Senate polls Alaskans, but results are not scientific

Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Republicans in the state Senate are polling Alaskans on what they think of the day’s hot issues, but their survey is unscientific and unlikely to accurately reflect a true sample of voter opinions.

The internet survey is being conducted for the third consecutive year. In previous years, the final tally contained a large disclaimer saying the numbers are not scientifically valid. Partial results for this year are available on the Senate Majority’s website, where about 7,100 Alaskans had offered their views as of Monday.

The state has about 530,000 registered voters and a population of about 742,000 people, so the poll represents about a hundredth of the population. A professional sample might only include 500 to 1,000 Alaskans, but the respondents would be selected as a representative of the voting public.

Respondents were initially targeted from people who had left their email addresses on the Republican Majority’s Facebook page or website and were on the Senate Majority mailing list, according to Daniel McDonald, the majority’s media spokesman. But anyone reaching the majority’s website could answer the poll.

Partial results were tweeted out over the weekend, without a disclaimer.

The email asking for participation contains a note from Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, saying: "We want to know what you think about decisions facing Alaska. Please take a moment to answer our annual start-of-session survey."

The current survey asks about state spending, taxes and using earnings from the Permanent Fund for general government – the three most contentious issues in the Alaska Legislature. It also asks about support for a Chinese partnership in the proposed gas line, whether public education funding is adequate, whether the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be open for oil exploration and whether the state should help pay for a commuter rail link between Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

McDonald said the main purpose of the survey was to engage Alaskans in governing.

"It’s similar to any kind of direct communications with constituents," he said. "We’re not trying to select for people who agree with any particular position."

A legislator who uses the information as if it were an accurate representation of what Alaskans believe would be making a mistake, McDonald said. In regards to previous surveys, he added, "We were careful to never do that."

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