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Wal-Mart Push Polls Chicago, Claims 74% Support New Store

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 29, 2009 3:20PM

Photo by Tobin Black
It seems like the controversy over Wal-Mart's attempts to open a second store in Chicago won't go away. And it seems like the massive retailer is helping to fan the flames of contention. From the Chicagoist tipline: "I just got what I think was a 'push-poll' about building a Wal-Mart at 83rd & Stewart. Basically, it only asked one question (a true sign of a political push-poll) and was heavily weighted in language towards Wal-Mart and Mayor Daley. It was something similar to the following: 'Mayor Daley says that a Wal-Mart at 83rd & Stewart would bring 400+ jobs to the city and make fresh food available to the neighborhood; others believe jobs are not enough. Press 1 if you believe a Wal-Mart should be allowed to be built or Press 2 if you believe it should not." A quick check of the phone number the calls are originating from - and a check of that tipline inbox - indicated that quite a few Chicagoans got the same call, as well.

Indeed, this morning, local PR firm Serafin & Associates, Inc. sent out a press release saying:

We called every household in the Chicago white pages today - more than a million households - and asked residents whether they approve of a Walmart on Chicago’s South Side. A resounding 74.4 percent of participants said they support Walmart’s plan to open a store on the South Side near 83rd and Stewart, providing hundreds of jobs and offering groceries to a region of the city commonly known as the “food desert” due to it lack of fresh, healthy food.

This isn't a novel tactic for the Arkansas-based retailer. When Wal-Mart tried to open a new Supercenter in Austin, Texas, push polling and opinion surveys were part of the strategy. In 2006 the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce funded a similar poll, targeted at stopping the so-called big-box living wage ordinance.

And one more point: the phone calls were also going through to cell numbers not just numbers out of the "white pages" as claimed [Ed's Note: such as the call going through to my cell phone which still has a New Orleans area code. - M.G.]. Plus, the D.C. area code on a push poll run by a local PR company seems...well, sketchy. Like everything else surrounding Mayor Daley and this proposed new store.

Serafin & Associates are promising more information later today.

Update: The Trib's Clout Street is reporting that a Chicago City Council committee has put off a vote on the new store, putting the issue before the Finance Committee, much to the dismay of more than 200 protesters who are supporting the store.

Update II: Per the Sun-Times, the delay means the Wal Mart vote will be shelved until after the October 2 announcement of the 2016 Summer Olympics host city.