New Pricing Poll Hits the Spin Cycle

A Quinnipiac Poll released today shows that citywide support for congestion pricing remains consistent at 57 percent — compared to 58 percent a month ago — assuming fees can be used to prevent transit fare increases. Given those conditions, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens showed majority support for pricing, with Staten Island opposed (45% in favor to 50% against) and the Bronx nearly split (47% in favor to 49% against).

The poll also shows that Manhattanites continue to support pricing unconditionally (with no mention of benefits): 54 percent in favor to 36 percent opposed. Citywide, unconditional support dropped five percent — 41 percent to 36 — from July to August.

Not surprisingly, a full 89 percent of New Yorkers believe traffic congestion to be a serious problem. Also not surprisingly, the pro-congestion lobby is spinning a decent show of support for pricing — markedly better than that of pre-pricing Stockholm and London — into a public rebuke of the plan and a dire warning to politicians who will be voting on it.

Doesn’t hurt that the Q pollsters served up this ready-made meme: 

The federal government has promised $354 million to New York City for transit improvements – but only if congestion pricing is adopted. Does this make you more likely to approve of congestion pricing or do you think this is federal meddling in a municipal decision.

Shockingly, 51 percent of New Yorkers, when asked, oppose meddling.

Here’s more coverage from the Times, Daily News and Observer blogs. 

UPDATE: TA’s response to the poll just went up. In addition to pointing out the "misleading" and "biased" language, TA makes this observation:

The fact that most Bronx elected officials, who have studied congestion pricing in detail, have come to support it while a majority of Bronx residents oppose it more likely points to an information gap than an opinion gap. Also, the fact that a majority of Staten Islanders oppose congestion pricing despite the fact that they will benefit from the program while virtually never paying its fees is also suspect. As Mr. White noted, "the absence of a question asking voters how well they feel informed about congestion pricing is a glaring omission. I have no doubt the Q-Poll’s numbers will not hold up once information about congestion pricing is more effectively disseminated to average New Yorkers." T.A. also noted that the Q-Poll fails to refer to congestion pricing as a "three year trial program," which it is, and never asks voters who are seriously concerned with traffic if they would rather implement congestion pricing on a trial basis or do nothing at all to address traffic congestion.

  • Wow. So, Quinnipiac basically push-polled the idea that a $354 federal grant, almost all of which will go towards immediate bus improvements throughout the five boroughs, is “meddling in a municipal decision.”

    What about the fact that legislators in Buffalo, Rochester and Schenectady get to vote on the future of New York City’s transportation system? Did Q ask if that’s “meddling?”

  • This is political polling at it’s worst. It oversimplifies some questions like “Do you support congestion pricing?” while clearly biasing others with charged words like “meddling” and then just messing up a good question about mass transit funding by making it double barrel by including “bridge tolls”.

    These polls are clearly aimed at making headlines rather than taking an accurate measure of the public’s very nuanced attitude toward congestion pricing. This is evident from their tarting up their quotes like: “Congestion pricing is a bad idea” and “‘Don’t tread on me’ ought to be the message on the city flag.”

    The only piece of this survey that I have high confidence as a good polling question is the 89% that think traffic congestion in New York City is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem.

    As a professional market researcher, I would toss out these results and ask them to redo the survey.

  • Al Smith

    Aaron said: What about the fact that legislators in Buffalo, Rochester and Schenectady get to vote on the future of New York City’s transportation system? Did Q ask if that’s “meddling?”

    EXACTLY. Somebody needs to be harping on this. The whole convoluted exercise is ridiculous and completely inappropriate for a city of New York’s importance and stature. Not to mention WE carry New York State’s economy, not the other way around. Those legislators are insane.

  • fdr

    The State Legislature gets to vote on almost anything important involving NYC. What else is new?

  • Bill

    nothin new i guess, but something for all of us to keep in mind going forward – NYC needs more home rule.

  • JF

    A decline of 5% in a poll with a margin of error of 2.8% is hardly a “slip.” Margin of error means that support in the last poll could actually have been 38.2, and in this poll it could have been 38.8, a rise of 0.6%. What’s the point of giving a margin of error if you’re going to ignore it?

