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Polling secrets

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yesterday, Laura Washington’s column focused on a poll commissioned by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce…

Question: “Should your alderman vote to approve the proposed Wal-Mart store on Chicago’s South Side?”

Seventy-three percent of voters polled said yes, 17 percent said no, and 10 percent had “no opinion.”

Question: “Has Chicago’s City Council succeeded or failed to bring job growth and economic development to Chicago?”

Sixty-six percent said “failed.”

Whatever you think about Wal-Mart, it’s tough to argue with the response to that second question.

But here’s a secret to reading any poll. Politicians and operatives pay the most attention to voter intensity. Will a certain issue mean anything come voting time? Responses above 70 percent are given a lot of attention by the players. If not, then they’re not much to worry about.

Here’s the intensity answer to the Wal-Mart question…

Question: “If your alderman voted against building a new Wal-Mart store in Chicago, would you vote to re-elect them to office if an election were held today?”

Thirty-nine percent said, “Re-election.” Thirty-eight percent said, “Not re-elected.”

So, voters care about the issue, but not enough to make any sort of difference at the ballot box. At least, not yet. We’d need more responses to other questions to see if the issue might eventually become important enough to make a difference. I don’t have the full poll, so I don’t know if those questions even exist.

* Keep all that in mind when reading stories like this today…

Wal-Mart representatives [last night] tried to increase the pressure on Chicago’s City Council ahead of a committee hearing Wednesday where the prospect of a new South Side store could come up for debate.

A spokesman for the company announced a polling firm made automated calls today to more than 75,000 Chicagoans with a one-question recording that touted the benefits of a new Wal-Mart, including more than 400 jobs and “a wider availability of fresh groceries and other goods.”

The company said the recording also said opponents “say the jobs are not good enough.”

Wal-Mart officials said the results show Chicagoans overwhelmingly favor a second store for Chicago, but it’s unclear whether their latest public relations push will win them converts among aldermen who have so far sided with organized labor groups that oppose the store.

The ward-by-ward results of that quickie survey can be downloaded by clicking here.

…Adding… The Tribune story appears to contain a an error. The automated calls were made to 1.2 million phone numbers – everybody in the white pages - according to Serafin & Associates.

* Related…

* Wal-Mart Fight Continues on Chicago’s South Side

* Poll shows Chicagoans in favor of 2nd Wal-Mart store


  1. - The Doc - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 9:53 am:

    There’s an entire cottage industry about the economic effects of Wal-Marts in communities. A number of the studies show that long-term, the economic impact in terms of jobs and tax revenues is somewhat negligible, primarily due to driving out smaller businesses, cannibalizing nearby towns, and lower wages.

    The difference here, I believe, is that the area being considered is devoid of any meaningful grovery options, and the outlet would be erected on an empty plot of land, rather than an already developed tract.

    What’s also interesting is that Daley, with his tacit endorsement of the second city Wal-Mart, has essentially extended his middle finger to the unions.

  2. - Inish - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:03 am:

    How can building a Walmart increase spending? Yes it makes access to groceries more convenient, but it is ultimately the same shell game that the burbs have been playing for a decade- it doesn’t create new money- it just shifts current buying to another venue.
    In the Burbs- Walmart builds a “newer, better..” location 10 years later- leaving a giant empty hole in its wake….

  3. - Downstater - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:15 am:

    The definition of insanity. Electing the same people from the same party over and over and expecting different results!

  4. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:27 am:

    If I am a south side resident (which I was for a while), I do not care much about an economic study of Wal Mart’s effect on communities. I care more about being able to buy groceries for half what I pay from one of those places with all the bars on the windows, and without having to go 20 or 30 blocks for the privilege.

  5. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:30 am:

    Naturally any business organization that sells car tires, dolls, fish, furniture, lettuce, Metformin, birthday cakes and condoms is going to sell itself as a solution for a community’s economic challenges regarding taxes, zoning, environmental impact, jobs, health insurance, cost of living, and political needs.

    But that didn’t stop Chicago from embracing Sears, did it? That mentality didn’t stop Chicago from embracing Montgomery Wards, did it? Look at all the things these two 20th Century retail giants sold across the US! Look at how much these two changed the face of marketing and retail!

    Now, what’s our problem with WalMart?

    It has come to Chicago to eat our lunch.
    And dinner.
    And breakfast.

    For the past 30 years it has shown how to change the market to provide goods and services far less than it’s competition. Questionable quality, definately. Drives others out of business - yup - just like Sears, Wards, and all those other Chicago businesses did earlier.

    Chicago fell asleep and took a long dirt nap over the past 50 years. So how can Rip Van Winkle here think it can just pass laws to keep from waking up and smelling the new kid in town?

