SF Chamber poll distorts the facts...again

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This logo on the Chamber website sends visitors to select results, but not the underlying questions, statements, or data.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce this week released its annual City Beat poll – promoting its results at the top of its website and feeding it to media outlets such as the San Francisco Examiner, which faithfully reported its finding, apparently without seeking underlying data – and once again the poll was marred by distortions and hidden agendas.

For example, the Chamber claims that 58 percent of the poll's 500 respondents prefer runoff elections (up from 52 percent in 2011) and 31 percent prefer ranked-choice voting (down from 42 percent last year), with the balance refusing to answer or saying they don't know. But what the Chamber doesn't say is that voters were read a series of arguments for each system first, and the anti-RCV statement contained a flat-out inaccuracy.

“Critics of ranked choice voting say that it is a confusing system that results in lower voter turnout – as the last Mayoral election had the lowest overall voter turnout in more than 35 years. They say candidates are getting elected with extremely low number of votes which doesn’t represent the true will of the voters. Instead of ranked choice voting, they propose having run-off elections so that voters have a clear choice on something as important as Mayor,” the statement read.

Yet it's simply not true that November's 42.47 percent turnout was the lowest in 35 years (as you can see here). Off-year elections have far lower turnouts, as did the last mayoral election in 2007, which had a turnout of 35.6 percent. Even the hotly contested, pre-RCV November mayoral election of 2003 had a turnout of 45.67 percent, just a few percentage points higher that the low turnout that the question implies that RCV causes.

But Jim Lazarus, the Chamber's vice president of public policy, won't concede the error, telling the Guardian that respondents understand the statement to apply to only closely contested mayoral elections. “We believe the average voter realizes a competitive race is what we're talking about,” Lazarus said, dismissing the 2007 mayor's race as uncompetitive.

Yet Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, which supports RCV, said the poll was deceptive and seems designed to achieve results that are consistent with public policy stands that the Chamber has taken. “I think they do a better job of making their arguments than the RCV arguments,” he said.

“Supporters of ranked choice voting say it gives voters more choices and does not force voters to vote twice in just five weeks on the same contest. They say it has resulted in more diverse representatives for the city. They also say that it encourages campaigns to find common ground and ways to work together because they must win supporters of other candidates,” reads the polling statement.

Richie concedes that supporters of RCV have made these statements, but he said they aren't the strongest arguments or the ones they generally tend to lead with, such as how big spending by well-funded independent expenditure groups tend to dominate the low-turnout runoff elections, which more conservative candidates win every time in San Francisco.

But Lazarus claims the Chamber was trying to honestly gauge public opinion, not influence it in favor of Chamber positions. “We didn't skew it, we're trying to get honest answers,” he told us. “It doesn't do us any good to fake the outcomes. We aren't doing this for PR reasons or press releases.”

Yet many of the issues the poll dealt with are active campaigns in which the Chamber is trying to influence the decisions made at City Hall, such as its longstanding crusade to repeal the city's payroll tax. In the poll results, 57 percent of respondents said the supported a “payroll tax decrease from 1.5 percent to 1 percent, making up the difference with other revenues.” In the Examiner story, the paper even deleted that last crucial clause.

Yet what neither the Chamber nor the Examiner told readers was that the question was set up with this statement: “It has also been suggested that reforming the city’s payroll tax system could spur job growth. I would like to read you some potential tax reforms that have been suggested to help spur job growth.”

But even with that repetition of “spur job growth” as a prompt, only 25 percent of respondents agree with the crusade of the Chamber and its allies in City Hall to “Eliminate the payroll tax all together, replacing lost revenue with higher license fees and taxes on businesses.”

On the half-dozen tax measures the poll asked about, none of which received majority support, the questions were set up with this statement, “Some members of the Board of Supervisors have suggested a vote on new taxes may be necessary to help solve this budget deficit,” referring to the oft-demonized legislative body that enjoyed 45 percent in this poll, rather than Mayor Ed Lee, who has made similar suggestions and enjoys 68 percent support.

The poll was conducted by David Binder Research, and Binder was out-of-town and unavailable to answer questions. Lazarus said the language in the questions was jointly developed by Binder and the Chamber.

Comments

And Sky, you're not "on the left", you're on the fringe. Similar to Tea Party republicans, you define yourselves by such a narrow set of standards you eventually lose power.

And that is *exactly* what has happened and will continue to happen in San Francisco. Recent history has shown this, and future demographics look abysmal for you. Rather than acknowledge and attempt to retool, you just yell louder and pretend you still matter. You get your ass kicked in the last election and then chant "Who's city?! Our City!!" at Avalos's election loss party.

Ummm, ok. You realize that sounds fucking retarded, right?

Posted by Sambo on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

you do sound fucking retarded.

Posted by Sky on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

It's not OK. Developmentally disabled is the proper terminology. Those with different abilities should not be stigmatized in this manner.

Thank you.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

Agree, it's lame. I won't use it again on here.

Posted by Sambo on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

but it's not going to make you matter. I'm just telling you like it is.

Posted by Sambo on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

In a few short months, the next bubble will burst (probably in stocks), the economy will collapse and you will see uprisings the that will make Madison, Wisconsin, Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square put together look like a rehearsal by comparison. You right-wing trolls are so behind the zeitgeist of the times that you couldn't be more irrelevant. That's your real fear, isn't it?

Posted by Sky on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

See, it's times like this that I wish this forum had dedicated handles. Because that way "Sky" here could at least sort of be held to this amazing prediction of drama.

But let me tell you why this is awesome. Because I called you fringe, and you responded by going... totally fringe.

What you want - what you are hoping for - is some massive, violent collapse of society because *you're not getting what you want*. This is so, so Tea Party and you don't even recognize it. Like fringes from both sides of the spectrum you become so disappointed that everyone else thinks you're a freak that you'd rather have it all fall apart. Crazy mixed with selfish and disenfranchised.

And really "Sky", if you're going to make a dramatic statement like this, you may want to have a little more to it than a massive collapse "probably in stocks". Jesus christ, man, lol. Can you even break down something simple - an operating margin maybe? Shit, let's just do a P/E ratio... are they off historical averages? What's the catalyst for this impending doom, Sky? TIA.

Posted by Sambo on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

:-)

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 10:16 pm

... gat back in your jelly jar.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

AFL-CIO
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
California Alliance for Jobs
California Faculty Association
California Federation of Teachers
California Labor Federation
California Professional Firefighters (CPF)
California State Employees Association (CSEA)
California Teachers Association (CTA)
International Association of Firefighters (IAFF)
International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE)
International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)
San Francisco Labor Council
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 11:09 am

Corruption is a bless!

Posted by Koko on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 7:01 pm