Here's the actual I-526 public opinion survey

Mostly favorable view of beltway extension

Posted by Paul Bowers on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 2:35 PM

  • SC DOT

After initially refusing to release a public document electronically, the S.C. Department of Transportation today sent the City Paper a PDF of the report from a public opinion survey about the proposed extension of Interstate 526 from West Ashley to the James Island Connector.

We just received the report and haven't gotten to read it all yet, but we wanted to go ahead and share it. On Monday, the SCDOT said 72 percent of respondents were in favor of the extension, but the approval ratings varied significantly by ZIP code. On Wadmalaw Island (ZIP code 29487), for instance, the approval rating was only 60 percent. Here's the report:


I-526 USC Opinion Survey from SCDOT

In an e-mail today, the agency's Freedom of Information Act officer, Janet Tucker, gave the following explanation for why she was originally unable to send the document electronically:

I was initially instructed by [SCDOT project manager] David Kinard not to release the document electronically because he thought you were asking for copies of the actual responses to the survey which contain personal information of the responders. After further discussion, he has advised that the responsive document he has provided can be released electronically.

The City Paper never requested individual survey responses, and it remains unclear how an electronic version of the report would have differed from a printed version.

The SCDOT charged the City Paper $9.50 to e-mail us a public document (more on that here). Tucker provided this additional explanation of the charge today:

My time as the FOIA Officer is not part of the equation when the fee is assessed. It is only charged for those who actually spend time away from their normal duties at SCDOT to gather the requested information. In your instance, the minimum charge of $7.50 plus $.10 per page (20 pages) was assessed.

Comments (15)

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It's been a long time since I did anything remotely like polling but that's a pretty heavy sample size - also the repeat calls to people who didn't answer the first time seemed odd. I just remember crossing the number off the list and moving on (I could be wrong, this was ages ago).

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Posted by mat catastrophe on September 13, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Stop talking and finish the road - Support Charlestonians for I-526!…

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Posted by chaslaw07 on September 13, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't your issue that you weren't receiving all of the information from the survey and that they were only giving the data which, you feel, supports their stance? If so, aren't you doing the same thing that you're arguing against if you only report that the survey shows "On Wadmalaw Island (ZIP code 29487), for instance, the approval rating was only 60 percent."

Shouldn't you also be informing your readers that "In West Ashley (ZIP code 29414) , the approval rating was 80.4 percent."?

At least be consistent in regard to your issue and argument or the pot is calling the kettle black. I apologize if I'm misinformed and I'm only one person but perception, becomes reality if not stated correctly.

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Posted by Chucktown rez on September 13, 2012 at 4:11 PM

@Chucktown rez: We published this right after receiving the survey so that everyone could take a look. We'll provide our own analysis shortly.

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Posted by Paul Bowers on September 13, 2012 at 4:31 PM

I have one question relative to the actual survey. On the map labeled as the survey area, one of the zip codes included was 29449, which is Hollywood/Adams Run area, but when you read the report, they report on zip code 29439 (Folly Beach). Neither area is specifically involved in this project, but I wonder which area was actually surveyed. Both are fine areas, but I wonder if there would be differences in opinion given the demographics/personalities of the areas.

Posted by MTG on September 13, 2012 at 4:39 PM

@MTG: Good question. Just noticed that myself.

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Posted by Paul Bowers on September 13, 2012 at 4:46 PM

@MTG: Just got off the phone with the head of the USC research team. The surveys went out to 29439 (Folly Beach), not 29449 (Holllywood/Adams Run).

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Posted by Paul Bowers on September 13, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Does anyone else think the wording of the question is potentially confusing? I think it could be read as "this is going to be built, are you good with this route?" especially if you haven't been paying attention to the debate.

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Posted by diametrica on September 13, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Diametrica, the wording is the most correct. In writing questions on a survey, you need to write the question such that there is no confusion about what you are asking. (My professor used to suggest "in a way that a 5 year old won't misunderstand".) The question was simply "Do you oppose or approve....." and then the 2 choices are "Oppose" or "Approve". They even went so far as to consider the possibility that people might not read the choices and just choose the first answer. The survey itself, is extremely fair and there is little to object to as far as that goes.

Paul, as to the question of the zip codes, if 29439 was the intended zip code, someone should not have submitted the report with 29479 highlighted in the map. It presents a question mark on the results - which did they intend to survey (pre-results) and which did they survey (post-results)? It's nitpicking, but such a glaring error would have cost me with my professors and would have been frowned on by submission committees for publication.

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Posted by MTG on September 13, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Poor city paper has to pay $9.50 for a copy of a research report. Let's see how much we can cry over that one some more.
As a researcher, the SCDOT followed the rules and protocol of market research in conducting this survey. They are not the "villians" of this process. In fact, given the results from the study, the Charleston City Paper should issue an apology to the SCDOT for implying any research or reporting irregularities. Mr. Bowers needs to grow up and get a clue. Everyone is not out to put you or the community down...and just because you don't agree with an issue does not mean you get to imply that people are being dishonest.

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Posted by Briggs on September 13, 2012 at 10:48 PM

@Paul Bowers: I understand that this is just a snippet but by only including the "60 percent" quote, rather than both sides, you're still doing the same disservice that you are complaining about whether your final analysis is complete or not. It still leaves the question as to why you didn't choose to only include the "80 percent" quote instead of the "60 percent" quote if this is just published as a quick, unbiased look for your readers?

I'm not saying that you've accused SCDOT of having an agenda but the message behind the CityPaper articles do seem to allude to this. You can have an opinion or an agenda, that's your right, but don't lead falsely lead readers into an objective analysis by only including a quote that serves your message or it weakens the point that you want to convey for anyone who is wise enough not to drink the Kool-Aid. It's not just your publication and this report but rather most media sources in general. If reporting news, report the news. If reporting with an agenda, state your opinion with your supporting facts but don't mislead by omitting those facts which don't support your stance.

On the flip side, one could lead into a subjective analysis of exactly the opposite position of where you seem to be going, just by choosing to quote a contrasting fact from the report.

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Posted by Chucktown rez on September 13, 2012 at 11:03 PM

This study, like almost all government business, should be posted online where anybody can see it, at no charge.
There should be no need for FOI, as the governmnet should have no secrets from it's citizens, everthing should be searchable, and findable.

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Posted by TROLLSLAYER on September 13, 2012 at 11:05 PM

One of the problems with this surveys is asking the people in certain zip codes their opinion and then expecting all of Charleston County taxpayers to foot the bill. Look at the route and the choice being offered. The choice is a 35 mile/hour route that is scenic if concrete can be scenic. Second, what if you do not build it. I think there are many more roads which could be repaired or upgraded with this amount of money. Last, why is this not on the ballot so everyone can vote on it in Charleston County. If the majority want it then it should move forward and if not this is a dead issue.

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Posted by joept on September 14, 2012 at 2:09 PM

IF it is built the 35 mph speed limit will last 1 month before being bumped up to 55+. And it will be built with this in mind.

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Posted by arty on September 14, 2012 at 6:46 PM

The big push to build an astronomically expensive designer highway is not going over so well around the rest of the state.…

Posted by John Paul Jah on September 16, 2012 at 5:14 PM
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