June 3 2010 12:00 AM

* Thursday update: new Freep poll puts Dillon ahead of Bernero *


* A poll released Thursday conducted by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit's WXYZ puts Dillon ahead of Bernero 29 percent to 23 percent — but the poll still shows that 48 percent of likely democratic voters don't have a preference. This new poll — conducted by EPIC-MRA with a sampling of 600 and a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points  — is not much news: Dillon leads Bernero, and most voters haven't made up their mind. However, the margins are changing incrementally. A similar EPIC-MRA poll released in early April had Dillon in front of Bernero 22 percent to 15 percent; and at tha time, with Alma Wheeler-Smith still in the race, 42 percent of voters were undecided. (Though, in that poll, Bernero did better than Dillon once a short biography was read to voters by pollsters.)

Two polls gauging the gubernatorial race were released on Tuesday. One is favorable toward Bernero, the other not — but both appear to have their downsides.

First, Public Policy Polling, in Raleigh, N.C., released a poll Tuesday showing that Bernero was beating Democratic challenger Andy Dillon 26 points to 23; the poll also showed that “undecided” (51 percent) is still in the lead.

Bernero did not come up a winner in the entire poll. He beat Dillon among liberals 38 to 15, but not among moderates, the largest block, which voted 29 percent to 27 percent for Dillon, and not among conservative Democrats, who backed Dillon 20 percent to 5 percent.

The poll surveyed 314 likely Democratic voters and had a margin of error of 5.5 percent.
But political strategists and commentators Joe Munem and Joe DiSano criticized the poll on their weekly podcast, which came out Wednesday. The Joes questioned whether the poll was done by robo-call or by actual interviewers. Robo-polls, according to the New York Times polling standards manual, “are not reliable.” A call placed to Public Policy Polling was not returned.

Still, the Bernero campaign sent out an e-mail Tuesday called “Momentum,” saying that the PPP poll demonstrated that the campaign is “in the lead to win the Democratic nomination on Aug. 3.”

It would be interesting if the PPP poll turned out to be a robo-poll: last year after Lansing At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood announced she would run for mayor, City Pulse commissioned a robo-poll from East Lansing-based Practical Political Consulting. The poll, however unreliable, found Bernero and Wood evenly matched (Bernero 50, Wood 50). When asked about the poll later, Bernero said it was “not a real poll.” (We found out on Election Day that he was either right about it’s not being a real poll, or voters’ sentiment shifted greatly … .)

The Joes also criticized a second poll released Tuesday, this time by East Lansing-based Denno-Noor Research, the Rossman Group and the Perricone Group. The poll only surveyed southeast Michigan — a misnomer, the Joes said, since the poll only included voters from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. Not surprisingly, Dillon was the victor there. His House district encompasses Redford Township, which is in Wayne County.

But Dillon’s lead’s a whopper: 23 percent to Bernero’s 9 percent and … 69 percent undecided.
In a press release, Dennis Denno said that candidates who hope to win a statewide race must do well in southeast Michigan.

In a hilarious segment of the Joes’ show, they questioned why the Denno poll only surveyed three counties when there’s a whole state full of voters that can be polled. And since the poll was released just before the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference, the pair pondered whether the good people of Mackinac Island were too busy “cleaning up road apples and making fudge” to be polled about their choice for governor.

In fact, the pair spent a healthy amount of time ripping apart the Mackinac Policy Conference, saying that it is where the “masters of the universe” go to make “bold utterances” and “convince themselves how truly great an omnipotent they are.” The conference is a big political confab that happens every year at the Grand Hotel and other places around Mackinac Island where people like Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Detroit Mayor David Bing, Dillon and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop gather to host panels, party and trade ideas.

But some people think it’s stupid, and one of those people might be Bernero: On Wednesday, he issued a press release saying that he would attend a gubernatorial forum at Mackinac scheduled for Thursday night — but he would leave right after and kick off a tour of the Upper Peninsula. Beginning Thursday night, Bernero will visit Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry, Munising, Marquette, Houghton, Menominee and Escanaba.

“While the insiders rub elbows on the island and continue the same old, business-as-usual politics at the Grand Hotel, I will be talking with working families and business owners about job creation throughout the U.P.,” Bernero said in a press release. Maybe he heard the Joes’ podcast.