Lowe’s poll reveals polarized community, with some room for compromise

Editor’s note: This article was posted on Dec. 31, but then somehow got lost by WordPress. Thanks to reader Greg Lamb for letting me know it was missing! Luckily, I had a back up copy on my computer, so I didn’t have to re-do three hours of work!

The Clarion News Blog Online Community Poll on Lowe’s concluded Sunday with a total of 60 participants. An invitation to participate in the poll was sent by e-mail to over 300 Geneseo residents. The poll was also available online to be taken by regular visitors to the Clarion New Blog. The poll was restricted so that it could only be taken once from any one computer and poll takers were asked not to take it more than once.

There is no claim that this poll represents a scientific sample of public opinion in the community, however it may provide some indication for the reasons behind different group’s feelings. Overall the sample was slightly anti-Lowe’s with 54% of respondents saying they were either strongly against the project or leaning against it, versus 46% who were in favor or leaning in favor. (Note: In this report, percentages of those answering a particular question are used. Not all questions were answered by every participant.)
Of the 60 participants, 34 were residents from the Village of Geneseo, with 18 from the Town of Geneseo. In addition 5 who complete the poll lived in other Livingston County towns while 3 lived out of state. The anti-Lowe’s feeling was strongest among village residents with 65% of them opposed to or leaning against the project versus 35% in favor or leaning in favor. In contrast, residents of the town were evenly divided with 9 in favor and 9 against. Those living outside Geneseo and out of state were in favor of the project by a 7-1 margin.
49% of respondents said they were following the controversy “extremely closely” and were regular readers of the Clarion Call Blog, with 51% saying they were only following the controversy “somewhat closely.” Support for the Lowe’s was inversely correlated with readership of the Blog.Of those who were totally in favor or leaning in favor of the Lowe’s, only 30% said they were following the matter closely and reading the Clarion Blog regularly. On the other hand, 66% of those who were totally against or leaning against the Lowe’s said they were following the matter “extremely closely.”

Opinions on the Lowe’s seemed to track closely with views on the accuracy of various sources of information about the project. Overall, the Clarion News Blog was given the highest rating for reliability with 76% calling the blogs either “highly reliable” or “somewhat reliable”. The second highest reliability rating went to the Livingston County News which 72% labeled highly or somewhat reliable.

Reliability ratings were averaged to get a score between 1 and 5 with 1 being the most reliable. The Clarion News Blog averaged a 1.9 rating versus a 2.4 for the LC News because it had a higher percentage of “very reliable” ratings (46% vs. 17%). Other sources of information received average rankings as follows: Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo 2.7, Statements of elected officials 3.2, Conversations in the coffee shop 3.3, and Statements of developers 3.7.

There was a clear correlation between opinions on the Lowe’s and views on information sources. Those totally in favor of the Lowe’s gave the Clarion News Blog low marks for reliability with an average score of 3.1. They rated the LC News a little higher with a score of 2.4, but rated the Statements of Developers the most accurate with a score of 2.2.

Those leaning in favor of the Lowe’s were a little more favorable to the Clarion Blog giving it an average rating of 2.5, second place to the LC News which earned a 2.2. The pro-Lowe’s leaners were not that impressed with the statements of either elected officials or the developers giving them a 3.2 and 3.6 rating respectively.

In contrast, those who were totally against or leaning against the Lowe’s gave the Clarion News Blog universally high marks. 71% rated the Clarion Blog as “very reliable”, while 29% called it “somewhat reliable. None of this group rated the Clarion any lower than “somewhat reliable.” This same group was less impressed with the LC News with only 17% rating the newspaper as “highly reliable”, and 55% rating it “somewhat reliable.”

As might be expected, Lowe’s opponents were not impressed with the statements of either elected officials or the developers. Not one of the 30 anti-Lowe’s people who answered gave either elected officials or the developers a “highly reliable” rating, with 20% calling the officials “somewhat reliable” and only 3% finding the statements of the developers “somewhat reliable.”

Using the same 1 to 5 scale, respondents ranked a list of 9 potential impacts of the project as to whether they would be “very negative”, “somewhat negative”, “neutral”, “somewhat positive”, or”very positive.” Those impacts perceived as having the greatest negative impact received the lowest average number.

