What did it tell people were the purported "consequences" of taking down part of the highway?
On Tuesday night, the Toronto Sun published excerpts from the results of a poll on the Gardiner Expressway. Conducted by Campaign Research on May 27-28 on behalf of developer First Gulf, it surveyed 2,162 residents across six wards whose councillors had yet to make up their minds about what to do with the eastern leg of the elevated highway.
Campaign Research is the firm run by Nick Kouvalis, a former John Tory campaign strategist who is also credited as the architect of Rob Ford’s 2010 victory.
“Most residents in a sample of six wards from across the city want the Gardiner hybrid option,” the paper wrote. “The Sun obtained the pro-hybrid poll results from a City Hall source on the eve of Wednesday’s Gardiner debate. Several councillors have been shown the poll results.”
NOW has also obtained a copy of the results summary.
This is how the included questions are worded:
Q2: I’m going to read you three options for the eastern section of the Gardiner expressway and I want you to tell me which you prefer: Maintain expressway as is Remove it and replace it with an 8-lane surface road ‘Hybrid’ option which will change the route slightly to open up waterfront lands for development but also keep a continuous link to the Don Valley Parkway
Q3: Does it affect your decision at all if you know that the remove option would mean …
Q4: Does it affect your decision at all if you know that maintaining the Gardiner as is …
Q5: When it comes to the Gardiner expressway which goal is most important to you: Reduce traffic congestion Keep costs low Creating a more attractive, accessible waterfront.
The presentation doesn’t say what comes after those ellipses in questions 3 and 4. Instead it just breaks down whether a person’s decision has been affected a great deal, somewhat or not at all “when informed of consequences” of the maintain and remove options.
In a bullet point, the summary also says that “respondents who prefer options other than ‘hybrid’ are likely to switch once they understand the consequences of ‘remove’ or ‘maintain.'” (The Sun article states the opposite, which appears to have been an error in paraphrasing.)
In other words, the pollsters read out a list of “consequences” for the non-hybrid options, after which many people changed their minds to hybrid.
Asked for comment, Kouvalis — who according to the Star “remains a top adviser” to the mayor — calmly said, “I don’t want to talk to you about anything. I would appreciate it if you never called me again.”
Told that it would only be fair to seek comment from him about whether this was in fact a push poll, Kouvalis agreed that it was fair to ask but otherwise reiterated his earlier points.
“I would kindly request that you put me on your ‘Do Not Call’ list,” said the pollster.
It’s certainly possible that the poll was merely testing the efficacy of different messages and arguments, but the points made in questions 3 and 4 would still presumably have affected the answers given to question 5.
Per the Star, “at least one senior Mayor Tory staffer has offered to show at least one councillor a ‘First Gulf poll’ to prove hybrid support in their ward.” They summarize the situation thusly: “So, a poll commissioned by a developer, that had not been made public, was being used by the developer and the mayor’s office to lobby politicians on a huge vote affecting the city for generations to come.”
It should be noted that an independent poll by Mainstreet Technologies found that the city’s residents at large prefer the tear-down.
NOW has left a message with First Gulf’s David Gerofsky, who was not immediately available to comment.
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