A new poll out of San Jose appears to show strong support for the Oakland A’s planned moved to the South Bay. But on closer reading, the wording of the poll suggests that it was designed to produce the results it got. According to the Mercury News, the poll shows that 62 percent of San Jose residents would favor giving the Oakland A’s public property for a new stadium as long as taxes aren’t raised. But the poll apparently didn’t inform respondents that San Jose will have to give the A’s more than just free land in the deal, thereby making the poll’s results highly questionable and punching a large hole in any claim that it proves that San Jose residents would vote in favor of the A’s moving to their city.
A’s co-owner Lew Wolff has made it clear that he wants the City of San Jose to also pay for infrastructure improvements needed for the stadium, which could amount to tens of millions of public dollars. Although the money likely would come from redevelopment funds and would not require a tax increase, the expenditure of huge amounts of public funds could render the deal much less palatable to San Jose voters — particularly if the A’s move encounters a well-financed opposition. And that likely will happen, because any move to San Jose will surely be opposed by the San Francisco Giants because they own the territorial rights to the South Bay.
The issue is key because a move to San Jose requires a vote of San Jose residents. Oakland, by contrast, also is proposing to give the A’s free land and pay for infrastructure improvements with redevelopment money, but such a move would not need a vote of city residents.
The San Jose poll also apparently failed to inform voters of the value of the public land that the city plans to give to the A’s. Reportedly, the total cost of acquiring the 14-acre property will amount to about $46 million in taxpayer funds.
So why didn’t the pollster ask a more realistic question? Such as, “Would you support giving the A’s public land that the city paid $46 million to acquire, plus spend tens of millions of dollars more in redevelopment funds for infrastructure needed for the team’s new stadium — as long as it does not include raising taxes?” Had the newspaper done so, it never would have gotten 62 percent of residents to say yes.
The poll was conducted by San Jose State University’s highly respected Survey and Policy Research Institute, but the question was written by the Bay Area News Group, a division of the newspaper chain MediaNews, which owns the Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and the Contra Costa Times. Which leads one to believe that the owners of Oakland’s hometown daily may not mind a bit if the A’s move to a city where it also owns a newspaper.
An earlier version of this post improperly imputed a motive to the poll's less-than-transparent wording. Although we continue to believe that the poll's results are not an accurate depiction of how San Jose voters would greet such a proposal, we overreached when we stated that "the wording of the poll indicates that it was designed to produce the results it got." Inasmuch as that was our own inference and was not confirmed by reporting, we should have said "the wording of the poll suggests that it was designed to produce the results it got." We also stated that the poll was paid for by the newspaper when in fact the Merc's story only stated that the newspaper wrote the poll question.