A Newton-based think tank has released the results of a survey that proponents of a Nantucket Sound wind farm say proves local support for the project.
“More and more citizens each day are saying yes to the Cape Wind project because it is in the right place at the right time,” Barbara Hill, executive director of Clean Power Now, said after the results were announced during a teleconference yesterday. Clean Power Now favors Cape Wind Associates’ proposal to build 130 wind turbines in the sound.
But the survey – which was paid for by the Civil Society Institute – is biased, according to opponents of the project and at least one expert on research methods and statistics.
“In my opinion, given the potential problems present in the way many of the questions about Cape Wind were asked, it is impossible to say that the majority either favors or opposes Cape Wind,” Michael Elasmar, director of the Communication Research Center at Boston University wrote in an e-mail after reading the survey results.
In the 13-question telephone survey conducted between Oct. 10 and Oct. 15, pollsters asked 501 Cape and Island residents about their stand on specific arguments against Cape Wind and general opinions on the project.
The survey found that 61 percent of the respondents were in favor of Cape Wind, said Graham Hueber, senior researcher with Opinion Research Corporation, the New Jersey-based polling company that helped administer the survey.
The survey has a margin of error plus or minus 4 percent, Hueber said.
The Civil Society Institute crafted the questions, which were modified after consultations with Hill, Hueber said.
“We aren’t paying for this survey, so I’m not writing the questions,” Hueber said. The polling company did have the right to reject questions that were grossly biased, he said.
“I think that what you are going to see in most surveys on this topic is that they are going to have a point of view,” Hueber said.
The Civil Society Institute survey included questions about the potential impacts of the project on birds, fishing and tourism. In all but one question, the results fell in favor of Cape Wind.
Elasmar said five questions were “open” to bias through the wording of the question and another question lacked a complete set of answers.
In three of the remaining questions, the results were so close that the margin of error makes it impossible to say for certain which responses are in the majority, Elasmar said.
Cape Wind foes are critical of the survey’s results.
“The questions asked were not based in fact and they ignored or downplayed the real issues this project would pose for the people of the Cape and Islands,” said Audra Parker, spokeswoman for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an anti-Cape Wind group.
Parker added the survey does not jibe with other local polls and votes.
By Patrick Cassidy
26 October 2007
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