PUBLIC OPINION POLLS / SMOKING BAN POPULARITY
When the questions aren't crafted to elicit the response the anti-smokers
are looking for you find that the roar to ban smoking everywhere isn't
as great as they'd have you believe:
Gallup News Service
Secondhand Smoke a Second-Rate Risk?
Americans resist severe
public smoking restrictions
Read Full Report
Northstar Research Partners (for Pub and
Bar Coalition of Canada - PUBCO)
3 of 4 Torontonians Support Smoking in Bars
November 6, 2003
More Polls and Full Analysis Below
In a recent newspaper article I saw this statement included by the reporter: "Three years later, most New Yorkers say they are glad to see the ashtrays gone."
I've seen this statement repeated many times in one form or another.
This time I wrote and asked "By whose account? What's the source for this?"
His answer: "How about every reputable poll ever taken on the topic."
That's it. No naming of the polls. A case of "it's what I've heard" (from Bloomberg and each other). This blind repetition of the anti-smokers' claim by the media is how this perception has become fact when, in fact, it's far from it. We've reached the "tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth" point!
Not to mention that the poll issue distracts us from the real offense of having certain civil liberties curtailed -- and private property rights trampled on -- by means of a popularity contest. A Constitutional Republic means that there is to be no tendencies of the majority to inflict their beliefs upon the minority!
Anyway, I'll name the polls FOR you:
There were 3 (maybe a 4th that is barely compatible) that were commissioned by well known anti-smoking groups that were at the forefront of pushing for the ban and also, surprise, the questions are terribly leading.
Are polls by these groups "reputable"? "Reputable" in regards to the anti-smoking groups surveys is as good as saying a poll by a tobacco company is "reputable." In addition, there were 2 conducted by Quinnipiac (a group that I call "reputable") that asked specifically about support but I can show where those go wrong too.
The last such poll taken was in March 2004. Any other written material on the subject has been opinions by journalists that repeat the myth, or ads run by the anti-smoking groups that repeat the results of their polls.
Three more things before I discuss the polls (followed by counter-evidence):
1. Any poll that includes restaurants when asking about support for the 2003 law is disingenuous. 95% of restaurants in NYC were smoke-banned since the 1995 law. There is no change to reflect in questions about restaurants. So when it's asked if eating in restaurants is "more enjoyable" NOW it's ridiculous!
2. There has never been a poll that surveyed bar patrons only. The entire question of support in NYC can ONLY rest with bars, bingo halls, pool halls, and veterans halls. So when it's said (or repeat) that most NYers "are glad to see the ashtrays gone" it hardly reflects the opinion of people who would be most affected -- bar goers -- by the 2003 law and absurd if anyone is talking about restaurants. Does it mean anything (except fodder for the propaganda) when people who don't go to bars say they're glad the ashtrays are gone?!
3. None of the questions/polls that would be held up as proof include alternative choices that would likely prompt a completely different response (and I'll prove later as true).
Okay, here are the 3 anti-smoking group polls (plus the 1 iffy one) and the 2 Quinnipiac polls in order of release:
1. June 16, 2003: Zogby Poll commissioned by HUGE ban proponent Russell Sciandra of Center for a Tobacco Free New York. Finds 69% of all New Yorkers (not just the city) support the ban.
I couldn't critique this poll. Know why? Because they refused to release it after a request.
First I tried getting it from Zogby. I called them up. Their communications rep said for a fee I could have all of it... answers, questions and cross-tabular information (ie. ages, incomes, smokers, non-smokers, etc.). I gave my credit card number over the phone and was told it would all be emailed to me. When I checked later, this was the response waiting for me:"Audrey - the client for the research has requested that we not release the results, so I'm afraid our discussion is over. You might want to contact the Cancer Society directly to make the request of them. Sorry for the trouble."
One can only presume that they had something to hide. So I asked him for the client contact information and he told me:"Our contact was the person on the release: Russell Sciandra (518-449-5438 X12), firstname.lastname@example.org."I contacted Sciandra, writing the following:
Dear Mr. Sciandra,
I respectfully request a copy of the survey released on June 16th conducted on your behalf by Zogby Int'l regarding smoking bans in New York.
I would appreciate that the data provided include all questions, responses and cross-tab information such as age of respondents and any other respondent data collected.
If you choose to deny my request I would appreciate that you respond stating that my request is denied. If I receive no reply I will assume that my request was denied.
Thank you in advance.