Overall, traffic was perceived as presenting the biggest negative impact with a rating of 1.7. That was followed by Impact on Small Business with a 1.9 and Impact on the National Historic District with a 2.0. Impacts on Community Character and Precedent for Future Sprawl both received a 2.1 average rating.

On the positive side, Shopping Convenience was the leader with a rating of 3.9 followed by Competitive Pricing which received a 3.6 average rating. Positive impact from employment received a 3.4 , while tax revenue from the project was rated least likely to be positive with a 3.3 average.

Breaking it down by support of the Lowe’s in general, it was interesting to note that 59 per cent of those in favor or leaning in favor of the Lowe’s admitted that traffic from the project would have a very negative or somewhat negative impact on the community. In addition, 48% of that group also saw a potential for negative or somewhat negative impact on small business.

On the other hand, of those who were totally against or leaning against the Lowe’s, 55% admitted that it would have a somewhat or very positive impact on shopping convenience. In addition, 35% of that group said that a Lowe’s would have a “somewhat positive” effect on Competitive Pricing in the community.

Survey takers were given the option of writing in additional positive or negative impacts that they thought the Lowe’s might bring which were not on the list. Among the negative impacts mentioned were loss of open space and farmland by encouraging new housing, light pollution, severe impact on the integrity of local government, profits sent out of state, dead end jobs and encouraging people to overspend.

On the positive side, it was suggested that the Lowe’s would help with fuel consumption by cutting down commuting distance and stimulate home improvement and thus raise property values. One person stated that the positive or negative impacts on the community should not be considered since they felt that Lowe’s had an absolute right to locate here.

On the issue of re-appointing John Zmich to his position on the planning board which expires today, the two sides were sharply split. 94% of those who are against or leaning against the Lowe’s want to see Zmich re-appointed with 6% not sure. In contrast, only 8% of those who are in favor or leaning in favor of the Lowe’s would like to see him re-appointed, although 29% said they were not sure.

If Zmich is not re-appointed, however, there appears to be some consensus that his replacement should not be a person with a known position on the issue pro or con. Overall, 55% of all those responding said they would like to see a person appointed who does not have a known public position on the issue. The percentage was even higher among those who were pro-Lowe’s with 61% of those in favor of a neutral appointment.

Respondents were given the opportunity to suggest a name for the appointment. Among those receiving one vote each were Sharryn Duffy, Craig Macauley, Liz Porter, Lizz Savard, Soren Thomas, Jeremy Grace and Corrin Strong.

Finally, turning to the recent election, respondents were asked how they voted for Town Supervisor. Of those who responded, 38% voted for Corrin Strong, 31% for Will Wadsworth, 29% for Bob Wilcox and 2% for Wes Kennison. Kennison supporters were obviously underepresented in the survey since he received 25% of the vote on election day. Corrin Strong’s were also overrepresented since he ran fourth on the independent Geneseo First line and received only 17% of the vote.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how winner Will Wadsworth’s supporters lined up on the Lowe’s issues. 54% of Wadsworth voters said they were totally in favor of Lowe’s with 31% saying they were leaning in favor. This left 15% who said they voted for Wadsworth even though they were leaning against the Lowe’s.

62% of Wadsworth voters wanted to see John Zmich replaced on the planning board, with 23% wanting to keep him and 15% not sure. If he is replaced, 56% of Wadsworth voters would like to see someone appointed who does not have a known position on the issue, with 44% preferring a pro-Lowe’s candidate.

A majority of Wadsworth voters (54%) said that Lowe’s was not the most important issue in causing them to vote for him, with 38% saying it was very important but not the only reason. Only 8% said it was the only consideration.

This is a difference from the overall results for all candidates in which only 33% said that the Lowe’s was not the most significant reason for their vote. Among all voters, 59% said their candidate’s position on Lowe’s was very important, with 8% saying it was the only consideration.

The overall results of the survey can be viewed online by clicking here.

The Clarion News Blog thanks all those who participated. The Town’s organizational meeting will be Thursday at 4 p.m. Look for a report on that meeting on a re-designed web site this Friday, and in the meantime, Have a Happy New Year!

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