The poll wars are raging in Northern Virginia.
The Coleman people cite only the Coleman polls. The Robb delegation praises the Robb polls. The Democrats are trying to out-poll the Republicans, and the Independents are conducting their own independent polls.
But in Alexandria, about the only poll in town is the James Madison University poll.
"I did the poll to offer a service, and through this service I am learning something," says Mark A. Kline, 22, who masterminded the survey of Alexandria voters on Virginia's state races and the city's four-way House of Delegates race.
Kline conducted the 31-question telephone survey in Alexandria as his six-credit senior internship for James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. "It's also a resource for the candidates if they want to use it," he adds.
As Kline had hoped, some candidates for the House of Delegates race in Alexandria are referring to the poll in their campaigns. But, as he expected, some are dismissing it as an amateur effort.
Kline, a 1977 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, is quick to defend his poll, a two-part survey of Alexandria voters selected from a July list of registered voters. Identical questions were asked Sept. 21-28 of 231 voters and again last week of 282 different voters.
Kline, who conducted the poll from the basement of his parents' Alexandria home, also sticks up for the 32 T.C. Williams High School seniors who conducted the interviews for the poll from their homes, after being coached in class by Kline about polling techniques.
But, like any poll, the James Madison University poll is not universally popular.
"The Kline poll uses a small sample and volunteer help," says Forest Chisman, a communications consultant to Democratic candidates. "It's an amateur effort, but it's the only thing that has been published."
Kline says several candidates have called him to ask about his connection with Democratic House of Delegates candidate Bernard Cohen. Kline admits he did campaign for Cohen, an incumbent, in the past but says he has stopped since he began work on his poll.
Some also have called attention to the location of Kline's working space at Cohen's Alexandria law office. "It surprised me," says Republican House of Delegates candidate Betty McCann. "There were a number of things suspicious about that thing," adds Democratic candidate Marian Van Landingham.
Kline says he kept his space in Cohen's office because the school required that he have someone to report to during his internship since James Madison is located two and a half hours away. But Kline insists he has never worked on anything related to the poll there, except to use the copier after hours.
Cohen, who called the suspicions "ridiculous," said he had no influence on the poll. Cohen took second place in the first poll of the Alexandria House of Delegates race and was the winner in the latest poll.
"I have heard complaints that this was a Cohen survey," Kline says. "It is not at all. And it's not a Democratic survey. It's an independent survey. . . . I feel if I work on my personal time on a campaign, I don't think I am biasing a survey at all."
Alexandria newspapers have devoted front page space to the results of Kline's poll, about the only barometer available to the public of local Alexandria races.
"The poll was done as a student project, and I think it's of a more limited scope than some of the other polls which showed Robb further ahead," says Ron Susskind, district field director for gubernatorial candidate Chuck Robb.
Susskind considers a recent Reston Times poll of approximately 100 voters, which gave Robb 50.4 percent, as the "best" poll so far.
Coleman forces are not ecstatic about the JMU poll, which gave Coleman 32 percent and Robb 38.8 in the first polling, and Coleman 34.4 and Robb 43.6 in last week's polling.
"I think the poll tells you absolutely nothing except that it's a very close race," says Nancy McCabe, chairman of the Republican Party in Alexandria. She added that the plus or minus factor of seven on the JMU poll could easily have reversed the Coleman-Robb results on the first poll.
The four Alexandria House of Delegates candidates, who are in a race for two seats, were also divided in their opinions about Kline's findings.
"It was a solid poll," says David Speck, an incumbent Republican. Speck got 32.5 percent in September to lead the poll and 24 percent last week to come in second. (The drop in percentages for each candidate, Kline said, were caused in part because of a change in the way he computed undecided votes.)
A real problem was that they did not do the calling from one spot under supervision," says Van Landingham, a Democrat. She received 16.9 percent of the vote on the earlier survey, and 13.9 percent last week.
"I am not one of those people who have any big faith in polls. I kind of just smile when I see results," says Democratic incumbent Cohen. He received 30.3 percent in the earlier poll and led at 27.2 percent in the later one.
"I think it's as reliable as any 231 people he could have come up with," says Republican McCann, who got 16.4 percent last month and 15.1 percent last week. "But I think I am further along in name recognition than it said."
In addition to polling about the Nov. 3 political races in Alexandria, Kline included a number of questions on other topics. They rated as follows in Kline's second poll: ERA was supported by 64.2 percent, while 92.5 agreed with the text of the ERA amendment without reference to ERA; 73.4 percent rated the performance of Alexandria's City Council average or better; President Reagan's performance so far was rated average or better by 74.1; and 61 percent thought the Alexandria School Board was doing an average or good job.
Mike Belefski, a private Northern Virginia political pollster, says he thinks the James Madison poll "was done satisfactorily" and "in a professional manner."
Mark's adviser at James Madison, a state university with about 9,000 students, is William D. Kimsey, an assistant professor of communications. Kimsey says, "I was very impressed by his motivation, level of thinking, and the quality of the product. He has really hustled a lot as a student to put this together. And he cares about learning the craft."
No matter what the poll stirs up in Alexandria, Kimsey says Kline has already passed his course "in the A+ category."