The Zogby survey data is proprietary information for use by the agencies that paid for it. I would consider releasing the full tabular data to a bona fide news organization planning to do an in-depth report. However, I will not provide it to you or anyone else with the stated intention of opposing our efforts.
Rest assured that the survey accurately reflects the state's voting population, within the 4.4% margin of error, and accurately characterizes public opinion on this issue. Do your own survey. If it's done right, you'll get the same results.
Russell Sciandra, Director
Center for a Tobacco Free New York
19 Dove Street, Suite 103
Albany, NY 12210
To which I last wrote:
If your survey "accurately characterizes public opinion on this issue" then we couldn't possibly use it against you in a particular instance.
The fact that we are an opposing organization should have nothing to do with releasing your survey. If it can't be used "to oppose your efforts" in this instance then you are implying that you won't release it to us solely on the basis that we are a group in general disagreement with yours.
I have to say we don't agree with that philosophy but I thank you for your reply and will respect your decision.
To repeat, people who won't release "good" data make their data immediately suspect.
2. September 22, 2003: Global Strategies Poll commissioned by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Finds 70% support the ban... when the question is asked this way:
Q# 6 - How much do you support the new law prohibiting smoking "in all workplaces...including offices, restaurants, and bars?"
Offices and restaurants?!? True, most people don't want smoking in their office. How do they answer this then??
As for the rest of the poll, these other results support my complaint:
Q#32 - Only 19% polled were between 18 - 34 yrs old -- the greatest age of bar-goers!
Q#34 - 54% polled said they don't go to bars at all!
Q#43 - 49% never smoked
3. October 2, 3003: Quinnipiac Poll finds 59% of NYC residents support the ban. Hmmm, a short two weeks later Quinnipiac finds 11% less support than the Global Strategies poll? Isn't that interesting for starters. But again, the question includes restaurants. No separate question for bars (or bingo halls, etc.).
3 1/2. October 20, 2003: Zagat Survey (the 4th less compatible poll I mentioned) reported that 96% of diners were eating out the same amount or more often. I only mention this one because the anti-smoking groups like to point to this one as well as part of their arsenal. However, we're back to the fact that restaurants were smoke-banned since 1995. There is no comparitive difference of worth. These 96% are eating at the same smoke-banned restaurant in 2003 they were eating at since 1995.
Also, according to the report, "Zagat surveyed 29,361 New York City restaurant-goers from May through mid-July." [assessing 1,918 NYC restaurants] Those are warm months. What would those same people say in the cold months? And not only that but they were called "volunteer reviewers." Volunteers? What KIND of people are these??
4. October 22, 2003: Quinnipiac Poll finds 62% of NYC residents support the ban -- in "RESTAURANTS and bars."
5. March 28, 2004: Another Global Strategy poll commissioned by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Finds 75% support the ban... again asking the same twisted question:
Q# 12 - How much do you support the new law prohibiting smoking "in all workplaces...including offices, restaurants, and bars?"
Offices and restaurants?!?
And again, these other results support my complaint:
Q#18 - Only 19% were between 18 - 34 yrs old -- the greatest age of bar-goers!
Q#21 - 51% never smoked
Mostly the same questions as the last Global Strategy poll but interestingly didn't ask this time how many people went to bars.
So what we find so far is that a majority of people don't support smoking in OFFICES and RESTAURANTS which happen to throw "bars" into the question.
Let's examine this. Or, in other words, let's present the evidence that supports my accusation that these polls -- and the way the questions are crafted -- DO NOT REFLECT the truth.
Again, in order of release:
1. August 4, 2003: A nationwide Gallup Poll found, "Gallup data suggest that most Americans do not embrace the campaign to make public establishments completely smoke free. When given the alternative [something surveys commissioned by anti-smoking supporters don't do] of establishing special smoking areas in each location, less than a majority would ban smoking altogether in restaurants, the workplace, hotels, or bars. Support for stiff limits is highest for smoking in restaurants (45% favor a total ban and 52% favor areas that are set aside for smoking).. The lowest support is seen for restrictions on smoking in bars; only 23% believe there should be a total ban in these establishments and just 44% favor special smoking areas. Nearly a third of the public, 31%, says there should be no restrictions on smoking in bars."
It doesn't matter that this is a nationwide poll as opposed to only a NYC poll. The point is that when the questions are broken down to specific venues the results change and support for a ban is not in the majority.
2. September 8, 2003: McLaughlin & Associates Poll commissioned by the NYS Conservative Party. I'll give you that this could be considered a poll as biased as the anti-smoking group polls but at least it asks the questions that the anti-smoking groups would NEVER dare ask. It gives the respondents CHOICES. If the anti-smoking groups did that they'd never be able to release their results because it would bear out the way the Gallup poll above bears out.
