Pollsters seem to collect the answers they want

Ever wonder about the polling samples that are referred to so much by TV and newspaper stories? The other day I received an unsolicited phone call from someone representing himself as with a “marketing research” company or some other polling organization. I don’t know who this apparent “researcher” represented.

Actually, it started off as an invitation to join a discussion and be paid $100 to join in some sort of panel and offer my opinions. That sounded interesting so I agreed to listen and answer a few questions.

The first question was who I was going to vote for in the upcoming mayoral campaign. I said I didn’t know. He then asked what I thought were the most important issues facing San Diego. My first answer was public pension costs, but that is in the court system. Then I said the infrastructure: the poor road conditions.

Next I was asked what I thought of Dean Spanos of the Chargers. I think I gave a negative response, but said I really don’t know him. Then the caller asked about Mark Fabiani, the Chargers attorney who is taking the lead in negotiations with the city for a new stadium. I responded that he is a “hired gun” and acting on behalf of his client. But again, I don’t know him, although he seems like a nice guy on the radio.

The next question seemed to point to the point of the phone call. The caller prefaced his question with some alleged facts about how two LA organizations are trying to get the Chargers to move north. And then he asked how I felt about the city spending $1.2 billion to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

I think my initial response was something along the lines of “goodbye, Chargers.” When I was asked why, I explained that the Chargers could have left years ago by the terms of the contract, but apparently no one wants either the team or the Spanos family owners.

I pointed out that Forbes magazine values the Chargers at about $950 million. Alex Spanos paid $70 million to Gene Klein in 1984, so that’s a pretty good return on investment. Also, according to Forbes, the television contract with ABC, NBC, CBS and ESPN pays the NFL $4.2 billion per year to be split among 32 teams —more than $100 million per team.

Effectively, the Chargers pay almost no rent. They get every dime from advertising at the Q and every dollar from the 19,000 parking spaces each game day. So does this small enterprise need help paying for a stadium? No!

After pointing out these facts to the caller, he asked what part of town I live in, and then put me on hold while he consulted someone. After a minute or so, he came back and said that the panel “had been filled” and thanked me for my time.

I responded that I would probably not be a good candidate since I know too much about the Chargers efforts to have a city-funded football palace. That may have an adverse effect on whatever the caller hoped to get from a panel.

After the call, it occurred to me that this is how polls and inquiries of public opinion can be manipulated to get the desired result. I also realized whoever funded this call was clearly trying to model some supposedly impartial public opinion. And the opinion desired was “we must keep our Chargers!”

And of course, the powers with influence in San Diego want the Chargers stadium downtown. Preferably in the parking lot right by the ballpark. (There goes the parking.)

Three thoughts: First, the present location in Mission Valley has 19,000 parking spaces. Second, the Chargers organization is very, very wealthy and massively subsidized by TV revenues. Third, the Spanos family are builders.

Bottom line: Chargers, please build your own stadium or remodel right where the Q stands right now. Or hit the road.

Carrico is a San Diego attorney and can be emailed at Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

User Response
0 UserComments