Poll shows support for iron mine -- if pro-mining interests control the information | WisCommunity

Poll shows support for iron mine -- if pro-mining interests control the information

There's a new poll, done by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, that WMC will tell you shows widespread support for a proposed new open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin, and that people also support changing the law to speed up approval of the mine.

Here's what they aren't telling you, unless you read the entire polling memo:

-- Only 36% of the respondents have seen, heard or read anything about the mine, although 45% say they support it "based on what (they) already know." Which, for more than one-third of them, is nothing.

-- While only 18% say they oppose the mine, another 37% say they are unsure. Why? Perhaps because they haven't heard anything about it and want more information. Ya think?

-- When asked about the bill to speed up the permit process, 57% say they support it and 28% oppose. But read how the question is phrased:

...the state legislature is considering legislation that would allow the state DNR, Dept. of Natural Resources, to issue the permit for the iron mine near Hurley, with the required environmental protections in place.

Really? What would those "required environmental protections" be? Since the legislation in question still hasn't been introduced, only the Walker administation, the mining company, and WMC know. But you can bet your bippy that the bill is designed to lower environmental standards and protections to make it easier and faster to win approval. But the respondents, who only know what the WMC-paid callers tell them, have no idea that's the case.

-- The poll then tests a battery of arguments for and against the mine, and the memo reports that the positive arguments prove to be much stronger. That's no doubt because they're carefully crafted, promising jobs, economic growth and environmental protection, and offering arguments like "Iron mining has proven to be environmentally friendly because no chemicals are used in the mining process." That makes it environmentally friendly when the mine could tear up 80 square miles of scenic areas?

The negative arguments are ineffective partly because they are worded as softballs, but despite that, by a 53-32 margin, respondents say they would be less likely to support a mine because "it is a strip mine that will be a blight on a beautiful part of Wisconsin for generations to come." That's the essence of the argument, and a majority agree that is a reason to oppose the mine.

What this poll really tells us is that most people don't know much of anything about the mine. But if what they hear are only or mostly arguments from WMC and pro-mining forces, putting money into a media campaign to sell the project, people will buy it.  WMC already is running radio spots backing the mine and the bill.

On the other hand, an organized, concerted campaign by opponents could get some traction. More than half the people already don't like the idea of tearing up a beautiful part of the state. If they hear more specifics about what open pit mines really do to the environment, they'll like it even less.

But that's a big if. The money, power and control of the process all seem to be on the other side. And time is of the essence. The Republicans are undoubtedly going to try to pass this bill while they still control both houses of the legislature, before recalls may cost them their State Senate majority in August. They may even try to pass it this month, in a special or extraordinary session that makes it easier to shut off debate and stifle dissent.

So, that's what will happen if people only hear one side of the story. Are we going to let that happen?


June 14, 2011 - 5:16pm