On the heels of a big Ban the Bag protest at city hall on Wednesday, Mayor Sam Adam's office will release a draft ordinance "in the next few hours" proposing a single-use plastic bag ban and five cent fee on paper bags citywide.
This morning, though, the mayor's office released the results of a poll (pdf) that they say shows two-thirds of Portlanders are in support of a plastic bag ban.
Grove Insight conducted the poll of 400 local voters, but here's the problem: The question is obviously skewed in favor of the ban. Even though I, personally, would definitely cast my vote for a ban, I don't think the results are accurate. Here's the question voters were asked:
Single-use, petroleum-based plastic bags pollute our land, contribute to a swirling mass of garbage twice the size of Texas off Oregon's coast, and continue our dependence on dangerous foreign oil supplies. Making paper shopping bags is a toxic process that pollutes our rivers. To encourage more use of reusable shopping bags, do you favor or oppose banning plastic bags in the City of Portland and requiring a 5-cent fee on paper bags?
Two issues with this.
One: Saying "swirling mass of garbage twice the size of Texas" is "off the Oregon coast" is misleading. News reports more accurately describe the Pacific Gyre (also known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex") as being 500 miles off the California coast. Yes, the massive garbage pile in our ocean is disgusting and alarming. There's no reason to fudge the facts and be sensationalist about its location.
Two: No wonder 61 percent of people said they favor a ban, with this kind of leading question! With that kind of trash-in-your-face leadup, there's no way this poll is accurate to determine the way people will vote if the ban is presented on the ballot. I'm all for informing people about the environmental impact of plastic bags, but in this case, the poll asks an intentionally provocative question to get the response the mayor's office wants. Polls influence behavior, so having a poll come out early on that says two-thirds of Oregonians support the plastic bag ban cements that opinion as the mainstream.
Mayor Adams' spokesman Roy Kaufmann disagrees, of course. He likens the lead-in to providing necessary context for the question. "The impact of plastic bags is massive, providing some context around that is important," says Kaufmann. "Most Portlanders do not see in their day to day lives the environmental impact of these plastic bags."
UPDATE 2:08 PM— The draft of the ordinance is now online at the slick new Ban the Bag page of Mayor Sam Adams' site, which is headlined, of course, with the claim, "Nearly two-thirds of Portlanders support a ban." Check out his video pitching the ban below the cut.
UPDATE UPDATE 4:47 PM—The Northwest Grocery Association, the group of businesses that would be most affected by the ban, have come out in favor of the proposition. That's a surprise! Check out their letter of support below the cut, too.