Thursday, July 29, 2010

Phone calls from Utah firm about Atlantic Yards: is Pacific Crest Research back? and is this about the Senate race or just AY p.r.?

It looks like the shadowy, Utah-based polling firm Pacific Crest Research (PCR) may be back and involved in tapping/shaping public opinion about Atlantic Yards.

From Brooklynian, selected comments:
  • just got off the phone with someone, based in utah, who peppered me with a lot of questions about the yards project, and whether i agree that forest city ratner's doing a great thing for the slope and the community as a whole. i assume ratner's paying for the survey since many of the questions seemed tilted in his favor.. but i had some free time, and it was a very cathartic experience....still, to be doing a survey like this, the developers must be really worried about something.
  • I took the survey and it was obviously sponsored by Ratner. I told the guy that I really shouldn't be taking the survey as my husband used to work for FCR and says the affordable housing phase of the project ain't never gonna happen.
  • I took the survey too and also think it was sponsored by Ratner. Whenever they asked whether finding out something positive e.g., about job creation changed my mind, I just responded that I didn't believe any of it (the good stuff) would happen.
The background

None of the commenters on Brooklynian mentioned the name of the firm, but the Utah connection offers a significant hint. Remember, in 2006, I got two calls from the company, the second “a very brief public opinion survey on some very interesting issues in Brooklyn.”

The second wasn’t a push-poll, since there was no attempt to present new information and sway me about a candidate or an issue. But the topic was mainly the highly contested 11th Congressional District race and the signs pointed to developer Forest City Ratner as the entity concerned enough to ask such questions.

Why now?

It could be that FCR is simply trying to gauge public opinion in anticipation, for example, of the its next phase of p.r. statements regarding the project.

It could be that FCR is trying to help candidates such as Mark Pollard, who's challenging incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, an Atlantic Yards opponent (though the big backing for Pollard in that race comes from charter school proponents).

After all, in one 2006 call, I was asked some general questions, but most focused on the race between last-minute challenger Tracy Boyland and Montgomery.

Or maybe it's another client with another motive.

Who's Pacific Crest Research?

It was very difficult four years ago to learn much about the company. As I wrote, I asked a supervisor who’d commissioned the poll. He said staffers aren’t told, and that only the president of the Pacific Crest Research knows. His name is Matt Hewitt.

And guess what--the link above to the PCR website (which once indicated a Fairfield, CA address) no longer works.

But the company is still in business, according to the screenshot at right from the Utah Department of Commerce.

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