Someone’s Paying for a Phone Survey About the Prospect Park West Bike Lane

Streetsblog has received multiple reports from people who were called yesterday for an opinion survey about the Prospect Park West bike lane. Notably, the question set focused specifically on the redesign of this one street, not broader issues of cycling or bike infrastructure.

It's not clear who's footing the bill for the phone survey by Quantel Research about the Prospect Park West bike lane.

We can’t say whether the poll was commissioned by one of the groups that’s currently suing to have the bike lane removed, but the fact that the survey was so narrowly tailored does strongly suggest that an opposition group is behind it. Public opinion surveys are expensive undertakings, and it’s unlikely, for instance, that a prospective mayoral candidate would want to get the lay of the land on such a specific issue without asking about other topics of interest to voters. And we can confirm that the survey is not the work of an organization that supports the lane, like Transportation Alternatives or Park Slope Neighbors.

According to one person who was polled, the surveyor asked a series of questions about whether the respondent had biked or driven on Prospect Park West, and if the redesign is an improvement over the old configuration.

Another respondent said the survey also included several questions about demographic information, including age, race, and political affiliation. The same respondent told Streetsblog the survey call was placed to a landline.

If the survey was conducted entirely by calls to landlines, that could skew results by undercounting younger, more progressive, and less affluent residents. According to a report released by the Pew Center last fall, landline-only polls conducted during the 2008 presidential election favored Republican candidate John McCain compared to polls reaching both landlines and cell phones.

The popularity of the bike lane has been amply demonstrated at rallies and public hearings, where supporters consistently outnumber opponents by huge margins. The web survey of 3,000 Brooklynites conducted by City Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin and Brooklyn Community Board 6 found 70 percent support for keeping the bike lane among Park Slope residents. Citywide, New York City voters approve of the expansion of bike lanes by a 54 percent to 39 percent margin, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Surveyors identified themselves as working for Quantel Research, a firm based out of Ogden, Utah. Quantel was formerly known as Pacific Crest Research, and gained notoriety under that name a few years ago for conducting push polls favoring Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development.

Quantel Research President Matt Hewitt would not confirm that his firm has conducted this survey or answer any questions about methodology.

Louise Hainline, a leader of the bike lane opposition group “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes,” has not returned an email query about whether her group commissioned the survey.

If you fielded this survey and can provide details about how questions were worded, drop us a line at tips@streetsblog.org.

  • So a group that pleads poverty to get a pro bono attorney can pay for polling?

  • So a group that pleads poverty to get a pro bono attorney can pay for polling?

  • Pandabear

    “After requests by drug-addicted hipsters, the Bloomberg Administration installed a separated bike lane on Prospect Park West. The bike line has led to a 4,000% increase in the number of fatal accidents on Prospect Park West. Do you support or oppose the bike lane, or are you unsure?”

  • Pandabear

    “After requests by drug-addicted hipsters, the Bloomberg Administration installed a separated bike lane on Prospect Park West. The bike line has led to a 4,000% increase in the number of fatal accidents on Prospect Park West. Do you support or oppose the bike lane, or are you unsure?”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Do you think any of the Mexicans riding to low paid service jobs in Park Slope will be counted? What is the geographic coverage for the poll?

    The point you make about cell phones is a huge problem for the industry. Moreover, concerning the alleged undercount of census data, do recent immigants and young people even use snail mail — the basis of the decennial Census — anymore?

  • Tyler

    “Given the fact that Prospect Park West residents are incapable of looking both ways before crossing the street, the new bike lane has resulted in 12,753 senior citizen deaths caused by out-of-control cyclists. Do you think old people should continue to die or should the bike lane be removed?”

  • Anonymous

    Well, now we know what NBBL will do with the extra time they’ll have now that the case has been delayed: dishonestly spin more data.

  • Anonymous

    Too bad they don’t but all their time, energy and money is support of something constructive.

  • “If the survey was conducted entirely by calls to landlines, that could skew results by undercounting younger, more progressive, and less affluent residents. ”

    Maybe but I would also imagine people who receive these calls on mobile phones may be less likely to participate in the survey. Some may be too busy to talk while they’re out and about, some may not even answer the phone if it’s from an unknown number. I recently declined a couple of calls and now I’m wondering if it might’ve missed the opportunity to add my two cents to a bike lane survey. Too bad they don’t text mobile numbers first or leave some voicemail for mobile users who want to participate.

  • Anonymous

    Stacy, I believe these polls are not allowed to call cellphones. They are land-line only. They automatically exclude cells.

  • Glenn

    Polls like this are less expensive than you might think. Doing one from Utah with a focused set of questions might only be $10k. Even less if a political operative called in a favor or did this as a loss leader like Gibson Dunn.

    The question is where the list of potential respondents is generated from since sourcing the targeted sample would be a challenge. Buying a localized list might cost more than the fieldwork itself.