    Chicago is history. If it cannot compete with the WalMarts of the world, then they can just ban fois gras, have their doggies dine by their sides at sidewalk cafes, and look down their noses while the rest of the world moves on without them.

    In today’s economy, I just can fathom how a city like Chicago could just lay there and think it can pick and choose while other cities are expanding and eating it’s lunch.

    Embrace WalMart today, and start working on how to beat it at it’s own game tomorrow. Or - die.

  6. - Chris N - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:30 am:

    The ward-by-ward results are interesting as it shows a high level of variance in support among wards.
    Highest levels of support are in Ward 21 and its neighboring wards (far south and southeast sides) and Ward 37 (site of the original Chicago Walmart) and its neighboring wards.
    The lowest levels of support are found in wards on the north and far north sides, including the lake front.

  7. - Scooby - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:32 am:

    Chicagoist is all over a push poll on this topic.

  8. - Re: Scooby - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:36 am:

    I too got this push poll

  9. - The Doc - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:43 am:

    ==If I am a south side resident (which I was for a while), I do not care much about an economic study of Wal Mart’s effect on communities. I care more about being able to buy groceries for half what I pay from one of those places with all the bars on the windows, and without having to go 20 or 30 blocks for the privilege.==

    SDS, you’re missing the point, I think. You’ll get no argument from me (or anyone else) that south and west side residents are entitled to convenient and quality food options.

    But you need to view it from the lens of a politician who’s charged with deciding whether or not to permit Wal-Mart in. Are they willing to risk the ire of unions and small businesses in order to do so? To Rich’s point, if these interests are more compelling than that of the public, as measured here via a poll, you likely won’t see a Wal-Mart in Chatham Village.

  10. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 11:05 am:

    The argument against Wal-Mart is very disingenuous. The only reason the Council is against a Wal-Mart is because the goo-goo liberals have decided that Wal-Mart workers will be the poster children for their far-left agenda. Wal-Mart pays similar wages and provides similar benefits as Target, Dominick’s, Jewel, Walgreens, etc., but you wouldn’t hear a peep from the left if one of these big box stores wanted to open where Wal-Mart wants to. I live on the northside, and while I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, I do shop at Target and it is a nice asset to the neighborhood.

  11. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 11:34 am:

    This is out of Kafka or Heller. Lexus-driving working-class heroes saving the South Side from the evils of Wal-Mart.

    One of the biggest corporations in the world wants to invest millions in a vacant lot on the South Side, bringing jobs, choice and convenience to those who live there. And a bunch of rich union “leaders” who live in the suburbs have a problem with that.

    For. Shame.

  12. - Team Sleep - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 11:55 am:

    In an area like Springfield, I fail to understand the “need” for Wal-Mart. We have three Shop ‘n’ Saves, two Schnucks, three County Markets, a Meijer and a Target Greatland (sans meat and produce). But in areas such as Chicago and suburban Cook County, I understand the frustration people have with overpriced and distant grocers. And if people in historically economically underdeveloped areas can apply for and receive employment at Wal-Mart, the city council and county board need to move on that.

  13. - Hank - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 12:37 pm:

    Breaking news: Walmart vote put off and sent to Eddie Burke’s committee by a tricky move. Let them eat cake

  14. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 12:40 pm:

    Businesses shouldn’t have to prove a need to politicians before they open for business. Our world is full of incredible things thanks to the open mindedness of an open market. That is freedom, folks.

    We all benefit from competition. If you think there are too many stores, then imagine what you would be paying if there were fewer? Governments don’t set prices, competition does. As we are seeing, when government puts costs onto businesses, these impact the prices you pay. It is competition that keeps the price as low as possible. We see stores going out of business because their overhead costs exceed the profits.

    So, bring in the WalMarts, and bring in the Targets. Open Chicago to competition again and watch the prices fall! Maybe we will start seeing Chicagoans buying from Chicagoans again, instead of driving out of Cook County or Illinois to save money in the surrounding counties and Indiana.

    I would rather see a Chicago-based WalMart, just as Chicago benefitted from a Chicago-based Sears, Montgomery Wards, Armour Swift, and other massive Industrial-Age giants of retail.

    It is partially our fault that WalMart is located in Bensenville, AK, instead of Chicago. Chicago should have been so attractive to Sam Walton he would have located his retail giant here. Our costs should have been so low that AK’s natural drawbacks would have been too much.

    With every new hurtle imposed on businesses, we lose. Lets remember the difference between good oversight, and bad policy making.

  15. - Cheswick - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 12:41 pm:

    Someone should commission a poll that goes:

    Do you support Plan A which consists of four grocery stores, three cafes, a tire store, a toy store, a pet shop, a furniture store, a year round farmer’s market, a couple locally owned pharmacies, a multitude of little bakeries and tea and coffee shops, all of which sell at market prices, and all strategically located on the South Side?

