« Times's AY Op-Art more questionable than funny | Main | NYC Dept. of City Planning Review Session »

September 24, 2006

"An objective view of Atlantic Yards"

Crain's defends itself from the widespread accusations that its recent poll was conducted unfairly:

The story behind the story begins with Craig Charney, president of Charney Research. Mr. Charney, a professional pollster whose firm had emphasized political work, wanted to raise his company's profile within the business community and thought a joint project with Crain's might help. I was receptive because it fit my overriding goal to make news every week. Mr. Charney and I then focused on potential topics. A me-too poll on who was ahead in any of the statewide political races had little appeal. The opportunity was to discover public opinion on crucial New York City issues that hadn't been measured by an independent source. Atlantic Yards fit the criterion precisely. Mr. Charney and his staff drew up the questions, which are available on our Web site. His company had no ties to developer Forest City Ratner or its opponents and no vested interest in the outcome, except to embellish its reputation for objective polling.
...
Many have complained that the questions could have been worded to bring about a different result. That would be true if either Atlantic Yards opponents or Forest City had a chance to influence the poll. Opponents of Atlantic Yards are trying to shoot the messenger because the message is unpalatable.

article
While it's great to be 100% confident in the ability to conduct an independent poll, Crain's does not seem to realize that a lot of people get the information they use to answer poll questions from the poll questions themselves (especially the 56% of people who responded that they were not following the issue at all). An independent poll should at minimum brush upon some of the most controversial aspects of the issue at stake, such as, say, eminent domain abuse. Just because no one from DDDB or FCR wrote the questions does not mean they are automatically unbiased.

Full article after the jump.

When Crain's New York Business reported that an overwhelming 60% of New Yorkers supported the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, opponents of the development were sure the fix was in. Many complained that Erik Engquist, the Crain's reporter covering the Atlantic Yards controversy, must have slanted the questions to get the results Crain's reported. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's worthwhile to explain why the poll was commissioned, how the questions were drafted and what the results mean for the debate over the $4.2 billion arena and housing project.

The story behind the story begins with Craig Charney, president of Charney Research. Mr. Charney, a professional pollster whose firm had emphasized political work, wanted to raise his company's profile within the business community and thought a joint project with Crain's might help. I was receptive because it fit my overriding goal to make news every week. Mr. Charney and I then focused on potential topics. A me-too poll on who was ahead in any of the statewide political races had little appeal. The opportunity was to discover public opinion on crucial New York City issues that hadn't been measured by an independent source. Atlantic Yards fit the criterion precisely. Mr. Charney and his staff drew up the questions, which are available on our Web site. His company had no ties to developer Forest City Ratner or its opponents and no vested interest in the outcome, except to embellish its reputation for objective polling. I reviewed the proposed questions, as did a couple of other staffers. We made only one or two minor changes. Charney conducted telephone interviews with 601 New Yorkers in a way that made sure we sampled all economic and ethnic groups spanning all the boroughs. When the findings arrived, managing editor Rich Barbieri and Mr. Engquist reviewed them and discussed how to craft a story reporting the poll's findings. As is typical, I reviewed a final version of the story and made some editing suggestions. Each week we select a story to give to other media in an effort to spotlight our work, and that week we chose the poll. The story received widespread pickup in newspapers and the broadcast media because it did what we intended: It provided an objective look at public opinion on the project. Many have complained that the questions could have been worded to bring about a different result. That would be true if either Atlantic Yards opponents or Forest City had a chance to influence the poll. Opponents of Atlantic Yards are trying to shoot the messenger because the message is unpalatable. The poll shows that an overwhelming number of New Yorkers support the project because they believe the complex will transform an underdeveloped neighborhood and the affordable housing units are desperately needed. The scale of the project doesn't worry them. More broadly, the poll shows a solid majority of voters know the city must grow to be prosperous. There's a message here, too, for those jockeying to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Antidevelopment rhetoric may play well in local elections dominated by activists, but it will cripple a candidate in a citywide race.

Posted by amy at September 24, 2006 10:46 AM