Poll says SF loves tech buses, doesn't ask Spanish speakers

A Latino family rallies against gentrification of the Mission district at the "Our Mission: No Eviction" protest last year
Photo by Shane Menez/EL TECOLOTE

San Franciscans love tech, they're totally cool with the Google buses, and care more about job creation than the cost of living, according to a newly released poll of San Franciscans by the Bay Area Council.

But though the poll asked respondents these questions in English and Cantonese, the pollsters left out one pretty important group of people in this debate: Spanish speakers. Yes, a poll about tech buses and the tech industry, and tangentially gentrification -- which is now hitting the Mission District hard -- failed to ask Spanish speaking voters any questions in their native tongue.

"Considering the tech industry's impact on the Mission district, that's a little suspcious," Cynthia Crews, of the League of Pissed Off Voters told us. That's an understatement. The "Our Mission: No Eviction" protest last October turned out hundreds of Mission residents, many Latino, against the gentrification of the neighborhood (and the lax regulations of the Google buses). The first Google bus protest took place on 24th and Valencia, in the Mission district.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said it was especially important to include Spanish-speaking voters. “San Francisco is a very multicultural city," he said. "Even if the [polling] results were the same," by polling Spanish speakers, "it would be a truer picture.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced a pilot program to study the use of commuter shuttles, including tech buses (known commonly as Google buses), but also shuttles from hospitals and universities. The pilot program came to a halt when a coalition of advocates filed an appeal of the pilot program under the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. Those concerns will be heard at City Hall next Tuesday. The shuttles impacted Latino populations in the Mission particularly hard, leading advocates to say question why their voices were not heard in the poll.

Rufus Jeffris, a spokesperson for the Bay Area Council, who commissioned the poll, told us they just wanted answers on how to move the conversation around tech forward. "Clearly we're in a time of economic growth, but we want to make sure we're focused ont he right solutions," he said.

And the number of Spanish-speaking likely voters was not significant enough to warrant the expense of including them in that conversation, Jeffris told us.

The poll said San Francisco voters' opinions differed from news coverage of the shuttles: "Despite what it may look like from recent media coverage, a majority of voters have a positive opinion of the shuttle buses and support allowing buses to use Muni stops."

Of course you'll find a lot of voters in favor of the Google buses if you fail to interview a major voting bloc of the city that actually lives near them. Latinos make up 15 percent of the city's population, according to 2012 US Census data. But Jeffris said that may not matter.

"The universe of likely voters does not always mirror [the population]," he said. "Not everyone in the city's population votes." Ruth Bernstein, a principal of EMC Research, the pollsters, said the Cantonese speakers usually comprise 9 percent of likely voters.

The poll found that "Tech workers are viewed unfavorably by only a minority." Just 17 percent of respondents were unfavorable of the tech industry to some degree, while 70 percent were favorable in some fashion. 


An excerpt from the poll saying most San Franciscans view Google buses favorably.

 But the methodology of the poll may have been flawed regardless of who they talked to. Bernstein told the Guardian that the questions were crafted in sessions between the EMC Research and the Bay Area Council.

"We did a draft," she said, "and then worked with the Bay Area Council until they were satisfied with what we did."

The Bay Area Council is a noted pro-business organization, casting a particular narrative behind the questions it asks. Notably, it didn't ask about the shuttles' direct ties to displacement in neighborhoods. It did, however, ask many questions about the Google buses, or "shuttles."

"All I can tell you is what we saw," Berstein told us, of her company's methodology. "There are certainly people not happy about [the shuttles]. The voters aren’t opposed to them, but they want regulations." 

SEIU Local 1021 Political Director Chris Daly was more plain spoken about the business interests behind this poll. "Well it looks like Jim Wunderman seeking a paycheck!" Daly said, referring to the Bay Area Council's CEO and President. "Get the nice folks at EMC to do a poll for you, probably costs you close to 20 grand. They’ll get a good day of press out of it tomorrow."

But even if the poll turned out to be the same, or similar, if it included voices of Spanish speakers, Daly said it still wouldn't get to the heart of the issue.

