There’s a new poll out on what people in Milwaukee think of helping fund a Bucks arena with public money, and it shows the exact opposite of the earlier polls:
The biggest backer of a new Milwaukee arena — besides the Milwaukee Bucks — released a poll Monday that found 67 percent of Wisconsin voters support building a new arena when presented with “a full proposal.”…
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) issued its poll results that stand in stark contrast to a Marquette Law School Poll released April 16. The Marquette poll found that 79 percent of registered voters oppose the state borrowing $150 million for the proposed arena project.
That would be a bit of a discrepancy, yes, and seems like it could only be a function of the wording of the two polls. We know that the Marquette poll asked residents whether they support or oppose the state “borrowing about $150 million to support a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks,” among other budget options. But what’s that “full proposal” that was presented by the MMAC poll?
As it so happens, respondents were first told that the Bucks would leave Milwaukee without a new arena, then were told that this would cost Wisconsin hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue, then told that “there would be no new statewide taxes, and revenue generated by the NBA team will more than repay the public investment.” After hearing all that, respondents overwhelmingly thought this was a good idea.
Now, some critics might quibble that not all of that is technically “true”: Countless economic impact studies have shown that sales tax revenue isn’t much affected by a sports team leaving town, and that “revenue generated by the NBA team will more than repay” claim is extraordinarily dodgy as well. But, yes, if you tell people in Milwaukee that you have a plan where they’ll get all their arena money back and will lose the team if they don’t approve it, lots of them will say okay.
What this likely is, as the Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse blog notes in an excellent summary of the conflicting polls, is a “push poll,” where the real goal of the exercise is to feed residents a lot of pro-arena propaganda in the asking of the questions, both to get the Bucks owners’ side’s line out there, and to test how well it goes over with the populace. That this gets them headlines saying “people support Bucks arena funding if they know the full proposal” is a nice bonus, though it depends on the local media not actually reporting, let alone questioning, what proposal was presented by the poll — fortunately for the MMAC and the Bucks owners, the only sites that actually explored the poll language appear to have been a right-wing political blog and a blog by an economics teaching assistant, so the poll’s secrets are safe with Milwaukee journalists. Or “journalists.”