  • MrManhattan


    Isn’t that some third rate school Connecticut children apply to in case they don’t get admitted to Connecticut College (or Yale, let alone NYU) as a “Safety School”??

    There must be some pressing issue in Connecticut these kids can do their mid-term research on, right??

    Here’s some ideas:

    How many people who live between Bridgeport and Madison are afraid to swim in Long Island Sound because of the pollution?

    How many citizens of Glastonbury think they’ve contracted Lyme disease?

    What is the percentage difference in two cylinder vs. four cylinder motorcycles in Groton ?

    See there’s still lots of interesting studies to be done by college kids who live in a “bedroom state”.

    Now go tip some cows, and leave New York to the grown-ups.

  • Eric

    Way back in 1985, I took a class at the University of Missouri called “Politics & Public Opinion.” I would’ve received an “F” for turning in alleged “poll” questions worded like these from Quinnipiac.

    Who’s paying for this poll, anyway?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    So you don’t like the way the State government works, stand in line. I really hate Federalism too and much prefer a parliamentary form of government, I think that would yield lots of power for cities too. Moaning about that though, while sneering at a poll that asks questions to city voters is sort of counter-productive politics. I think term limits is pretty bad government structure too and hurting the cause of congestion pricing in this particular circumstance. Too bad its the law for NYC.

    This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the City Council. Had Bloomberg demonstrated some of this political fortitude when he was actually running for office maybe some of this stuff would have passed. As it is it looks like an end run of the voters. Voters don’t like that and people who want new jobs when they are term limited out in the City won’t like it much either.

    Comparisons to Europe are instructive but not determinative. Those are parliamentary forms of government and in Sweden CP was subjected to both parliamentary and referendum scrutiny. Maybe referendum is what we should be pushing. But it is a much different transportation market in Europe with the $3 per gallon gas taxes and trolley, rail and bus systems light years ahead of our accordingly.

  • MrManhattan

    We’re sneering at the poll because its amateur bordering on infantile.

    {Freshman Polling Student}Do you want to pay more money to the government?

    {Respondent} No? ,

    {Freshman Polling Student}OK, you’re against congestion pricing.

    {Freshman Polling Student}Do you like it when the government takes your money, then decides how to spend it?

    {Respondent} No? ,

    {Freshman Polling Student}Wow, you’re against congestion pricing too!

    {Freshman Polling Student}Thats two votes against and no votes for.

    “Look mom, I got an “A” on my Congestion Pricing poll paper in Freshman Polling Science class!!!”

  • NO Congestion Pricing

    Fact is – congestion pricing hurts those who can afford it the least, and the MAJORITY of New Yorkers realize that. Fact is – congestion pricing is just a booster for Bloomberg’s legacy. Fact is – NYC has lost $250-million during Bloomberg’s watch from lost parking meter revenue due to illegal parking permit abuse. Fact is – illegal parking permit abuse could be eliminated at virtually no cost, and the City could gain back $46-million a year from lost parking meter revenue, to be used for mass transit improvements.

  • mork

    Mr. NO:

    The poorest New Yorkers are already paying $4 a day for the subway. Why don’t you want to pay for the resources you are consuming?

  • JF

    No, Mr. NO, the fact is that congestion pricing charges those who can afford it the most. Stop playing fast and loose with facts and somebody might pay attention to some of the other things you say.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    All right Mr. Man, you have proven the truism that the poll reflects both the question asked and the respondent. Big deal. All of them do. My point is the polls that count are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Before that poll Mr. Bloomberg maintained an exquisite silence regarding congestion pricing even though he had a forty point lead. Debating public opinion as reflected in the socio-psychology of college polling exercises is a substitute for the hard work of actual politics. So is lamenting the home rule castration of America’s largest city. Not only does congestion pricing have to pass the Assembly, Senate and Council but it has to survive the next election cycle. The poorly considered political struggle thus far is actually empowering the opponents for the next election cycle. What you seem to want is a scientifically certain opinion poll that will substitute for democratic electoral politics. Let Columbia and Harvard do the poll with Mother Teresa as a consultant and the poll will just be a mild reflection of the question and the respondent. A vote is a much more powerful thing.


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