"Even if the public does like tech shuttles, it has no bearing on the CEQA hearing Tuesday to determine if the City followed categorical law on this ridiculous policy," he said. "They claim [the shuttles have] no significant environmental impact. "When it comes to displacement, when it comes to air quality and cancer rates, clearly these things are having a huge impact on San Francisco’s environment."

And though the corporate shuttles do take cars off the road, if those same shuttles displace low-income workers into the suburbs, those low-income workers will then have to drive into San Francisco for work.

The tech workers get to ditch their cars, and the low-income workers will be forced to drive. Sounds just about as equitable as this poll.

If you'd like to see the poll for yourself, we've embedded the slides showing the results below.

San Francisco Shuttle Survey by FitztheReporter


so it is perfectly legit to ask poll questions only in English if the target constituency is those who can vote.

Omitting those who cannot vote is a routine strategy for conducting polls.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:33 pm

So why ask questions in Cantonese, then?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 8:55 am

may reveal that Asians turn out in large numbers and Hispanics do not.

Plus, many if not most Hispanics who cannot speak English are illegals and so cannot vote anyway.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 9:56 am

But the Cantonese speakers are not illegal? You sound really racist.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:29 am

overwhelmingly likely to be Hispanics.

The Chinese cannot just walk across the border.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:41 am

No one is "illegal." They may be undocumented or unregistered, but not "illegal." Stop the hate.

And there's a difference between Hispano and Latino. Learn the difference, por favor.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 6:31 am

Please go ahead and tell us uninformed, White Folks.

Posted by Charlie on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 6:02 am

most Americans most of the time, the words are interchangeable. "Hispanic" gets used more in the east and south of the nation, while "latino" has become fashionable in the west.

"Hispanic" means having an origin in Spain. So Brazilians are not Hispanics but filipinos could argue that they are, as could Spaniards for that matter.

"Latino" is geographic rather than cultural, and refers to the landmass "south of the border"

Many of them identify as white so neither is a race, technically.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:36 am

Good! Finally! I was wondering why MissionLocal was connected with UC Berkeley in the first place! That made no sense to me.

Posted by bgwatchus on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 12:21 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

Don't forget how he cares about how the "evil" real estate industry preys forecloses upon poor renters and how landlords are the bane of civilization. Well except for when he purchases two foreclosures, kicks out one family, and becomes the landlord to the other one because that's totally different.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

I'm sure Daly commutes in from Fairfield to SF via public transportation, to avoid fouling the air with his auto exhaust.

Posted by racer さ on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:18 am

Even if Spanish speaking voters were included, the poll results prove that the messaging used around the google bus activism is not appearing to sway voters.

Sure, with a push poll that raised issues important to the activists, results would have been more favorable. But that's the job of activists, to move the conversation forward against the headwinds of sustained corporate messaging and framing.

The other CEQA concern is that opting out of public regional transit diminishes the constituency that would otherwise demand better connections to and from CalTrain and significantly improved CalTrain service. With that constituency out of the picture, the 20K odd trips per day pale in comparison with the perhaps 100K SOV trips that would otherwise take a rapid and well connected CalTrain,

Posted by marcos on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:52 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

Since when is it the job of "activists" to be objective?

Would you expect workers for a Republican candidate's campaign to tell people, "Oh, and here are some good things about the Democrat we're running against that you shouldn't overlook"?

Here's your coloring book.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 8:58 am

be trusted regardless of which side they are on.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 9:56 am

The job of activists is to win. When activists' agenda as articulated does not sync with a majority of the public, activists lose. When the activists' agenda does sync, activists win. The key here for activists is to ensure that the language they use to articulate their agenda resonates with the public and to continuously calibrate messaging with public opinion.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

I can agree with that. If every activist got hit by a truck tomorrow, nobody would notice.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

advocate what the people want.

It is not to TELL the people what they should want, but that is invariably what they do.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

The job of the activist is to figure out the intersection of what the activist wants to do and what the people want to do and to exploit that commonality.

Typical martyr activists feel that they are on a mission from god and that since they are acting for the right reasons, anything they choose to do is by extension also correct.

That is a fast track to either loss or coopted sell out.