Q: "In general, who do you think should decide whether smoking should be allowed or not allowed in privately owned restaurants and bars?"
53% of NYC residents polled said owners/management.
Q: "In your opinion, do you feel that smoking in bars, nightclubs and lounges, should be up to the management to decide whether or not to allow smoking; or do you feel there should be a law limiting smoking in bars to certain restricted areas, but not an all out ban; or do you think that all smoking should be banned in any bar, lounge or nightclub"?
69% of NYC residents polled said that either smoking should be allowed completely or allowed in restricted area. Only 30% said it should be banned outright.
Other fair question found that 64% would amend the law to allow at least limited smoking (even in restaurants). In other words, if you give the respondents a chance to answer about compromise, the majority agree with compromise. The anti-smoking groups' polls do not offer compromise questions. In this poll even non-smokers, by 62%, agree "a compromise should be reached and the law should be amended to accommodate people who smoke." (quote is part of the question asked).
3. November 6, 2003: Quinnipiac Poll asks:
Q #25: When the state legislature meets next year do you think it should or should not make the law which bans smoking in bars and restaurants less strict?
51% of NYC residents said it should! 46% said it shouldn't.
4. November 21, 2003: Quinnipiac Poll for Connecticut found that 56% want to leave in place the statewide ban on smoking in restaurants but went the step further and separated bars from the question, finding the following: "Looking at bars, however, only 36 percent support a complete smoking ban, while 38 percent support designated smoking rooms and 24 percent say eliminate the ban."
Again, it doesn't matter that is was conducted in Connecticut. When the question is not bundled with "restaurants" it turns out the majority don't support a complete ban in bars.
5. October 12, 2005: Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll finds that less than half of the New Jersyians polled (46%) say that lighting up should be banned in bars. 49 percent oppose a ban in bars.
And while sixty-five percent of respondents said they want smoking outlawed in restaurants (with 33 percent opposed) the same poll found that "Follow-up interviews revealed many of those polled are not necessarily in favor of legislating the issue."
And not to ignore other affected venues, bingo halls across the city have either closed completely or cut the number of days they operate. I know of one bingo hall that remains packed because it defies the ban. VFWs and American Legion Posts are smoking away. The city dare not stir the pot by going after our veterans.
A by-product of smokers' rights advocacy is also the defense of private property rights, such as that of bar owners, to set their own terms in their own bars. No, customers and employees DON'T have any say -- whether the owner chooses to allow smoking OR ban smoking -- just because they are invited to enter. It is not a "public" place. It is the equivalent of one's own home. Once private property is overrun by government, no liberties are secure.
We can argue about approval/disapproval rates or what the measures of "success" are. But in the final analysis none of that matters. What matters -- and what the anti-smoking crusaders refuse to discuss as they hide behind the false alarm of "public health" and what the media completely ignores -- is that CIVIL LIBERTIES AND PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS ARE NOT MATTERS TO BE DECIDED BY POPULARITY.
The ban is certainly NOT a "success" for an Astoria, Queens owner interviewed by a reporter from the Gotham Gazette for an article titled "Nonsmoking New York?":
"[Kosta] Litzeris claims that Café Kolonaki didn't allow smoking for the first month of the ban, but suffered from such a dramatic drop in business that he had to change tact. He is gloomy about being forced to comply with the law he has flouted for the last two years. 'It will shut us down,' he said."
So "success" on this subject has been perverted -- really meaning that Bloomberg et. al. have been "successful" in imposing their will through force of law. "The ban is a success. No one is smoking indoors," Bloomberg boasts to everyone. Success in this case is measured by a bully's stick and a percentage of the public who have no respect for private property rights, not by Mr. Litzeris or any number of other bar owners who have experienced, and feel, the same as he does (did I mention that there are bars all over the city where one can find the law being ignored?).
The point is, that as long as there is even ONE private property owner who wants to allow smoking in his establishment this law is wrong no matter the endless citations by the media that it's "successful" because the perception is that it's "popular." More than wrong, it's dangerous.
One wonders if there had been more screams by the public over this nationwide intrusion if the Supreme Court justices would have paused for a moment before handing over the people's homes in New London, CT (case of Kelo) to the local government under Eminent Domain. The reason? It benefits the city's coffers, your life-long home be damned.
See the pattern? Think you can go on condoning infringements like this or being silent because you selfishly like them or they don't affect you directly and not risk your own home one day?