Republican Bill Hudak's campaign released parts of an internal poll yesterday showing the Boxford attorney leading Democratic Congressman John Tierney by one point among Independent voters.
But the campaign declined to make the entire poll public, releasing only the results of a limited number of highly specific questions. The Tierney camp in a statement dismissed the data, claiming Hudak was "fabricating a dream scenario."
Nonetheless, Hudak trumpeted the poll results as evidence that his campaign is gaining ground over the incumbent Tierney with about five weeks until Election Day.
"I've been campaigning for 15 months solid, 15 hours a day," Hudak said. "We've been doing everything according to plan. ... We're right on target."
The poll shows Hudak with a 41 to 40 percent lead over Tierney among Independent voters. Hudak trails Tierney, 46 to 39 percent, among a group defined as "high interest likely voters."
Callers were also asked whether Tierney has performed his job as congressman well enough to deserve re-election or "if it's time for change and a new person to be elected." About 38 percent of respondents said "new person," another 38 percent "would probably re-elect Tierney," and 23 percent remained undecided.
Some 59 percent said the country has "pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," while 30 percent said the country was going in the right direction. About 11 percent had no opinion.
Among the "wrong track voters," Hudak led Tierney 51 to 29 percent.
The poll surveyed 400 likely voters, though Hudak could not say what the breakdown of Democrats, Republicans and Independents was. It was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.
Hudak refused to release the entire poll or the wording of some of the questions, raising the issue of whether the campaign was handpicking which numbers to publicize.
But Hudak said publishing all the data would reveal the campaign's long-term tactics.
"It's part of our internal polling," Hudak said. "We do it to track where we are, and there are some strategic points we're not going to make public because they expose or detail our strategy.
"It was done with a national pollster with national credentials. We're satisfied with the numbers."
The Tierney campaign, however, accused Hudak of "manipulating" the poll numbers.
"Instead of releasing their poll in its entirety, the Hudak campaign parsed the numbers and showed a subset of a subset of the results," Tierney campaign spokeswoman Kathryn Prael said in a statement. "Even after fabricating a dream scenario, Bill Hudak remains seven points down with his most ardent supporters."
Prael suggested the numbers might have been different if respondents knew Hudak's true stance on the issues.
"The information 'left out' by his campaign includes how voters react to Bill Hudak's extreme positions, including denying women the right to choose, eliminating the Department of Education, including funding for college students and local schools, and the fact that Hudak wants the middle class to pay at the same tax bracket as millionaires and billionaires," Prael said.
Yet, Hudak said the poll shows voters are angry with Tierney's record on Capitol Hill.
"Voters are now fully aware that my opponent is a strict and hardened partisan politician that votes virtually 100 percent of the time with his party only. ... I think now that people are aware of it, they understand it's time for change," Hudak said.
However, Salem State College political science professor Dan Mulcare said the lack of complete data from the poll suggests Hudak may be "cherry-picking" the numbers to try to prove he's a viable candidate.
"Without seeing the actual questions, you can't really say it's anything except a candidate trying to persuade public opinion," Mulcare said. "That's about it."