In a democracy, the name of the game is bringing enough people with you to give power no choice but to do it your way.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 6:38 am

tell them what they should or should not do.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 9:15 am

That's news to me. If they do, they are most likely "working" at a City (ie taxpayer) supported non-profit?

It's very hard to see any of these bitter, hate filled activists actually being paid to show up and do work for a private company

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 6:07 am

same faces every time no matter what the issue

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:39 am

47% homeowners? 52% over age 50? 25% affiliated with tech industry?
That's not an accurate representation of SF. I don't think it's even an accurate representation of likely voters in November. Maybe in June of an off-year election, but not November.

I'd be curious to see what the party breakdown is. And the ethnic breakdown. Too bad they don't show that data.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 9:37 pm

age 50. And homeowners vote much more than tenants, as do professionals.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:45 am

Not to mention, they only polled 500 people?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:38 am

as long as the methodology is reasonable, and I have seen nothing to indicate that it is not.

Moreover the results are similar to my own informal polling.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:50 am

The Smug, Arrogant and Omnipotent Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex has dutifully spoken.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 4:58 am

yeah but who are they polling? That's what they don't tell you so there is not way to make that kind of generalization about what people think. They obviously were trying to sway the vote in a certain direction by not polling spanish speakers and if it was not important why poll chinese speakers if they make up even less of the voiting population. That dosen't sound fishy to you?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 11:42 am

usually design them to come out the way they want them to. This includes when progressives pay for them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

Most people are fine with shuttles. It's a small minority whining and bleating that a few people take a bus to work

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

The parts of town where the shuttles go.... people are opposed.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

Decisions are made city-wide for the good of the whole city.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

No they're not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

And all over SF - the only people bitching are professional activists.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:56 pm

i'm bitching and i'm not an actavist. I hear a lot of complaints from people, mostly native San Franciscans or people who have lived here for a long time. Either you live in the marina or you are a self entitled tech douche....or both.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 11:40 am

about the shuttles. It's just the media playing up an envy story

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 11:50 am

I live in the Mission and the buses are a constant subject in conversation. Daily, people complain about the buses and the tech workers.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:34 am

I don't know anyone who cares about them, and I know a few people who use them.

Why would anyone care if a few people take a bus to work?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 9:22 am

The people bitching are the people that are affected. That is only logical.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:39 am

Probably the same fringe extremist "usual suspects" who show up for every protest

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:51 am

I don't doubt that most citizens of the city are indifferent to the buses, I don't really need a paid survey to tell me that.

It's interesting that "progressives" are so interested in opportunism in others.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

This is not a progressive issue. In fact, having the buses and the tech companies pay their fair share seems more like a traditionally conservative issue. "No one rides for free", used to be a big Republican catch phrase.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:36 am

It's a perk that costs money that their employer might otherwise pay them in cash.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:49 am

So the Eastern side of the city...you know where the busses actually go are opposed but Ocean Beach has no problem with them .....

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

But if you want the Mission to secede from the city, then say so.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

I think that the County of San Francisco should divide itself into small cities each with its own land use policy.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 10:09 pm

Rule by zip code ain't gonna happen, so you'll just have to work with lots of different kinds of people rather than rely on a one-dimensional ghetto.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 9:17 am

He wants the jurisdictional entity to be so localized that he gets his way. Maybe that would mean a city of just a few blocks. Clearly that is workable - in practice such areas are unincorporated parts of a county rather than a city.

And in fact the truth is the exact opposite. The reason Bay Area politics are so whacked is because the jurisdictions are already too small. So we end up with very left-wing councils in places like SF and Berkeley, and very right-wing governments in large parts of the south, east and north bays.

A better system would be a single council for the entire Bay Area with one member elected for each county. We'd have none of the excesses of the left and the right, but rather a centrist moderate administration that we know the silent majority prefer.

And we'd have genuine co-operation and consensus for things like housing, jobs and transport, instead of the current beggar-thy-neighbor nonsense that we saw when Twitter threatened to move ten miles south.

As always, marcos can generate a good idea, but only by thinking in the exact opposite way to him.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

The idea that forcing more people to drive is better for the environment is a right-wing meme - is Chris Daly secretly a Republican?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

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