A curious poll emerged Tuesday from the North Carolina pollster, Public Policy Polling (PPP), pertaining to early childhood care programs, which conveniently aligns with the personal interests of the President of PPP, Dean Debnam. Debnam is married to Stephanie Fanjul, the President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children, a key player in North Carolina’s early childhood care program known as Smart Start. Fanjul made a whopping $173,000 salary last year. Fanjul’s organization receives approximately 90 percent of its funding from the state.
While conducting a poll to determine the public sentiment on budget cuts is very relevant in the context of an impending multi-billion dollar budget shortfall facing the state next year, the PPP website does not feature any other recently conducted polls testing the public attitude towards specific budget cuts. Thus, presenting only one poll in which Debnam has a very clear and large stake gives the obvious appearance of a conflict of interest.
Furthermore, the vague questions posed in the poll evoked a response more to the principle of early childhood care instead of asking about the likelihood to support reforming early childhood care programs to make them more accountable and cost effective.
The poll asked: “Do you think North Carolina’s legislators should cut funding for early childhood care and education for children birth through five?”
“Strong early childhood programs are one of North Carolina’s hallmarks and have consistently proven to be very popular with voters in the state,” said Debnam. “Legislators who go after them face trouble back at home for doing so.” It appears these legislators would also face trouble from a highly interested pollster.