    Or, do you support Plan B which consists of one cold, heartless, hulking Wal-Mart?

    Would you be more likely to support your city council if they supported Plan A or Plan B?

  16. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 12:49 pm:

    –Do you support Plan A which consists of four grocery stores, three cafes, a tire store, a toy store, a pet shop, a furniture store, a year round farmer’s market, a couple locally owned pharmacies, a multitude of little bakeries and tea and coffee shops, all of which sell at market prices, and all strategically located on the South Side?

    Or, do you support Plan B which consists of one cold, heartless, hulking Wal-Mart?–

    Cheswick, or how about “Plan C– Reality,” which currently means none of the above. We’re talking the South Side here, not Sesame Street. Mr. Hooper is not looking to invest millions to open a general store — WalMart is.

    I’m guessing you have some convenient shopping options where you live. Why in the world would you seek to deny that to others?

  17. - Cheswick - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 1:17 pm:

    I wasn’t seeking to deny anything to anyone, just trying to demonstrate the way a question is worded can have an impact on the answers. Which is what I thought the topic was.

  18. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 2:20 pm:

    Cheswick = victim of classic blog topic drift.

    Build the Wal-mart. if people want to shop there and support it with there dolalrs it will thrive, if people want to support a mom and pop then it will die.

    Reminds me of the movie You’ve got mail. Community outrage over chain store putting mom and pop shop out of business, only the outraged community spent their money at the monster store with lower prices….

    I just wish wal-mart would carry cars…. does a good car really need to cost as much as a small house? (or in the case of Rich’s car, a housing development)

  19. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 2:37 pm:

    Ghost, my car is a lease.

  20. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 4:16 pm:

    Ok then, lease for the amount of small house :>

  21. - Labor diva - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 5:45 pm:

    May I point our that the 83rd & Steward site is NOT a food desert — there is a Jewel and a Food for Less right around the corner from that location. If Wal-Mart was so concerned about people starving for food in these deserts, why don’t they try to go into a real food desert? Just another tactic by the corporate retailer to mislead elected officials, the public, etc.

  22. - Truthful James - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 6:27 pm:

    What is the whole deal? Property Tax abatement? Sales Tax Subsidy? City buy land and give it to Walmart? These big boxes don’t come at market rates for development.

    Labor diva is right. Jewel is competitive in price. So they are going to split the market?

    One thing for sure, The Walmart comes in and the small ma and pas within a five mile radius are going to suck wind and eventually close. Walmart buys clothes from China in the freighter loads, eliminates the middlemen. No damn way the ma and pa can compete in clothing and the smaller True Value which have been their for generations will fall by the wayside. Gievn the recession anjd the property taxes we are seeing vacancies in the small strips at 15% and above.

    Even the smart guys who open next to WalMart in the new strips elsewhere have closed.

    Have he City show us the economic effect in the market area study which they should have done snad shown the Council. Show the job loss in a five mile radius and the lower property taxes as appeals are made on vacancies and no income.

    One of the problems that the ma and pa have is shrinkage — inventory leaving the shelves in pockets and pocketbooks without paying. The bars are on the windows, the steel rtoll down shutters because a break in through the window takes less than two minutes to get the high value goods out the door.

  23. - VoteChatham - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 7:53 pm:

    If the Food4Less & jewel were getting the job done, then why did walmart sell 4 days worth of produce from a typical supercenter in 3 hours? And why do studies show that these neighborhoods are disproporionately affected by obesity & diabetes? and that 600,000 Chicagoans live in a food desert?! the point is that the empty lot that has remained empty for years is not serving the community, even if there is a Jewel in the area.

  24. - VoteChatham - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 7:54 pm:

    Isn’t the definition of a push poll when both sides are NOT represented in the questioning?!

  25. - truthteller - Thursday, Jul 30, 09 @ 6:31 am:

    Daley says Walmart will bring 400 jobs. He just laid off more than 400 employees, including those who provide health, public safety, and other vital services.If he wants to create jobs, why doesn’t he recall those he laid off?

  26. - Fixit - Thursday, Jul 30, 09 @ 8:09 am:

    Cause he doesn’t have the money.

  27. - Third Generation Chicago Native - Thursday, Jul 30, 09 @ 12:07 pm:

    =====May I point our that the 83rd & Steward site is NOT a food desert — there is a Jewel and a Food for Less right around the corner from that location. ==========
    I concur with Labor diva,also note 87th street 4 blocks south has lots of businesses

  28. - freshtoyou - Thursday, Jul 30, 09 @ 4:30 pm:

    the produce at the walmart by us is a joke. just because the sell it does not mean people will eat it. the twinkies will be cheaper. walmart is not going to be the saviour everyone thinks they will be

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