    I’m not even sure at this point how an opinion survey helps their case in the court or in public opinion. They seem to be reaching for talking points in the media.

    The list of improvements by CB6 is not in place so within a few months there will be a new situation onthe ground. Also The mayor has
    already said he’s not backing down. This is a waste of effort.

  • J

    Latest “evidence”: The city measured speed at two locations pre-PPW and only 2 locations post-PPW. Therefore the entire study is “junk”, despite the fact that speed was reduced significantly at those locations. I don’t think a judge will agree with NBBL’s logic. Even the Daily News headline seems to be mocking them a bit.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2011/03/28/2011-03-28_foes_being_taken_for_a_ride_claim_that_dot_fudged_bikelane_speeding_numbers.html

  • Anonymous

    Only $10,000? For a group that keeps complaining about how much the city has spent in this time of budget crisis, I know a lot of more worthy places ten grand could go than into a bogus push poll.

  • Anonymous

    Just got the call. Survey questions were pretty straight forward. Did not feel like a push-poll. The caller wouldn’t tell me who hire the poll. Claimed she is not told so as to avoid bias.

  • Did they reach you on a landline?

  • Anonymous

    Yes. I have a listed telephone number.

  • Tyler

    Geck, did they ask you if you read commie subversive websites such as Streetsblog? 🙂

  • Jabir

    Just got the call, via landline, on an unlisted number!

    Questions (summarized):
    1) Are you aware of the changes
    2) Have you driven a car down reconfigured street
    3) Have you biked in the bike lane
    4) Have you crossed PPW as a pedestrian.
    5) Do you oppose, support, or are neutral about the changes.
    6) Do you feel it has reduced speeding.
    7) Do you feel it has made it safer to cross the street as a ped.
    8) Do you feel it has improved traffic flow.
    9) Should the street configuration remain unchanged, remain with changes, or should the bike lane be removed.
    10) Questions re: age, political affiliation, do you own a car, do you bike the lane frequently.

  • I work for a survey firm in Victoria, Canada (one that has never surveyed into the US and has nothing do with this poll) but I can comment on the unlisted number bit. Two of our surveys right now are cold-calling people and, in one, we are dialing literally random numbers. We don’t even know if that number is connected, goes to a landline/cell, etc. Hence how a

  • Glenn

    Were these all yes/no except for the support, oppose, neutral?

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Glenn: If nothing else, this survey will just be another opportunity for Jim Walden to generate a bunch of stories in the press where he says DOT is falsifying data and the “bike lobby” is manipulating public opinion. That’s the goal here: Smear, discredit and make it politically impossible for DOT to continue to carry out the Sustainable Streets strategic plan.

  • Mfs

    What were the possible responses? Did they use a scale?

  • Anonymous

    Jabir got it pretty close. The questions were a bit more involved and might have been broken down into multiple parts but he has the gist of it. Mostly yes/no type questions. She did followed up support with two or three options for the level of support. At one point, I believe before asking the support, oppose, neural question, she summarized the pro and con positions pretty fairly.

  • Does anyone who got surveyed live more than a block away from PPW?

  • Marty Barfowitz

    No. These blue collar workers will not be counted. Nor will the scores of young children who use the new bike lane on weekends.

  • Jabir

    I live 1.5 block from PPW. Some of the questions might have been more like a 3-part answer, such as do you think the changes have improved traffic flow, had no impact, or made it worse.

  • starbreaker

    I work for Quantel Research and we have been doing these polls the last couple days. I’m really loving this survey because it’s only 5 minutes long… usually they are around 20 minutes. We do normally do push polls. Crappy ass minimum wage job, but it’s the best I can get with felonies on my record and no high school diploma.

    Also, we do call cell phones on some polls, but not this one. We get our numbers usually from either voter registration files (they are public) or sometimes by randomly dialing. We aren’t told who sponsors the survey, but sometimes it’s obvious. Also, we always ask for the youngest member of the household (and oh boy does it bug me when I have to explain to old people what the word “youngEST” means).

  • Shemp

    You can get these firms to call a representative mix of mobile and land lines. The industry understands the skewing that land lines only causes.

  • The questions as outlined by Jabir above aren’t very helpful because there’s no comparison to other streets. They should have asked questions about both Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West in a way that made it possible to discern whether people’s feelings about Prospect Park West differed from their feelings about Eighth.

    Also note that there are no questions about the esthetic appeal of PPW. Perhaps with spring coming that angle has been retired by the NBBL.

  • Roger S

    I was called on my cellphone for this survey – actually have a non-NY area code. I also live 5 blocks from the park.

  • Hope

    I love this discussion! Too bad it all happened in 2011. Hope the PPW bike lane is still being enjoyed by all. Very informative about polling and push-polling. I was just called by Quantel apparently researching the best way to sell the public on an Olympic bid by Boston.

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