks. It was followed by a question asking if Alsobrooks could be described as an “independent” who “talks truth” to those in power. Another followup asked if Alsobrooks was a “strong leader” who “stood firm,” while another asked if Alsobrooks could be described as “compassionate.”
Yet another series of questions asked if the respondent had “confidence” in Alsobrooks’ capacity to deal with such policy issues as schools, basic maintenance and services, crime, taxes and affordable housing.
From here, the poll turned to policy issues, probing more deeply on topics such as schools, youth sports, the potential relocation of the Washington Redskins, economic development, transportation and drug policies, among others.
One series of questions asked the respondent to rate the importance of a number of policy goals, including expanding youth sports leagues in the county, increasing the “physical curb appeal” of Prince George’s County by reducing litter through a campaign encouraging residents to pick up litter, allocating more resources to schools with large populations of “at-risk” students, increasing investment in Prince George’s County, providing better basic services, expanding high school job programs, expanding health literacy, and addressing drug issues within the county.
Another question asked the respondent if “drug problems” have improved over the past year. Additional questions asked if the respondent believed Prince George’s County schools were improving, if more funding was needed for schools. One question asked the respondent if they were in favor of a school board that included members appointed by the County Executive or if all school board members should be elected.
On economic topics, the survey asked if the respondent was satisfied with the “pace of growth” in the county. Another question asked if the respondent supported using tax dollars to bring jobs to Prince George’s County. Another question asked if the respondent would support an increased tax on vacant homes. Two questions asked the respondent to rate the importance of retaining the Redskins at FedEx Field or in Prince George’s County.
One question asked the respondent if it was more important to improve bus service in Prince George’s County or if “Metro” service should be improved. (As an aside, it was a somewhat confusing question, since “Metro” operates most of Prince George’s County’s bus services.)
A single question asked if the respondent would support legislation to legalize “the use of marijuana” in Prince George’s County.
It’s notable that several of the policy questions seem to mirror recent policy proposals advanced by Alsobrooks’ administration, such as expanded youth sports programming. In late January 2019, Alsobrooks unveiled legislation to improve youth sports facilities and programs across the county. In a Jan. 30, 2019, event at Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School, Alsobrooks also announced a county beautification push that would include a “comprehensive litter education program” and camera traps to catch illegal dumpers, according to the Prince George’s Sentinel.
What that may mean for the other policy proposals alluded to in the survey questions remains unknown. Alsobrooks’ office has yet to detail plans for transit service proposals, the Washington Redskins, or marijuana decriminalization. Again, Alsobrooks’ office did not respond to several requests for comment.