Andy Ruff hit a nerve over at the H-T editorial board when he accused them of bias in the I-69 survey they published last Sunday. In an editorial last Wednesday, the editors responded with righteousness indignation, arguing that their poll was the penultimate act of professionalism, an honest attempt to represent the views of "everyman" on an issue of public importance.
While I think their bias has become so intuitive that they don't even recognize it anymore, there might be other explanations for the hoax they perpetrated on citizens across Indiana last Sunday. It just might be that they didn't' know what they were doing. Doubtful, but possible that it was an honest mistake, albeit it a devastating one for democracy in Indiana.
Now, I didn't actually hear what Andy had to say about the poll. But the case that it is biased is overwhelming and incontrovertible., whether it was intentional or not.
In response to Ruff and other poll critics, the editors said: "They can't argue that public opinion is a key reason not to extend the highway and then reject the polls that show the public's views in support of extending the highway."
The problem is that the H-T poll doesn't reflect the "public's views" on I-69. It reflects the views of one segment of the public.
The poll surveyed 600 people in 12 counties between Evansville and Bloomington where the new-terrain I-69 would pass. The only hint offered as to why the sample was limited to this geographic area came in Wednesday's editorial, in which the editors described the respondents as those living "throughout areas that would be most affected by the construction."
Coincidentally, or not, that's also the segment that would be most likely to agree with the H-T's position on I-69, as well as that of the BEDC ( of which the H-T is a member), the Chamber, developers, land speculators, bankers, lawyers, realtors, etc.
The fatal flaw in the H-T's claim that this represents the views of "everyman" is that the views of every man and every woman in six other counties directly affected by construction of a new-terrain route - Sullivan, Vigo, Clay, Putnam, Hendricks and Marion - were ignored completely.
To leave out the segment most likely to disagree with the H-T's editorial position, especially Vigo, was inexcusable and unprofessional, to the extreme. That gross abdication of journalistic responsibility has subsequently been compounded by the Associated Press, which picked up the H-T's story and pronounced across the state that there is public support for the new-terrain route.
The only thing more ludicrous than the editors' claim that the poll represented the "people's voice" or whatever they called it was their conclusion that the results demonstrate support for the O'Bannon administration. It showed that a plurality - 49 percent - preferred the new-terrain route from Evansville to Bloomington, while 35 percent favored U.S 41-70.
INDOT Commissioner J. Brian Nicol in Monday's H-T said that backs up the O'Bannon administration's position that there's widespread support for the new-terrain route, "and it backs it up by a large margin."
Time out. Over the past 12 years, State Democrats have spent $12 to $15 million in taxpayer funds to design and sell the public on a new-terrain route. During that time, every fat-cat businessman, political hack and newspaper editor between Bloomington and Evansville has worked overtime promoting the new-terrain route. And yet, they haven't persuaded a majority of the citizens who they say would reap the highway's benefits that it's a good idea.
It seems a stretch to call that anything but abject failure. Just think what the citizens could have done with those kinds of resources.