On the face of it, a new poll commissioned by Wal-Mart sounds convincing - and massive:
"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," public relations man Aaron Chambers of Serafin & Associates wrote in an e-mail sent to media types.
"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 its lack of fresh, healthy food."
And the stories showed up in at least some corners of the media shortly thereafter.
There's just one problem: The poll was loaded.
“This is a one-question public opinion poll concerning your view on whether Mayor Daley and the City Council should allow a Walmart to be built at 83rd and Stewart," the query went. "Advocates of the plan cite the 400-plus jobs that will be created and the wider availability of fresh groceries and other goods. Opponents to building the Walmart say the jobs are not good enough.
"We’d like to know how you feel.
"If you think the Walmart SHOULD be built, press ONE on your phone.
"If you think the Walmart SHOULD NOT be built, press TWO on your phone.
"If you’re unsure, press THREE.”
And if you think this poll is incredibly dishonest, call Wal-Mart and let them know.
"Wal-Mart isn't giving up on the South Side," writes WBEZ's Natalie Moore, who received one of the robo-calls. "The chain has already giving out free watermelons [and] gotten a rapper to sing about the cause."
A Wal-Mart spokesperson tells Eric Zorn that "[The poll questions were] pretty straightforward. A Wal-Mart on the South Side would generate more than 400 permanent jobs and it would make fresh groceries and other goods more widely available in that region of the city."
Perhaps, but the issue is wages and benefits for the workforce; opponents don't simply say "jobs are not good enough," but that "jobs that don't pay a living wage" are not good enough.
The poll didn't ask about that - or the internal Wal-Mart memo that from its chief human-resources executive noting that "46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's million-plus American employees were uninsured or on Medicaid."
Taxpayers, then, make up the difference when Wal-Mart brings jobs that "are not good enough" to the city.
Try putting a smiley face on that.