Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

I can already hear the cries from City Hall critics as they read the headline on this column.

That's okay. A little healthy skepticism is good for the soul.

And I'm just reporting the results here. And maybe providing a little context too.

I received this latest poll on Monday from the Long Beach Firefighters, Local 372 — the city's firefighters union. Local president Rex Pritchard said the union regularly hires a pollster to gauge the community's feelings about a wide range of issues; this one happened to be about the mayor and the city's coronavirus response.

A bit of an aside is in order. This city government, like many others, gives great weight to polls when making decisions. Mayor Robert Garcia is a big believer, and his unblemished record getting ballot issues passed (he polls a lot before doing anything) is pretty good evidence he might be right.

This particular poll relies on phone calls earlier this month to 400 Long Beach residents who had voted in the last election. (How they get the phone numbers is worth another column.) Results are rounded to whole percentages.

The biggie, of course, is the mayor's job approval rating. In what likely is a simplification, the pollsters gauge Garcia's approval rating at 65%, with 26% saying they disapprove and 9% saying they don't know (or they didn't know we have a mayor, I'll bet).

I'm not privy to the demographic breakdown the polling company gives whoever hired them, but the summary does say the mayor polls the strongest on the east side — Third District (77%), Fourth District (64%) and Fifth District (64%). Care to estimate what the other districts had to say?

Nearly as important is how people feel about the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic. There are many components to that question — opening and closing businesses, opening schools, vaccine distribution, etc. — but for the public results we get the generic approve or disapprove.

And, despite what our letters to the editor and other comments might indicate, better than two out of three people think the city's doing a good job. The percentages are 69% approve, 24% disapprove and that 9% still doesn't know.

There are one or two more general questions, then a list of how people think Mayor Garcia is handling various aspects of his job. Let's see if I can summarize the six questions.

A large majority think Garcia has a strong vision for what he wants the city to be, and that he really does care about people. His rating drops when the question is about getting things done, but even the question about fiscal responsibility is at least better than even — 56% say they think he is.

I'll bet you're wondering why the firefighters are doing a survey for the mayor. Pritchard points out that firefighters are at the front of the front lines helping people suffering from COVID-19, and there is a point to be made. Here's a quote from Rex.

"We see first hand the positive affect the Mayor’s leadership has given the LBFD in our ability to respond to the needs of the community and the poll reflects that the community is seeing the positive affects of his leadership."

I'll argue that the poll gives a glimpse into the "silent majority," residents who are happy don't feel compelled to let their feelings be known. What do you say?


Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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