Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Push Poll Indicates 68 Percent Of Respondents Support Proposed New Salt Lake City Cop Shop East Of Library Square

A new poll just released indicates that 68 percent of respondents support a proposition to build a new police headquarters in Salt Lake City, but questions about the veracity of the poll are already emerging.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, the phone survey was conducted last week by California-based Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates. The results show that 68 percent of likely city voters support the $125 million bond known as Proposition 1 that would fund a five-story police headquarters and a three-story emergency-operations center east of Library Square. Nearly 30 percent oppose the bond. This poll reveals increasing support for the measure, since a July survey reported 58 percent backing for the bond. The original Library Square proposal met with fierce opposition.

If approved at the ballot box during the November 3rd general election, Proposition 1 would cost the owner of an average $260,000 home $75 more a year in property taxes. More information about Proposition 1 can be found HERE. A $192 million bond for a five-building public safety package including a new police-fire headquarters lost by a couple hundred votes in 2007 after then-Mayor Rocky Anderson sabotaged it at the last moment.

However, there is a strong possibility that this poll was not a genuine opinion poll, but also was a push poll designed to stampede voters into supporting the project. A comment posted to the Tribune story supports this conclusion:

Duderino: 8/26/2009 3:46:00 PM

I got this so-called survey and it was by no means objective. I told the surveyor I would definitely vote against the measure solely on the grounds of its location. (For what it's worth, I believe a location nearer the freeway on the west side of the city, or on Earl Holding's eyesore parking lot would plop the HQ where its presence would have more of an impact. The land there would also be cheaper and provide access to major thoroughfares for quicker response times.)

At any rate, each time I told the surveyor I would vote against the measure, she ran down a list of pro-proposition talking points and asked if my opinion had changed. Though I agree with many of those talking points, they were obviously designed to sway opinion and skew the survey results. Trib, you should refuse to credulously publish the results of such surveys without also being privy to and publishing the tactical questions that are asked. I would also be very interested to know if avowed supporters of the measure got follow-up questions, or if those follow-up questions contained a litany of talking points against the bond.

Behold the following description of services from the Website of the pollster, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates:

"FMM&A provides research [to] help local governments win voter approval for funding measures, including bonds and the variety of general and special tax increments that are vital to sustaining a responsible level of local public services. FMM&A applies its expertise through voter surveys and other research techniques to first ascertain the feasibility of passing a funding increment ballot measure and then, if that measure is to be placed on the ballot, to help shape the communications for winning the necessary approval from voters."

This outfit makes it's money by influencing public opinion on ballot measures, not by gauging it. Oh well, it's just $125 million. What's a little propaganda and manipulation?

Another commenter reported a similar experience:

KRS-ONE: 8/26/2009 4:34:00 PM

I second Duderino's comments. I informed the pollster that I oppose the new public safety building because of its proposed location. Each time I told her that, she rolled off points that supporters of the building would want said. After the pro-building points were read, she would ask me, essentially, "now do you support it"?

Not quite a full-on push poll, but pretty damn close to it.

By their own admission, FMM&A is a push-pollster outfit. Their specific objective is to create a desired opinion by "shaping" communications rather than merely assessing existing opinion. Is Mayor Ralph Becker so desperate to jam this facility down the throats of Salt Lakers that he's willing to hire push pollsters to misrepresent it?

Other commenters are also skeptical of the project. One person thinks it's ridiculous to build it at the proposed downtown site where real estate prices are at a premium, suggesting they could build it much more economically west of I-15. Other commenters echo the latter theme, considering the west side is where crime is higher. Besides, during his 2007 election campaign, Mayor Ralph Becker promised to divert more development to the economically-undernourished west side, but has yet to fulfill that promise.

There's also another issue. Back in April, Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank said his department was going to refuse to enforce the controversial SB81 immigration bill. However, his objection wasn't merely economic; there was also political correctness involved. Burbank was concerned that illegal aliens might be scared to report crimes against them to the police. Later on, Rep. Chris Herrod (R-Provo) accused SLCPD of providing misleading information on Salt Lake crime; follow-up indicated that SLCPD was trying to under-represent Hispanic crime.

There is no question that a new cop shop is needed. What's in question is whether the proposed replacement is the right solution, and if the Salt Lake Police Department deserves a replacement at this time. The proposed replacement is certainly a questionable solution, but Salt Lake voters should also ask themselves if a police department that enforces the laws it wants rather than the laws we have deserves to have a new cop shop. If Chief Burbank doesn't want to enforce the laws we have, then we shouldn't reward him and his officers by buying them a new cop shop.

Vote NO on Proposition 1 on November 3rd.


Anonymous said...

When the big earthquake happens in Salt Lake City and you try to call 911 but can't get through because they are buried in the current Public Safety Building which has fallen down, I hope you'll be glad you were so snarky about a stupid poll.

Anonymous said...

Oh wait a minute, you don't live in Salt Lake City anymore, so you don't care if the rest of us are stuck in a Hurricane Katrina scale diaster and can't get the help we need because the City doesn't have the facilities to be prepared for an emergency.