Politics

A Mass. lieutenant governor candidate was mistakenly left out of 2 polls. ‘It seems to be a skewed game,’ he says.

"We've been doing everything that every other candidate has."

Bret Bero Handout
2022 Elections

Bret Bero, a Beacon Hill businessman running in the crowded Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, now has a recurring problem: Two pollsters have — by their own admission — mistakenly omitted him from their voter surveys.

Bero joined the crowded race as one the first two declared candidates last June and boasted over $246,000 in his war chest at the end of March (although Bero personally contributed $200,000 to help kickstart his bid last summer, filings show).

“I staffed up a full team. We are going to all the events. We went to the caucuses. We’ve been calling the delegates. We’ve been fundraising just like everybody else,” Bero told Boston.com this week. “We’ve been doing everything that every other candidate has, and yet when it comes to polling, they only put the names in the poll of people who seem to have that government experience.

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“As an outsider, to me, it feels a little bit like the game is geared towards people that serve on Beacon Hill,” he added.

Bero, a self-described “pragmatic progressive” who is currently a lecturer on business management at Babson College, was not included in a poll conducted by Policy For Progress and published in January by MassINC Polling Group. Bero’s name was also absent on a poll conducted by UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion released earlier this week.

“They both acknowledged (the omissions), which makes you feel slightly good, but it doesn’t change the fact in the interim, the wrong message is going out to the public because they don’t know who all the candidates are, because the press tends to focus on the race and not the issues,” Bero said.

What the pollsters say

UMass updated its poll results with an asterisk and a statement — that misspells Bero’s first name — alerting readers that: “The survey instrument for this question mistakenly did not include the name of Brett Bero as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in either the initial question or the follow-up. We deeply regret this error and will correct it in the future. Name recognition is low in this race for all candidates.”

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Asked Thursday if a UMass official was available to comment, a spokesperson for the school sent a statement that said the Center for Public Opinion “is committed to transparency.”

“When the accidental omission was brought to the center’s attention, staff immediately noted it in the poll’s official documents,” the statement reads.

The spokesperson did not answer follow-up questions asking if UMass could provide how it researches candidates to include in its polls, and why results of the poll weren’t rescinded in light of the error.

“As I mentioned, the center accidentally omitted this candidate and was transparent about the omission in its polling documents when brought to its attention,” the spokesperson responded in an email.

The MassINC poll was sponsored by Policy For Progress, a policy lab and PAC, funded by Education Reform Now, the national nonprofit think tank that pushes “bold, new ideas that can transform the American public education system,” its website states.

MassINC and Policy For Progress acknowledged the mistake the day after the January poll was published. Both organizations expressed regret for the error.

“We screwed up by inadvertently omitting LG candidate @bretbero, a business leader & educator who is 3rd of 5 candidates in Cash on Hand,” Policy For Progress wrote in a tweet.

“There is not any hard and fast rule,” Steve Koczela, president of MassINC, wrote in a Twitter message to a reporter Thursday, when asked why the poll results were not rescinded and about the group’s best practices for errors in public poling. “We definitely plan to include (Bero) in any future primary polls.”

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MassINC has previously partnered with The Boston Globe to conduct public interest polling. Both the Globe and Boston.com are owned by Boston Globe Media Partners. Boston.com, which operates separately from the Globe, has not sponsored any polls with MassINC.

Liam Kerr, organizer for Policy For Progress, said the omission was his unintentional mistake and reiterated his apology this week.

“What happened here is we just didn’t have him in the first draft and several people who follow this stuff closely looked at the draft iterations and no one raised his name,” Kerr wrote in an email to Boston.com. “So we didn’t really have a rationale for it, his name just never came up.”

Kerr, by phone Friday, said this kind of situation has not happened to Policy For Progress before.

Mistakes made in public polling often involve errors in the poll sample, Kerr said, pointing to instances where a question was asked the wrong way or the “sample was completely off.”

But Kerr also noted polls are a snapshot of a moment in time, and “usually don’t include everyone” in a given race. The poll in question “was fielded before filing deadlines and the fields were in flux,” he wrote in the email.

“Nothing was scientifically wrong with the poll,” he said. “The poll just didn’t include (Bero).”

Kerr, in a text, added he feels “bad for (Bero) on both a personal and professional level.”

“We will include him in the next poll,” he wrote.

Notably, the polls have also not included J. Scott Donohue, a Melrose resident who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

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The two Republicans running for lieutenant governor are Kate Campanale and Leah Cole Allen, who are both former state representatives.

‘Like trying to take ink out of the water’: Bero says the omissions have left him at a disadvantage

Ideally, Bero would like to see both MassINC and UMass rescind the results of each poll and have the surveys conducted again, he said. Yet, he also understands there are time and financial constraints that make that unlikely, he said.

“But rescinding it or putting an asterisk really is like trying to take ink out of the water: once it’s in, you can’t take that away,” he said. “The other candidates have already sent emails to people (saying), ‘Hey! I’m leading in the polls.'”

Indeed, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who was shown to have a 12-point lead in Tuesday’s UMass poll, sent an email to supporters highlighting the survey results and asking for campaign contributions and RSVPs to a meet-and-great event that was scheduled for Thursday.

Driscoll’s campaign put out a press release to reporters on Wednesday touting the poll and declaring the mayor’s “commanding lead … with more than double the support of any other candidate.”

The poll showed Driscoll, with support of 22 percent of the 800 likely voters surveyed, up over state Sen. Eric Lesser, with 10 percent; state Rep. Tami Gouveia, with 9 percent; and state Sen. Adam Hinds, with 7 percent.

Two percent of respondents indicated they would support another candidate if the primary were held today and 49 percent said they were undecided so far.

“I know that the people that I’m running for the same office against are supportive of my name being in it,” Bero said. “The simple fact of the matter is it seems to be a skewed game a little bit, and the detriment, while it’s to me, it’s not as much to me as it is to the voting public. They deserve to know who all the candidates are and unless you introduce all those candidates, you start to skew the results.”

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The former owner of ECHO Industries, an Orange-based metal forming company, and a Carlisle Finance Committee member, Bero said his campaign is about helping small businesses thrive, addressing issues in education based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and tuning up the state’s response to climate change.

His resume of local-level government work, higher education, entrepreneurism, and experience on the board of an environmental testing company gives him a unique perspective, Bero said.

“The experience I bring is of the experience that’s not currently present on Beacon Hill, and that would complement either of our two gubernatorial candidates by being the person that brings that pragmatic perspective to the table,” he said.

Bero’s omission from the polls “definitely makes my job harder” on the campaign trail, though, he said.

“I do feel like people are getting to know us and getting to understand who I am,” he said. “But it would be helpful to be on the poll so that people can check it out in more detail themselves.”

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