Poll finds Calgary residents don’t want to spend public money on Flames arena, are confused by polls

A poll of Calgary residents by Mainstreet Research and the Calgary Herald finds people like new things, but don’t like to pay for them. Also, they will answer lots of contradictory things if a poll asks them contradictory questions.

To the specifics of the poll on the $890 million or maybe really $1.2 billion Flames and Stampeders stadium/arena/floor wax plan:

Do you think the Scotiabank Saddledome, current home of the Calgary Flames & Calgary Roughnecks, needs to be replaced? 32% replaced, 27% renovated, 23% leave as is, 17% not sure.

Do you think McMahon Stadium, current home of the Calgary Stampeders, needs to be replaced? 35% replaced, 32% renovated, 19% leave as is, 14% not sure.

That indicates that a majority (50-32% for the arena, 51-35% for the stadium) of Calgary residents think the existing arenas shouldn’t be replaced. Clear enough, right?

Do you agree or disagree with the following: a proposal to build a new arena, stadium, and field house is good for the city. 30% strongly agree, 25% somewhat agree, 13% somewhat disagree, 18% strongly disagree, 14% neither agree nor disagree.

What the.

Thinking about everything you have seen or heard about Calgary Next, do you support the project or oppose the project? 19% strongly support, 20% somewhat support, 20% somewhat oppose, 14% strongly oppose, 26% neither support nor oppose.

Okay, so people don’t think the existing stadium and arena should be replaced, but do think a new stadium and arena would be good for the city, and aren’t sure whether they support or oppose the project. I guess given the first two, the last one shouldn’t be all that surprising, but that’s a lot of cognitive dissonance there.

What else we got? Oh, right, no one has asked yet about paying for it.

As proposed, funding would come from the following sources. $200 million from the Flames ownership group; $200 million from the city for the municipal field house; $250 million from a ticket tax on users, and the remaining $240 million would come from a community revitalization levy with governments giving up or postponing future tax revenue. Do you support this financing model? 19% yes, 49% no, 33% not sure.

Even taking into account that very large “not sure” (of which I’m sure a large percentage actually represents “Whaaaaaaa? Can you say that again slowly?”), that’s a significant sentiment in opposition to putting up $490 million in public tax money. (Though the way the question is phrased, I suppose it’s possible that some people are upset that the public wouldn’t be putting in more tax money. Possible, but unlikely.)

In your view, how should CalgaryNext be funded? 45% Flames ownership, 40% Flames and government, 15% not sure.

Okay, that seems to indicate that a plurality of poll respondents don’t want any public money used for this.

As polls go, this is a hot mess, and if it indicates anything, indicates that people simultaneously believe everything they are being told about the stadium+arena project. (It’d be good for the city! We don’t need it! We don’t want to pay for it!) Perhaps somebody (*cough cough Calgary Herald*) could be doing a better job of explaining it, so people could come up with some non-contradictory opinions?

Anyway, enough with the public — what does the Calgary city council think of the proposal?

Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu said he agrees with the 49 per cent of poll respondents who oppose the proposal’s financing model.

“I’m always of the opinion the taxpayers’ dollar should not be supporting any professional sport,” he said.

“From what I’ve heard, people are unanimously saying no tax dollars for this project.”

But Coun. Evan Woolley, who represents the area where the complex would be built, said despite the poll indicating many are opposed to spending public money on the megaproject, it may be exactly what the city needs.

“We have a downturn in the economy and we have an opportunity to build something that will diversify our economy,” he said.

This is going to be a long debate.

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4 comments on “Poll finds Calgary residents don’t want to spend public money on Flames arena, are confused by polls

  1. This type of “5 category” survey is quite popular. It produces, almost by default, average answers that are impossible to clearly determine a meaningful result from… in effect, then, it is meant to produce ambiguous results no matter how many people vote, or HOW they vote.

    It may help to think of it this way: of the 5 categories only 2 represent a strong opinion either for or against the proposition being made. Of the other three, one must be discounted (neither agree nor disagree) and the other two are meant to appeal to the vast majority of respondents… namely that they either somewhat agree or disagree.

    Just like the “3 option” tip calculator that businesses now so routinely provide to “help” their customers figure out what they should pay over and above the cost of the good or service being provided, most people will not pick the outliers (either zero tip or the highest option). This has been proven true no matter what the percentages on the tip calculator are ( 0, 10, 20% or 10, 25, 40%…). Most choose the “middle” option regardless of their ability to pay or satisfaction with the service.

    This type of (deliberately useless) survey is a favourite of employers who want to give their employees the impression that the organization is genuinely interested in how the company is doing while producing a predetermined meaningless result. These are typically scored as a 1-5 scale. It doesn’t matter whether 1 is strongly agree or strongly disagree… the end result of the survey will be somewhere between 2.8 and 3.2 95% of the time no matter what the question is.

    Should we provide free ice cream? 3.1

    Should we fire and/or execute 30% of our staff? 2.8

    Decisions decisions….

  2. Most sensible thing written on this project, although not by the MSM. Even links to this site, but uses the older cover of your book.


  3. I agree that a downturn in the economy is the perfect time to diversify your economy. My solution, how about a community college and vocational technical institute to train citizens on more advanced job skills? Maybe you can fund an innovation center at your nearest university? How about additional research and grants for small businesses that able to profit from the research being done at your universities?

    Oh, the things that can be done with $490 million in public money! Imagine the possibilities.

    Don’t get me wrong. We all need recreation in our lives, but for the average North American, blowing $500 on one night for tickets, expensive beer and artisanal treats (I assume hot dogs are verboten in these new palaces) is just not what we need. Fund community centers with pools, gyms, rock walls, homework centers, boys and girls clubs, ANYTHING!

  4. Prost: True.

    I would like to have seen a clear question like “should we spend $490-800m in tax dollars on new facilities for the Flames and Stampeders?”

    A lot fewer “unsure” answers on that question I bet.

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