Monday, January 19, 2015

What Does the Globe Poll Really Say about Support for Boston 2024?

On Friday, the Boston Globe released the first post-USOC announcement poll about how people in Boston and Massachusetts as a whole feel about the city’s 2024 Olympic bid. This poll has been widely cited as saying that the people in the city and across the state back Boston 2024.

But does the poll really show such support? Not if you dig deeper into the questions.

(1) The first question was “How strongly do you support or oppose the bid?” This is a strange question, given that no one has ever seen the bid and that Boston 2024 has no plans to release it in full.

Nevertheless, this question produced the numbers most often cited: 55.30% support vs. 39.59% oppose.

These numbers were similar whether people lived in Boston or not:

Boston: 53.73% support vs. 40.45% oppose
Rest of State: 55.98% support vs. 39.21% oppose

Statewide, 34.91% were strong supporters and 27.12% were strong opponents. In Boston, those numbers were 34.44% and 29.25%, respectively.

(2) Next, the poll asked, “If Boston were chosen to host the Olympics, would you purchase tickets to attend the games in person?

45.32% of respondents said that they would definitely or probably attend, whereas 49.07% said that they would definitely or probably not attend.

Boston: 48.54% attend vs. 44.60% not attend
Rest of State: 43.94% attend vs. 50.98% not attend

(3) Next, the poll asked, “In your opinion, how likely is it that the Olympic expenditures, such as infrastructure and site construction, will produce a lasting economic benefit for the City of Boston?”
A plurality of respondents found the Olympics unlikely to produce a lasting economic benefit for Boston: 48.38% somewhat/very unlikely vs. 45.45% somewhat/very likely. “Very unlikely” was the most common answer with 28.37% of respondents, and “very likely” the least common with only 19.76%.

There was a divide between Boston and the rest of the state here, but the public was fairly evenly split in both cases. In both Boston and the rest of the state, “very unlikely” was the most common answer.

Boston: 47.72% likely vs. 44.82% unlikely
Rest of State: 44.48% likely vs. 49.91% unlikely

(4) The next question asked, “How about a lasting economic benefit for Greater Boston?
Here, again, a plurality found a lasting economic benefit unlikely: 48.25% to 43.77%, with “very unlikely” again the most common answer.

The results here were largely similar to those of the prior question.

Boston: 46.27% likely vs. 43.16% unlikely
Rest of State: 44.69% likely vs. 50.45% unlikely

(5) The next question asked, “How about a lasting economic benefit for the rest of the state?
Here, a majority found such a benefit to be unlikely: 57.61% vs. 33.10%, with “very unlikely” the most common response at 37.22%.

There was a clear divide between Boston and the rest of the state, but a majority of respondents—whether inside Boston or not—didn’t see a benefit as likely:

Boston: 51.45% vs. 47.55%
Rest of State: 60.25% vs. 32.35%

(6) The next question asked respondents to identify which of two statements was closer to their own view:
(a)   Most costs will be carried by business and there will be long term economic benefits.
(b)   Financial support for the Olympics will come at the expense of other worthwhile causes.
Respondents overwhelmingly said that the latter statement came closer to their view: 54.43% to 23.13%. (22.44% were unsure.)

The results were similar for both Boston and the rest of the state:
Boston: 52.07% to 25.52%
Rest of State: 55.44% to 22.1%

(7) The final question—and the most important one—was “Would you support or oppose Boston’s bid for the Olympics if taxpayer dollars were used to back the 2024 Olympic bid?

The public was overwhelmingly opposed here: 60.85% opposed vs. 32.92% supportive. “Strongly oppose” was the most common response, with 43.27%. “Strongly support” was now the least common, with only 10.85%.

The whole state agreed on this:

Boston: 61.00% vs. 31.74%
Rest:   60.78% vs. 33.42%

If 61% of people oppose the Olympic bid if taxpayer dollars will be used—and taxpayer dollars will be used, as we already know (See here, here, here)—then 61% oppose the Olympic bid. Focusing only or primarily on the results for the first question is thus disingenuous.

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