Public opinion polls can be effective tools to find out how people feel about various issues. Except when the poll results are confusing and contradictory.


In such cases, it’s hard to tell exactly what the poll participants were thinking and why they were thinking that way.


For example, take the results from the citizens survey recently released by Pueblo city government. The poll of 480 randomly selected Pueblo households included a question about whether respondents favored ending the city’s electric contract with Black Hills Energy and replacing the company with a government-run utility service.


Standing alone, the results were pretty clear: About 64 percent of the survey respondents said they want Black Hills to go. However, when you look at some of the answers to other questions, it’s hard to figure out why the poll respondents reached that conclusion.


The city’s voters will decide in a May 5 referendum whether to dump Black Hills in favor of a municipal utility service. Ballots are scheduled to go out to voters in mid-April, so a decision on this important issue will be before us very soon.


So, if people are ready to have the city take over the electric business, then that must mean they’re pretty confident about the city’s ability to provide services efficiently and effectively, right? Well, not according to the poll results.


Only 40 percent of the poll respondents said they were satisfied with the overall quality of the services the city already is providing.


Mayor Nick Gradisar has been one of the champions of the idea of municipalizing the electric service, yet only 34 percent of poll respondents said they were satisfied with the leadership he was providing.


The Pueblo City Council voted to put the municipalization question on the ballot. Although at least a couple of council members have said they oppose municipalization, there’s an impression in some people’s minds that the council majority supports the change.


Yet in the survey, only 22 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the council’s leadership.


Also, survey respondents rated the city’s efforts to communicate with the public poorly, with favorable responses only in the 20 percent to 35 percent range on questions related to that topic. A lack of communication with the public would seem like a pretty major issue for a project that, under a best-case scenario, would take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete.


Also from the survey: It’s interesting that respondents still rated street maintenance and repairs as one of the city’s most pressing needs, as they have in earlier surveys. Remember, it’s been more than two years since city leaders asked for and received voter approval to set up a street utility enterprise fund to cover some of those repairs. How’s that been working out for us?


It’s worth pointing out that ETC Institute, the Kansas-based group that conducted the survey, did its polling work B.C. – that is, Before Coronavirus. We don’t know how much, if at all, uncertainty about the economic damage the virus is causing might have influenced people’s survey answers on the municipalization question.


Of course, we won’t have to speculate about how people feel about municipalization for much longer. We’ll find out May 5.


Still, it seems like a central question about whether or not to municipalize should be: Assuming you are ready to replace Black Hills, do you trust your city government to take over that important responsibility?


Looking at the survey results as a whole, it’s hard to conclude that a majority of Puebloans have that level of trust in city government.