Monday, February 06, 2006

Half of New Yorkers don’t Want Wal-Mart

According to the recently released Quinnipiac Poll, 51% of New Yorkers support Wal-Mart opening stores in New York City. Though certain weekend papers spun the poll in Wal-Mart’s favor – the Post’s dishonest headline was: City Voters Have a Heart for Wal-Mart – the reality is quite the opposite.

Before reviewing the actual findings of the survey it is important to point out that New Yorkers would not have given such relatively low ratings to any other big box store. We’re sure that if the same survey asked about Home Depot or Target at least 90% of the respondents would be inclined to give the retailers high ratings. Wal-Mart’s near failure to gain a majority of support, then, is quite astounding in this context (it is also important to point out that the poll’s error was +/- 3% making it possible that a majority do not favor Wal-Mart’s entry into the city).

Other Q-poll results provide further good news for those opposing Wal-Mart’s incursion into the 5 boroughs:

46 percent say Wal-Mart should be allowed to open stores in the city only if it allows workers to unionize, while 29 percent say open with or without unions and 19 percent say Wal-Mart should not be allowed to open at all.
So according to this, 65% of New Yorkers either do not support Wal-Mart’s entry or only are amenable if the store allow a unionized workforce. Considering the store’s unbendable policy vis-à-vis unions this is as good as saying no to Wal-Mart. Some other interesting results include:

Agree 74 - 21 percent that Wal-Mart's lower prices hurt smaller businesses nearby, with union households agreeing 77 - 21 percent;

Agree 57 - 14 percent, with 29 percent undecided, that Wal-Mart doesn't pay workers enough in wages and benefits, with union agreement at 62 - 15 percent;
However, despite this negative sentiment:

Voters said 65 - 29 percent, including 63 - 31 percent among voters from union households, that they would shop at Wal-Mart if one opened near them.
What this discrepancy points to is the fact that people want bargains even if those bargains have negative repercussions. However, this desire for cheap merchandise should not automatically trump other factors such as a New York City Wal-Mart’s negative affect on neighborhoods, traffic, small business, health care and unions.

Also, not really analyzed by the poll is the NIMBY factor. As we've learned in Staten Island, general support for a Wal-Mart doesn’t translate into approval for a location within a local neighborhood. The Alliance's Richard Lipsky expands on this point:

"If you add the NIMBY factor here, the numbers become combustible," Mr. Lipsky said. "The instinct of most New Yorkers would probably be to support anyone to open a store here. The fact that this store generates as much resentment as it does shows there is a growing sentiment that they are not a good fit."
And as we’ve mentioned, the one bright spot with the recently approved Bronx Terminal Market redevelopment was that the developer, the most powerful in the city, understood that a Wal-Mart was simply unacceptable. This realization was enshrined in the project’s community benefits agreement, a very important precedent that will help the city keep out what many New Yorkers realize is a harmful store.