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Letter: Analyzing the support claimed in poll for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

letter-to-the-editor3Letter from Marilyn Shifflett.Nellysford, Va.

I’m writing this in response to the Consumer Energy Alliance poll results of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina voters widely released by the media on June 11. Social media is on fire with responses to this poll from both sides of the issue. Opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dissecting the actual numbers, the framing of the questions and comparing them to the aforementioned press release by CEA. As part of the opposition, I confess to analyzing this data myself. One of the most telling numbers was the actual total support for the ACP reported as 56%. In reality, 25% of those polled strongly support the project, while 32% answered “somewhat support”, hence the total number of 56%. Why were the 32% “somewhat’s” hesitant to fully support the ACP? We can’t know, because that question was not asked. Why was the ACP the only proposed pipeline in VA to be asked about? We can’t know, but we can guess. I could spend paragraphs pointing out the flaws in this poll, but I realized after reviewing this data, that the best argument is painfully simple.

The CEA is a political action committee, generously supported by Dominion and others in the industry for which they lobby. Hickman Analytics, Inc., hired by the CEA to conduct this poll, promises on their website to get clients desired poll results through “micro-targeting”. Why would the industry invest so many dollars in what most would counter as biased results? Another simple answer: the initial impact of a press release that is well placed and reads like a news story. This story was widely published and well headlined. That 56% of VA voters will be well remembered. Sadly, it really is too late for anyone to point out the flaws. The arguments will seem “sour grapes” and receive limited exposure. That “impact” moment has passed. Those of us opposed to this project must rely on WV, VA, and NC voters to be informed and consider the source.